Stonewall Rams Girls Fast Pitch Team

June 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Canadian Sport Features, Profiles

For the Stonewall Rams girls’ team, the stage was set for redemption at this year’s Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association Fast Pitch Championship. In 2009, the Rams dominated in the tournament championship en route to taking home the provincial title. Heading into the 2010 tournament as defending champions and the #1 seed, expectations were high. However, the Rams faltered and lost in the semi-finals before winning the bronze medal game to finish in third place.

Many of this year’s grade 12 students played on both the 2009 and 2010 teams, so they knew the joy of winning as well as the agony of defeat and were itching to end their high school careers with a victory. A major roadblock to the Rams’ success this year was the weather, as rain limited the girls’ outdoor practice time and even caused some annual tournaments to be cancelled, cutting their season short.

The Rams were a determined team however, and they did what they could with their limited practice time.

“Before our tournaments we had a lot of indoor practices due to the poor weather outside,” stated the Rams coach Deanna Easterbrook.

“During practices we focused a lot on our technical skills. We did a lot of ground balls, quick release throws, pop fly drop sets, cut offs, and plenty of batting practice.”

Eventually the weather began to cooperate, enabling practices to be held outside and the girls to get back into their groove.

Easterbrook comments, “When we had the opportunity to get outside we practiced tracking pop flies, double plays, proper base running, and grounders. Before every game and practice, the team did the same warm-up: go for a warm up run, dynamic stretch, throws, soft toss batting drill, brake off to infield and outfield, final team drill, and a pump up cheer.”

Although the Rams’ practice routine was demanding, it was nothing the girls couldn’t handle; especially for the graduating core of the team, who have been playing together for the past four years.

MHSAA Championship Tournament Convenor Curtis Grieves noted, “We have a team of strong grade 12 athletes. [Many of them] started in grade 9 with us, and have had four years of successful competition in high school.”

Easterbrook adds, “Overall we have an extremely strong team. Every player has their own specific role on the team and we wouldn’t be able to perform at this level if this wasn’t true.”

On June 3 and 4 at Quarry Park in Stonewall, the Rams’ chance for redemption had arrived. Having home field advantage certainly gave them a boost, as the bleachers were almost always filled with Rams supporters. The Rams dominated in pool play, breezing by the Killarney School Raiders with a score of 10-0 and then the Major Pratt School Lady Trojans, 11-0.

The Rams kept their momentum going as they beat the Westmount School Warriors 12-3 in the quarter-final game. In the semi-finals, the Nellie McClung Stingers put up a good fight against the Rams, playing excellent defense and getting impressive outs. In the end however, the Rams’ experience and clutch hitting led them to a tight 2-0 victory.

In the championship game, the Neepawa Tigers proved no match for the Rams as they won the game handily with a score of 12-2.

Picture: Courtesy of the Stonewall Argus

The win was a perfect ending for the team and especially for the graduating students who were able to end their high school fast pitch careers on a high note. Easterbrook attributes the win to the team’s experience and mental toughness.

“No matter what the competition looked like, every player had to play to their level and not the level of the competitors. To be able to do that, the players needed to remain focused and get the job done.”

The Rams will lose six players to graduation after this year, making a championship repeat even more difficult to achieve than normal. With their strong mental game and experience on their side however, it would be hard not to expect the Rams to win their third championship in just four years.

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