It was a final chapter that couldn’t have unfolded any better for the Richmond 2000B Islanders.
The girls’ rep team concluded its run through youth fastpitch by capturing Softball Canada’s U19B Western Canadian Championship in Stettler, AB. The triumph came on the heels of victories at the U19 Provincials in Nanaimo and the Canada Cup at Softball City. The Islanders finished the 2019 campaign with a remarkable 71-7 record.
As they have done throughout its sizzling summer, Richmond’s offence was firing on all cylinders in the east-central Alberta town — producing eight straight wins. The final exclamation mark was a 11-1 rout of Saskatchewan champion Southwest Wolfpack in the gold medal game.
With his team leading 3-0, Richmond head coach Troy Cooke challenged his players to go into “beast mode” and leave no lingering doubt who was the best team at the tournament. His girls responded with one final offensive explosion that ended the game after just four innings.
“They all were hitting the ball and making plays,” marvelled Cooke. “They were just an amazing group.”
The tournament was dominated by B.C. teams as the Islanders and South Delta Invaders produced an epic semi-final. Both entered the tilt with perfect 6-0 records after round-robin play.
The Invaders jumped out to a 6-2 lead after four and took a 7-6 advantage into the bottom of the seventh. Richmond then produced a two-out single to send the game to the international tiebreaker where South Delta managed a pair of runs. The Islanders replied with three of their own to pull out a dramatic 10-9 victory. The heartbreaking defeat left the Invaders reeling, resulting in a 10-3 loss to Saskatchewan to settle for bronze.
It was tragedy back in April 2016 that brought this team closer together. Assistant coach Catherine “Cat” Wheatley passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident. She was just 22. A memorial tournament was created soon after to honour her memory.
The Islanders broke through this year to win it for the first time back in April. It set the stage for an extraordinary final season.
“It has always been about playing for Cat,” added Cooke. This championship and season was for her.”
Following the Western triumph, the team drove about 230 kms south to Calgary for a night of celebration.
The Islanders roster featured Ayden Foort, Cate Sykes, Ellen Yam, Harper Gibson, Jessica Porter, Josie Cooke, Katie Yee, Mackenzie Last, Natalie Caras, Racquel Bennett, Sarah Peardon, Shanelle Gutenberg and Sheetal Reddy.
Scott Porter, Ed Yee and Darren Bennett rounded out the coaching staff.