Arriving in Montreal, Que. on over the weekend, the Lloydminster U18 Rebels are already two games into their final tournament of the year with two more to play today to finish out their round robin play at the 2015 U18 Women’s Canadian Fast Pitch Championship.
It has been a long season for the ladies on the diamond. They finished as the second ranked team out of Alberta after losing in the provincial final last month to the Calgary Kaizen, then they hopped on a plane heading to the Canadian Open Fastpitch Championships in Surrey, B.C., playing the very next day in a week long tournament.
Now, with the trip to nationals in Montreal, that season has succeed 10,000 kilometres of travel, and is putting the Rebels against the best across the country in a 20-team tournament to crown the nations best softball team for this year.
“I’m not slacking on how much ball I am getting,” said first basemen Ky Desaulniers. “Going to the Canada Cup after provincials is going to help us a lot because there is a lot better pitching there. A lot of B.C. teams that we will see at nationals we saw their.”
A slow start to the season was offset by a 26-game winning streak that was ended just before provincials. They swept through the round robin there before losing in the final, and played some of the best softball teams in B.C. and from the United States in the international tournament. Pitching at the national level will be something the Rebels don’t see often in Alberta, as head coach Brett Harvie said there is some pitchers who will be playing that are capable of shutting out even the best batters on the team.
So the onus may shift to the defensive side of the ball for Lloydminster, who have the hitters capable of putting up runs, but will need to ensure that few base runners cross the plate against them.
“From a defensive standpoint we have been solid all year, but when you are facing that kind of pitching, quite often it is that one mistake that can cost you the ball game,” said Harvie. “But we have been pretty good this year at not making those mistakes and we have been in a few games where it has been wide open and we have been able to out-slug teams.
“But we have also had games that were low scoring. I’m comfortable and confident in this teams ability to play in those low, tight games that you see a lot more of when you get later in the tournament.”
After round robin play concludes on Wednesday night, the top 16 teams will be rearranged into four new pools for another set out round robin matchups. By Saturday the top-eight teams, two from each pool, will play in one-game playoff matchups, en route to the gold medal game Saturday night at 8 p.m.
Lloydminster believes being involved in those Saturday games are a realistic expectation, but Harvie said this group of ladies has played enough softball this year and is skilled enough that playing on Saturday night in the national final isn’t out of the question.
“I have every belief that this is a group that is capable,” said Harvie. “This is a group that if we are firing, we are a tough team to beat. And any time you need a national championship you need a little luck and we are not different. But if we are firing on all cylinders, then we have every chance to beat any ball team in the country at our age.”