They played shorthanded, and they ran into a hot-hitting opponent in the championship game, but the White Rock Renegades ’99 are bound for nationals nonetheless, after a second-place showing at BC Under-18 Girls Fastpitch Championships Sunday in South Surrey.
And the 1999-born squad won’t be alone in making the trip to Canadian championships – scheduled to begin next Monday in Lloydminster, Alta. – as their younger association mates, the Renegades 2000, will also make the trip.
The 2000-born ’Gades finished third at provincials, behind the ’99s and the gold-medal winning Victoria Devils ’99.
In the under-16 provincials, which, like the U18s, were played at Softball City, the Renegades ’02 finished fourth. They, too, will head to nationals this summer, as the U16 tournament is an “open” competition, and teams simply need to register rather than qualify. This year, nationals are slated for North Delta, so a large contingent of Lower Mainland teams are expected to take part.
“That’s what we do with the Renegades, even our younger teams – we want to prepare them to play at the next level,” said Renegades association president Greg Timm, adding that the Renegades ’05 team also won provincial gold on the weekend, at the squirt-level championships at Sullivan Park.
“(Winning) never gets old, and we get our share, but more than wins and losses, it’s a report card on the health of our program, and on how our coaches and players are improving,” he said.
In Sunday afternoon’s final, Victoria edged the Renegades ’99 4-3, with the winning run coming in the top of the seventh and final inning. Victoria’s lead-off batter got on base with a single, was bunted over to second base, and then scored on an RBI single to put the Island team in the lead. White Rock wasn’t able to match the run in their half of the inning, giving the Devils the title.
“It was great defence by both teams, great pitching – it really was just an excellent final,” said White Rock Renegades ’99 coach Mark Dunlop.
“We had lots of opportunities to score, but it was just one of those days where we were hitting hard balls right at people, instead of hitting into gaps.”
To advance to the championship game, Dunlops’ crew actually beat Victoria 10-5, which bounced the Devils – “A really good-hitting ball club,” according to Dunlop – into a do-or-die semifinal game against the Renegades 2000, with the winner moving on to the final of the double-elimination tourney. Victoria won the contest 5-0.
Making the second-place finish more impressive was the fact that the ’99s played the entire tournament with just 11 players – and just one catcher. Two players were sidelined due to injuries suffered in practice just a few days before the provincials were set to begin, while two other key players were unavailable to do national-team commitments. Pitcher and cleanup hitter Hannah Finkelstein is currently travelling with the Canadian junior team, while catcher Megan Parno is doing the same with the Great Britain squad.
Despite playing with a short bench last weekend, Dunlop was quick to heap praise on a handful of players, including catcher Hailey Lemon, who caught every inning of every game at a physically demanding position.
“She was a real trooper for us all weekend, and she picked off a runner from first (base) in the final, too, which was a key moment in the game for us,” Dunlop said.
Finkelstein and Parno will be available to play at nationals, Dunlop noted, and should provide a boost to a team that won a national silver medal last year.
“Our goals is to win the nationals, and we’ll be ready by next week.”
At the U16 provincials, the Renegades ’02 finished just off the podium, behind the third-place Victoria Devils ’01, the second-place Surrey Storm ’01 and the B.C. champion Delta Heat ’01. All four are expected to be at the Delta-hosted nationals, which are set for Aug. 9-13.
Canada Cup donation
B.C. softball fans joined together last week to assist those residents displaced by wildfires throughout the province.
Prior to the championship game of the Canada Cup on July 17, tournament organizers put a call out for donations, and fans who attended games that day donated a total of $2,150 for evacuees.