Quesnel’s burgeoning softball development program can add another success story to its impressive summer.
Four local girls helped the Prince George Thunderbirds win a silver medal in the gold division at the U16B provincial championships in Delta this past weekend (July 12-14).
Kaitlyn Doucette, Destiny Bautista, Rylee Paterson and Amelia Musselman took part in a blitzkrieg of some of the strongest teams in the province, winning seven straight games until losing in the final.
Kiana Mero, 15, who is also a member of the Thunderbirds, was unable to play due to an injury beforehand.
The dominant squad mercied five of their opponents, meaning the umpire judged they were too many runs ahead for the opposing team to have a legitimate chance of catching up.
The team was able to build up quite a bit of confidence thanks to a big warm-up tournament.
“We played in the U19 Canada Cup the weekend before,” says Musselman, 16, who plays second base for the Thunderbirds. “We won a game too, so it was pretty good.
Not only did the girls play against some older teams at the Surrey tournament, but they also faced off against squads from the United States and Great Britain.
“We weren’t expecting to do that well,” says Donnie Doucette, one of the team’s assistant coaches and Kaitlyn’s father. “So it gave us some confidence when we won a game.
“All the games were really close,” he adds. “We were competitive, which showed us that we are a good ball team.”
It is possible their success leading up to the final might have come back to haunt them in their last game against Langley Extreme, however.
They had smashed Langley 10-0 in the first game they had played against them, and the girls agree they might have been too presumptuous heading into the final.
“I think we got overconfident,” says Paterson, 15, who pitches and plays first base for the Thunderbirds. “Because we’d already played them … and mercied them 10-0, I think we were kind of hoping to play them in that final game, thinking we could beat them again.
“But they got up on the bats because they were used to [our] pitcher’s timing because they’d faced [her] in the game before.”
The Extreme won the game 5-2 in a contest where the Thunderbirds just could not place their hits in good position.
“When we were batting, we couldn’t hit holes,” says Paterson. “We did hit the ball, but we were hitting it right to [the fielders], so we struggled.”
Despite the loss, the girls come away from the tournament feeling closer than ever, thanks to some amazing highlights.
Kaitlyn Doucette will probably never forget her walk-off home run against the South Surrey White Rock Thunder.
‘It was a tight game and we were in the bottom of the seventh,” says her father, Donnie. “The Thunderbirds were down by one run and you girls tied it up and then Kaitlyn got up to bat and hit it out of the park for a walk-off.
“That was one of the closest games we had of the tournament, where it could have went either way — it would have either sent us down to play an extra game, or given us some rest for the finals — so to win it with a walk-off was huge.”
Doucette also won the home-run derby for the tournament, so the big dinger was no fluke.
In addition to her hitting prowess, Paterson had some praise for Doucette’s work on the mound.
“She’s a really fast pitcher, and she has many different pitches and spins, so she’s pretty good at striking people out.”
Paterson will be remembered for putting her body on the line for the team to make a key defensive play.
When asked about an injury she says, “I damaged my rotator cuff…”
“On a wicked cool dive!” Donnie Doucette says, adding, “It would have cost us a run if she hadn’t have done it. It was a key part of the game.”
The team is confident she will be back in time to contribute to their effort at the Westerns. They’ll need her, as she bats lead-off for the squad and is often a good bet to get on base early, which always gives the Birds a boost.
Bautista also shined in her second year playing for the club. The outfielder is known for her speed, which aids in tracking down fly balls and flying around the base paths.
This tournament, she also raised eyebrows with her cannon of a throwing arm.
“She’s got a strong, accurate arm,” says Donnie. “Don’t tempt her. Don’t test it.”
Paterson tells of two separate occasions where a hit ball rocketed by and she was able to chase it down and throw runners out at third and then at second.
Musselman chimes in too.
“From the fence right to the glove.”
The team’s second baseman’s agility and grace were on display in Delta, as she was able to turn some great double plays for the club.
It is Musselman’s first year with the Thunderbirds, so some of the plays she was only ever able to use in training.
“It was cool because we’d practised them but we didn’t end up using them before now, and some we used twice in one game.
Bautista thinks the team needs to stick to its current path to have success at the Westerns in Biggar, Sask., Aug. 2-5.
“We need to do what we did at provincials,” she says, “We ended up singing U12 cheers just to keep our spirits up. “I don’t think we need to change anything. I think we’re on it.”
“Just keep positive attitudes and play the way we play, because our defense ends up winning games for us.”