Entering the Canadian Under-14 Girls Fastpitch Jamboree, the coaches of the host Victoria Devils ‘01 and ‘02 teams knew they’d each be in tough to win a medal.
But when Sunday afternoon rolled around at Centennial Park in View Royal, players from both teams were proudly carrying around their bronze medals.
“We’re all ecstatic about it, because medalling, period, was an outside chance,” said Devils ‘01 head coach and tournament chair Paddy Strandlund, after his team dropped an 11-7 decision to the Delta Heat in the loser’s bracket final of the Cup division.
“We both didn’t finish in the medals in the provincials, so we were on the lower side of the B.C. teams in both divisions.”
In a Cup final that was a repeat matchup and result of the B.C. final, Surrey Storm ‘01 downed Delta 2-1 in nine innings.
Having chipped away and built a 6-3 lead by the fifth inning against the Heat, the Devils ‘01 looked ready to vault themselves into the final and a rematch with Surrey, who had shut them out 7-0 in the morning winner’s bracket final.
But Delta, eager to avenge the 10-3 loss handed them by Victoria in the playoff opener, scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth to go ahead 7-6. The Devils got one back to tie it in the top of the sixth when Jessica Strandlund reached on an error and Kylie Katz and Hallie Holland pounded back-to-back singles.
The Heat stayed hot in their half of the inning, opening with six straight singles and scoring four more times to take an 11-7 lead that held up.
“We had the chance, but anything can happen in an at bat. Somebody gets on base, a ball drops in,” Strandlund said.
Izzy Snow and Katz shared pitching duties for the Devils, while starter Meghan Hendrickson gave way to Janaya Basi in the top of the fifth for the Heat.
The ‘01 Devils finished third in the Cup round robin standings with a 5-1 record, earning themselves two losses in the playoff draw. The lone blemish on their record was a 2-1 loss Friday to the Waterloo Ghosts, the top-ranked team from Ontario at the tournament.
Despite seeing his team lose a chance at at least a silver medal, Strandlund said, “All of our coaches are happy. It’s the best (the girls have) played ever. They rose for the Canadians, had an excellent week and we’re incredibly pleased with them.”
First-year U15 Devils rally for playoffs
After a shaky round robin at Hyacinth Park saw them squeak into the Plate division playoffs with a 1-5 record, the Devils ‘02 team reeled off two straight wins, 5-2 over Ontario Six Nations and 8-7 over Surrey Storm ‘02, to reach the loser’s bracket final.
Eventual champion Tri-City Titans eliminated the Devils with a 9-2 loss at Centennial Park before beating White Rock Renegades 10-5 in the Plate final Sunday.
Strandlund was impressed with how the ‘02 Devils rallied.
“They came back, got their first win under their belt in the playoffs and they had a tough one against the eventual champion, but they played hard,” he said. “After a long week like this, it’s tough to finish it off strong. These guys are good.”
Organization handles nationals well
The Victoria Fastball Club volunteer crew did a stellar job with the various details of hosting 15 out-of-town teams from as far away as Prince Edward Island for a national tournament, Strandlund said.
“We’ve had lots and lots of compliments on how it’s been going,” he said. “The field crew has been incredible led by Derrick Holland … It’s been very successful, and we’re looking forward to hosting another one, but not next year.”
Click here to find a photo collage from the tournament.