Some of the top young female fastball talent in the country is on display this week at Centennial Park in View Royal and Hyacinth Park in Saanich.
Starting today (Aug. 5) the Victoria Fastball Club, home of the Devils ‘A’ high-performance program, hosts the Under-14 Girls Canadian Fastpitch Jamboree.
The 10-team Cup draw, being played at Centennial Park on Helmcken Road, includes mostly second-year pee wee teams and others that have excelled in U14 tournament play this season. The 2001 Devils, with nearly half of its players hailing from the West Shore, will compete there while the 2002 Devils, with a similar core of West Shore players, will contest the seven-team Plate draw over at Hyacinth at Interurban and Marigold roads.
Unlike visiting players, who sleep in hotels and mostly eat restaurant food, the local players sleep in their own beds, enjoy home-cooked meals and stick to their routines.
“I’m sure they’re practising getting to bed and they’re thinking in their head what they can do to be prepared,” Devils 2001 head coach and association president Paddy Strandlund said before the tournament. “They’ll be playing a fair amount of games over five days.”
While the park has been the site of numerous provincial championships over the years, this is only the second time the club has hosted a national tournament. The previous time was in 2010, when the ’94 Devils finished fourth in the U16 girls event.
Devils teams train virtually all year, spending time in the gym in the fall and winter before hitting the field in spring. While players competing this week are still at the tender ages of 13 and 14, they’re learning about the importance and benefits of maintaining a fitness regime, Strandlund said, which can help them get through a long tournament.
“We have a fitness guy and have a sponsor, LifeMark, to help with any injuries. We even had a chiropractor come out and talk to the girls,” he said. “All that has helped us get through some sore arms and sore backs. Everything they listen to will help them think about how they treat themselves and how they warm up.”
For this week’s competition, he said, the top teams will get consistent pitching and timely hitting.
“Definitely the pitching, and if you can have anybody hitting the ball who will break those pitchers, it’s going to do it for you,” he said. “With these teams, if you have less than a top-notch pitcher, they’ll be hitting the ball and putting pressure on your defence.”
Some teams come in two experienced pitchers, Strandlund added, but it’s not uncommon to see one girl throw most, if not all of her team’s games. While mainland teams and some from Alberta are familiar to teams here, for example, opponents from the farther reaches of the country are largely unknown, and no one wants to take chances, with an extra loss potentially costing a team a berth in the playoff round.
At the recent U14A provincial championships, the Devils 2001 team posted a modest 2-2 record in the round robin, Strandlund said, squeaking into the playoffs in sixth place. They lost a tight 4-3 decision to the White Rock Renegades in the playoffs when their bats went a bit cold, he said.
The 2002 Devils, led by head coach Bryan Bull of Duncan, missed the playoffs at the same provincial tournament.
Teams from Surrey, Delta and Chilliwack, along with the Devils, are expected to contend for the Cup title. But as Strandlund said, at this age any team can have a “on” or an “off” weekend.
“We’re hoping to be in the medals for sure,” he said.
Games get underway at 8 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday at both parks, with the finals set for Sunday, also at Centennial and Hyacinth. Game times that day will be based on previous results.
For up to date results, visit championship.softball.ca/u14girls/.