A group of Woolwich fastpitch softball players are celebrating the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work that saw them place seventh in Canada at the national championships held in Saskatoon earlier this month.
Outfielder Emma Maric of Winterbourne, second base Maddy Phillips of Conestogo and right fielder Emma Braun from Elmira have played the sport together for the last five years, including this season on the UTM Bandits U15 team in Kitchener. As a team of girls born in 2008, they spent this season as the younger team in their two-year cohort, however they will often play teams much older, including multiple U17 teams.
“I feel like at the start, when we hear that we’re playing older teams, it is pretty intimidating, because we don’t know what to expect. But once we did our thing on the field, our own thing, and realized that they weren’t as strong teams as we thought it would be, it went pretty well,” said Phillips.
According to parent Karen Maric, being a part of the team is a yearlong commitment for the girls.
“They start in September outdoors until the weather gets bad, then they go indoors over the winter. Once the fields are open, they start practicing and they play all the way through the summer,” she explained.
Being part of nationals where the team finished with an even record of four wins and four loses was a “cool experience,” said Phillips
“Saskatoon is a cool place. It was a really flat place to play, but the ball diamonds are nice. It was definitely a really cool experience to be a part of, and I’m really glad that our team was able to go,” she said.
The team had its ups and downs at the 21-team national tournament, Emma Maric said.
“But we brought ourselves back up and we’re able to compete with all the other teams. Like what Maddie said, it was a really cool experience, because it was our first time going to Saskatoon for softball, and our first time playing in the Canadian nationals to compete against other teams that we’ve never seen before in different provinces of the country,” she explained.
Just being able to get to nationals was a big accomplishment for the team, Braun said.
“We put in the hard work to build up the team to make us a stronger team to be able to qualify for the nationals and make the cut just to be able to go.”
“They were playing against girls who were born in 2007. Their whole team is the 2008 girls, so they were the top-ranked 2008 team there. To finish seventh in their minor year was a pretty big accomplishment for these girls,” Karen said.
With tryouts for the season beginning again in September, the experience gave them a confidence boost going into the season, the girls said.
“We were the underdogs this year. To do that well, and then going into next year will be even stronger. I have pretty good hopes for next year that we do really well,” Phillips said.
“We just have to keep the confidence up and push ourselves to be able to do it next year,” Emma Maric said.
“I have lots of high hopes for us going into next year and seeing what we can accomplish,” added Braun.