The run of national championships for the White Rock Renegades ’95 came to an end Sunday in Charlottetown, P.E.I., one run shy of a fourth Canadian fastpitch title.
The Renegades – three-time national champions at various age divisions – lost 2-1 to the Saskatoon Selects in the title game of the Canadian U18 Women’s Fastpitch Canadian Championship, ending a string of consecutive championships that began in 2011 with a U16 title.
“It was a real close game – it could have went either way,” said Renegades coach Chuck Westgard. “We’ve been doing this a long time. This team has won three national championships and we were going for our fourth… I told our girls that we battled hard but today it wasn’t meant to be.
“Someone has to lose, and today it was us.”
The game was a pitcher duel, as each team had their top pitcher in the circle – Canadian senior national team member Sara Groenewegen pitched for White Rock, while Saskatoon countered with its ace, Haley Volk.
Volk allowed just five hits and one run in seven innings, while striking out 11, and Groenewegen scattered five hits and struck out five. Both walked seven batters.
The Selects opened the scoring in the first inning, loading the bases after two walks and a single, and a third walk from Groenewegen cashed in Saskatoon leadoff hitter Brielle McCullough.
White Rock had ample opportunity to tie the game in the ensuing innings – twice getting runners on second and third – but Volk pitched her way out of the jam each time.
White Rock tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when Groenewegen singled and scored three batters later when Cheyanne Head singled.
Saskatoon countered in the sixth, however, when McCullough hit a two-out triple off Groenewegen that scored what turned out to be the winning run.
Though Groenewegen – who was coming off a 14-strikeout performance in a 5-0 win over Saskatoon the previous day – was not quite as sharp as usual in Sunday’s final, Westgard was not laying any blame at his star pitcher’s feet.
“She didn’t have her best game today, but she battled, kept the score close,” said the longtime coach, who told organizers after the game that he was retiring from coaching.
“We scored one run. You’re not going to win 1-0 every night.
“Today, they were better than us.”
The other local team at the U18 nationals, the Surrey Storm ’95s, were eliminated from the playoff rounds Saturday, after back-to-back losses.
The Storm – who finished atop their group in round-robin play – lost to the Renegades ’95 3-0 on Friday, and a day later, were bounced by the Quebec Rebelles 4-3.
Although outhit 12-4 over the seven-inning game against Quebec, the Storm battled back from a two-run deficit to tie the game 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth. Emma Entzminger scored from third on a wild pitch, then Chelsea Jenner scored on an infield out by Alisha Welch. Quebec had only one hit in the seventh, but it was a game-winning solo home run.
Jenner and Entzminger finished one-two in the batting race during the round robin, Jenner hitting .684, while Enzminger batted .600. Jenner had a tournament-best 13 hits, and Entzminger was tops in RBIs with 11 and runs scored with eight.
– with files from Pat Healey