The third time was the charm for the White Rock Renegades ‘99 at the Canada Cup.
On Sunday, the local fastpitch squad – which only reconvened a month ago, after players returned from university – won the championship game of the tournament’s Futures Gold (U18) division, beating Chinese Taipei 4-3. It was the third time in a week that the two squads had faced off, with the Asian squad getting the upper hand in the two previous matchups, winning a round-robin game 7-1, and a playoff tilt Saturday night, 4-3.
The Saturday night loss bumped the Renegades from the undefeated bracket, but a 5-1 win in semifinals over the Delta Heat pushed them back into the final against Chinese Taipei Sunday.
“It was kind of amazing, to be honest with you,” Renegades head coach Mark Dunlop told Peace Arch News.
“Chinese Taipei, they’re a very good team. They’re very tough to play against – they’re very fast, and their defence is just impeccable. They don’t make any mistakes, so it’s hard to get (any offence) going against them.
“If you were to ask me before the game, in the back of my mind, I don’t know if I would’ve told you we’d be able to pull it out, but once the game started, I felt a difference in our team.”
Chinese Taipei scored twice in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead, but White Rock replied with one run in the second, and another in the third to tie the score. In the fourth, Chinese Taipei scored once but the Renegades scored a pair to lead 4-3 after four, and neither team could muster a run the rest of the way.
Dunlop gave credit to his batters, who out-hit the opposition 13-6, and also to pitcher Tori Peterson, who recently completed her freshman season at the University of Eastern Kentucky.
Peterson pitched all three games against Chinese Taipei during the Canada Cup, but for Sunday’s contest, Dunlop said the team changed its strategy, and Peterson threw different pitches than she had in the first two outings.
“We’d seen them two times already, so we used that to our advantage,” Dunlop said.
“Tori pitched great – she hit every spot we asked her to hit. We changed our approach… and as soon as Tori established those pitches, it got her out of a lot of innings.”
As opposed to the first two games, in which White Rock threatened to score plenty of times, but couldn’t manage to push a run across the plate – they had bases-loaded opportunities against Chinese Taipei twice on Saturday, for example – the script was flipped in Sunday’s finale.
“In the final, it was the opposite. We were turning some double plays, we were making the plays on our end,” Dunlop explained. “We were able to flip the momentum in the fourth inning when we scored our two runs, and Tori just shut them down from there – I think she only gave up two hits the remainder of the game.”
In the U16 Showcase Gold division, White Rock nearly completed what would have been a youth-division sweep. The Renegades ‘02 lost the championship game 5-2 to Japan’s national U16 squad.
By Dunlop’s count, Sunday’s final was just the 22nd game of the summer for his team – including nine at the Canada Cup.
In fact, had Softball Canada not voted last summer to extend the highest youth division from U18 to U19, Dunlop said his group would not have even got back together this year. Last summer, the 1999-born squad won a national U18 championship in Lloydminster.
Having this year’s U19 nationals on home soil – Aug. 6-12 at Softball City – also played a major role in getting the band back together, the coach explained.
“The fact that it was local, we just thought ‘sure, let’s go for it.’ I’m not sure that we would’ve done it if it was back in Ontario or somewhere, just because of the cost of it.”
Dunlop said every player on the team played university softball this season, with the exception of one who chose instead to focus on her studies.
“We had a bit of a slower start, but they’ve been together for a long time. They all had pretty good college experiences, and it just seemed like we just got stronger and stronger as a team as the tournament went on,” he said.
This weekend, White Rock travels to Victoria for provincials, before returning to the Semiahmoo Peninsula for nationals.