Playing with a bare-bones roster of just 10 players, the White Rock Renegades ’99 endured extreme heat – not to mention some of B.C.’s top competition – en route to a girls under-19 provincial softball championship last weekend in Victoria.
The win served as redemption, of sorts, for the Semiahmoo Peninsula squad – in the same tournament last year, they lost in the final to the Victoria Devils, before bouncing back later in the month to win a national championship.
This time around, they defeated the Richmond Islanders 2000 in the title tilt, by a score of 4-3.
Now, the Renegades will head into next week’s national tournament – slated to begin Monday at South Surrey Athletic Park – not just as the host team, or as the defending champions, but also as the top team in B.C.
“We’re going in as defending champs, but to have the B.C. (title) under our belts, too, is nice,” said White Rock head coach Mark Dunlop. “Last year we lost in the finals, so it was (great) to take it down this weekend, especially considering the strong field of teams we faced.”
The ’99s are also coming off a win in the Canada Cup’s Futures Gold division.
Last Sunday’s victory was made even more impressive considering the team played with the minimum number of players – prior commitments left a handful of Renegades unable to make the trip to Victoria. Even then, a few players who did play were nursing minor injuries, Dunlop told Peace Arch News.
“It was hard-fought. Provincials at times can be so tough – it’s tough just getting out of B.C. (and into nationals), just because of the sheer volume of games you have to play over a three-day period.
“It was extremely hot – it was a grueling tournament. 10 players is tough, it’s just not a lot to work with – you have no options. Literally, we were putting all 10 of them in our lineup – no substitutions all weekend long.”
With such a limited roster, the Renegades did themselves a favour by finishing as a high seed after round-robin play – they were No. 2 after a 4-0 run, second only to the Renegades 2000, who were also undefeated. As well, the ’99s won their opening playoff game, which kept them out of the consolation bracket of the double-knockout tournament.
In that game – an 8 a.m. start against the defending champs from Victoria – White Rock won 4-3 to advance to semifinals.
“If you lose that game, you have to play five games in a row that day to win (the tournament),” Dunlop said.
“Luckily, we won that first one… it was definitely a good way to start.”
In semifinals, White Rock played a “feisty” Richmond Islanders 2000 team, who they had already defeated on Day 1 of the tournament – but barely. That first game ended in a 7-5 win for the Renegades, but a four-run seventh inning outburst was required to make it happen.
In the semifinal, White Rock won 4-3, but it was not the last they’d see of the Islanders, who battled back through the tournament bracket and ended up in the championship game.
That game, like the semifinal, also ended 4-3 for White Rock, at which point the Islanders were likely sick and tired of squaring off against their Lower Mainland rivals.
“And we were (sick) of seeing them, as well,” Dunlop laughed. “They definitely could have been the team that was 7-0 (by the end of the tournament)… They played extremely well.”
Tori Peterson – who just completed her freshman season at the University of Eastern Kentucky – was the Renegades’ pitcher of record for much of the tournament’s early stages, but after suffering a minor injury in an early playoff game, ceded control of the pitcher’s circle to teammate Shaina Eyre who, like Peterson, recently completed her first NCAA season, with Purdue University-Fort Wayne.
In total, Dunlop figures Eyre pitched 14 innings across three games Sunday, including the entire championship game.
“She was as strong in the seventh inning of the final as she was in the first inning she pitched,” Dunlop said.
“She really stepped up for us and did a great job.”
Dunlop was optimistic that Peterson would be OK to pitch next week, calling her ab sence from provincial games “a precaution.”
“Obviously, our end goal is to win nationals, and you don’t want to further someone’s injury just by pitching them now,” he said.
The Renegades’ are expected to field a full roster – including Megan Parno, who missed last weekend’s provincial tournament due to commitments overseas with Great Britain’s national under-22 team in– when they open the national tournament Monday morning at 9 a.m. against the yet-to-be-announced Alberta No. 3 seed.
The White Rock Renegades 2000 team – which finished fourth at U19 provincials – will also be in the national field next week, as will a slew of other teams from around the province; this year’s tournament is open to any team from the host province that wishes to compete, Dunlop said.
Teams from outside B.C. still must qualify through their own provincial tournaments, he added.
Dunlop – who last month told PAN that his group only reconvened for this season in June – expects his group will be in tip-top form when the nationals begin, adding that their experience will also be a benefit.
“They’re a very mature group – they don’t have a lot of lows or a lot of highs, and they just stay steady as a team,” he said.
“We don’t talk about (nationals) much, but we don’t need to.
“They’ve been winning for years, so this is nothing new to them. It’s hard to teach teams to win, but when they learn to win, it’s hard to teach them to lose… The girls know what they need to do.”
In addition to the Renegades ’99 and 2000 teams, three other White Rock squads will be competing at national tournaments this month.
The White Rock Renegades ’02 will be Winnipeg at U16 national championships from Aug. 15-19, and at the same time, the Renegades ’04 and ’05 squads will be in Montreal for the U14 national tournament.