A White Rock Renegades team captured a national fastpitch title over the weekend – a big win where emotions ran high.
On Sunday the Renegades’ 2002 girls won gold at the 2016 U14 Girls’ Canadian Fastpitch Jamboree in Winnipeg, Man.
“This is a very committed group of players who’ve been together for awhile, and this was a big goal for the team,” said head coach Jeff Crossley.
The team was dominant all season, with a provincial title and wins at all local tournaments. With a season record of 99 wins, 13 losses and one tie, the girls entered the national contest, Aug. 17-21, as one of the favourites.
The Renegades started strong with four straight wins in round-robin games. But in the championship pool, an Ontario squad surprised them with a 3-1 loss.
White Rock bounced back with two convincing wins, taking down the Victoria Devils 5-0 and the Hawthorn Hawks 9-0.
But the wins weren’t enough to guarantee a spot in the gold-medal game. For that, they needed help from other teams.
When the dust settled, the Renegades were on top of the pool standings – but it was a three-way tie. Ultimately, the Renegades’ differential allowed them to advance to the gold-medal game against host Smitty’s Terminators from Winnipeg, which had gone undefeated in the tournament.
White Rock jumped out early with a score of 2-0. Errors allowed Winnipeg to score without generating a hit, but it wasn’t enough as the Renegades won 5-1.
“It was a pretty incredible performance by both of our pitchers that threw in the game,” said Crossley, adding Madison Dewitt and Amanda Pillkahn combined on a no-hitter with Pillkahn striking out all nine batters she faced in the final three innings.
Maddy Tylee went two-for-two at bat with Gab Schulek and Chloe Douglas combined for five hits in the game. Sarah Forster also picked up a clutch hit for an RBI.
Waiting to hear whether they’d even be in the final was extremely emotional for the entire team, said Crossley.
“When we lost that game and lost control of our own destiny, it really gutted the girls in respect to what their expectations were and how hard they’ve worked all year to get to that point.”
After the girls played and won their final championship-round game and awaited news on whether they’d get a chance to play for gold, the team went to see a movie. Crossley, however, was watching tournament results come in. He sent out a text when he heard the good news, and his players – some of whom had their phones on – had what might have been a loud reaction in the theatre.
“Getting that opportunity was great news for our girls. So everybody’s spirits quickly turned around.”
For the entire tournament, both Jaida Crossley and Maddy Tylee had on-base percentages of over .650, while Lauren Benson led the team with 10 RBI’s. Pitchers Dewitt, Pillkahn and Chloe Douglas combined for an ERA of .286 with 86 strikeouts.
Crossley said there’s not much of an off-season for the girls, who will soon be back at their year-round training schedule. But Crossley – who coached daughter Jaida Crossley on this team, and also his two sons in ball – has decided after three seasons with “a very special group” to step down.
“Getting a chance to coach my daughter and this group and win a gold in a Canadian championship just seemed like a great time to step aside and let somebody else run with it for the next four years.”
The U14 team wasn’t the only Renegades squad to find recent success. Last week the Renegades ’98 and ’99 teams faced each other in the final game of the 2016 Women’s Canadian Fastpitch Championship in Charlottetown, P.E.I. The ’98 team edged the ’99 group 4-3 to claim the top spot.