It was quite the final act for one of the most dominant teams to ever come out of the South Delta Invaders rep “B” girls softball programs.
The familiar green and yellow uniforms will be headed to the moth balls in the next few years as the new all-Delta Inferno association comes into full stream. However, what the 1999 Invaders accomplished won’t soon be forgotten.
The outstanding group put the finishing touch on a terrific eight-year run together by capturing last weekend’s U18 Western Canadian championship in Richmond. The result came on the heels of earning provincial honours two weeks earlier. The Invaders were also provincial champs back in 2015 at the U16 level.
Head coach Dave Rally admitted Sunday afternoon’s championship game against Manitoba’s Central Energy provided a wide range of emotions. Yes, a gold medal was on the line but it would also be the final time his team would take to the field.
“The pre-game warm-up was very emotional because the girls knew it would be their last game,” said Rally. “Once it started rolling though it was all focus and that has sort of been their success all the way along. When they get to the field they are there to play. It’s always been a very solid offence and defence and that’s what it was today.”
The Invaders' high-power attack wasted little time in taking control. Sarah Cartlidge hit a bloop double and came home on Violet Rally’s infield single. A throwing error eventually brought Violet home for a 2-0 lead after one inning.
Central Energy pulled even in the top of the fourth but South Delta promptly regained the lead on key hits by Amanda Tabe and Kira Watton.
Courtney Palleson then delivered a big two-run triple to score Rally and Chloe Cartlidge. A Tabe sacrifice fly then brought home Palleson to make it 6-2.
That was more than enough offence for ace Chantelle Twynstra who once again was in outstanding form. She shutout Central Energy (7-0) two days earlier and the Manitoba champions could do little more than try to play “small ball” against her.
“We worked a heck of a lot on our bunt defence because it is very often what these games come down to,” smiled Rally. “Chantelle is far and away the best pitcher at the ‘B’ level. I have watched ‘A’ ball enough to know she should be pitching there but she wanted to be with her friends and we love her for it. UBC saw her talent and want her so that’s all you need to really know.”
The Westerns actually got off to a slow start for the B.C. champs.
They opened with an 8-4 win over Saskatchewan’s Oxbow SE Hawks but then dropped a 7-0 decision on Thursday afternoon to Alberta champion Irma Tigers.
The Invaders took a 1-1 record into a pivotal Friday that began with a 3-2 victory against the Manitoba Angels. A wild affair with the Melfort Spirit followed that saw South Delta blow a 9-3 lead.
Trailing 10-9 in the bottom of the seventh, Violet delivered a clutch two-out double to drive in Palleson, then scored herself on a single from Chloe Cartlidge. The emotional triumph sent the Invaders on their way.
They produced the dominating win over Central Energy and secured second place in round-robin play with a 3-0 victory against Red Deer Saturday morning.
That set the stage for a rematch with the Irma Tigers and the girls rocked their unbeaten opponent 15-5 to advance to the final.
The Invaders line-up also includes: Arnelle Basi, Mary Berger, Mackenzie Boates, Natasha Chow and Lauren Lucas.
“First few games we were cold defensively and offensively. We sort of picked it up as the tournament went on particularly that 11-10 win. That was the spark that got these girls going. After that it was the rolling Invader machine we are used to. The bats stayed on the rest of the tournament.”
The Invaders ability to hit from top to bottom in their line-up is impressive. Rally credits that to a decision four years ago to make regular off-season visits to a batting facility.
“We know we got a solid defensive team so we have really focused on the bats,” recalled Rally. “It made a huge difference in our game and you could see it that first year at U16. We were hitting the ball like never before. There is no hole in this line-up.”
Softball B.C. does offer a U19 level but with the girls headed in so many different directions for post-secondary education next year, it would be impossible to continue. Instead there is the possibility of playing junior, although Rally says it’s up to the players and what they want to do.
“They are spreading across the country to go to school. These are basically a group of academics who play the game because they love the game,” he concluded.
“When you come out and have fun together you play better and that’s what we have tried to instill in them. We think it has come through and that’s why it is such a happy group.
“It’s been a great group of parents and that’s the other big part in minor sports. As a coach I am blessed. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls and parents.” The Invaders coaching staff also features Carol Watton, Jim Cartlidge and Mike Twynstra. Team manager is Deborah Cartlidge.