The West Kootenay U16 Steelers capped off a so-so round-robin with a sensational playoff run to win its first BC U16C Girls Fastball Championship in Burnaby earlier this month.
Steelers’ coach Pam Caron had high expectations for the team going into the tournament, but just days leading up to the event, the West Kootenay squad was bit by the injury bug.
“The Monday going into provincials was a little scary,” said Caron.”We had three or four injuries with only 10 girls on the team. Both of our catchers and one pitcher so was unsure how we would fair. But these girls battled through their injuries and worked together like a ‘true’ team.”
The Steelers almost missed the playoffs, losing their last round-robin game 8-7 against the Chilliwack Her-ricanes in extra innings to go 2-2. However, the West Kootenay team squeaked into the top-eight, coming in seventh out of 16 teams toadvance to the playoff round.
“I knew they could do it,” said Caron. “We just didn’t hit in the round robin, and if you don’t hit you don’t score runs. We really thought we may not make the top-eight. Four teams were 4-0 after the round robin.”
But once the playoffs began the Steelers were unstoppable. WK defeated second-seed Kelowna Khaos 4-1 in their opening playoff match, and after losing to Chilliwack in extras in the round-robin, it was payback time as the Steelers trounced the Her-ricanes 11-1.
Following the win, the Steelers then took on the undefeated top-seed North Shore Renegades, a team that hadn’t lost a game all season. The Renegades had beaten West Kootenay 9-5 in the round-robin, but the semifinal matchup was a different story. The Steelers steamrolled the North Shore squad 10-1 to advance to the final.
“We had to play both teams we had lost to,” explained Caron. “We saw Chilliwack in the quarters and North Shore in the semis and finals, and won them all, so the girls were very excited, such a bonded group of girls.”
North Shore then faced Chilliwack to see who would play West Kootenay in the final. But at that point, the confidence and character of the Steelers team was at a high point. North Shore beat Chilliwack to advance, but the Steelers won their fourth playoff game in a row, dispatching the Renegades 7-4 in the final, without taking a final at bat, to win the championship.
The Steelers hit three of the five home runs hit in the whole tournament, with Trail’s Tessy Brandt leading the way by belting two round-trippers, and LeeAnn Zaitsoff hitting one.
On the mound, Chelsea Ginther pitched a stellar semifinal and also started the final with Brandt and Megan Caron finishing it off.