The Cranbrook Banditas attempt to make a play at third base during their game against the Surrey Storm at the BC Softball Senior ‘B’ Provincial tournament on July 28, 2017 in Richmond, BC. (Photo courtesy of Kathy McLeod)

The Cranbrook Banditas attempt to make a play at third base during their game against the Surrey Storm at the BC Softball Senior ‘B’ Provincial tournament on July 28, 2017 in Richmond, BC. (Photo courtesy of Kathy McLeod)

Cranbrook Banditas fare well at ‘B’ provincial tournament

Women’s fastball team comes in ninth place in first year at BC competition, show promise for future

The Cranbrook Banditas haven’t had a lot of opportunities for competitive play this year, but at the BC Provincials over the weekend, the team proved they deserve to get out on the field more often.

As a brand new team for 2017, the local women’s fastball team only managed to play a total of eight games in their inaugural year. A ninth place finish (out of 17 teams) at the BC Softball Senior B Provincial tournament should change that going forward.

The Banditas were competitive in all four games of the tournament, which was held in Richmond from July 28 to 31. They came out with a win in their first playoffs.

In their first game of the round robin on Friday, the team lost 4-3 to the Surrey Storm and in the second game blew a 4-0 lead in the final inning to fall to the Lynn Valley Heat.

The Banditas then beat the Fleetwood Bandits in a comeback victory before ultimately finishing ninth after a loss to the home Steveston Athletics in the consolation bracket.

According to Banditas head coach Dave La Casse, the weekend was a major success for the team.

“I thought that we played awesome. We strung together some games where we had all three components of our game together,” La Casse said. “We hit well, pitched well and played defense very well too.”

La Casse said that the team’s determination was obvious, especially in their win on Saturday.

“I was proud of the girls. We came from behind in the third inning to win that game,” he said. “They fought all weekend and it was some very good ball we played. We never gave up and we were in every game.”

The tournament marked the end of the squad’s inaugural year, a long journey for both the players and the coaching staff.

“We’ve been in the gym since February [and while] we didn’t have very many games this year, that’ll change next year,” La Casse explained. “We had a very good showing at provincials and in [our earlier tournament in] Sicamous, so we will definitely be getting some games because of that.”

According to La Casse, the most important step for the program to take for future improvement, is to get more games on their schedule.

“[The Lower Mainland teams at Provincials] play in a league down there, so they get more games in a month than we have all season,” he said. “During the off-season, [we need to] contact as many programs from Alberta and BC as we can.

“If we can get two or four games every few weekends, the team will look a lot different. You see throughout every game of every tournament, how much better we got, so to throw a 20 or 30 game schedule together, the complexion of our team gets a whole different look.”

Overall, however, La Casse viewed the year as a triumph and is excited for the future of the Banditas.

“It was pretty hard to have expectations going down to the provincials [since] we didn’t really know the teams we were going to play,” he said. “So to be able to go down there and stay in every game, win a game, and finish ninth out of 17 teams, you can’t really ask for much more in your first year.”

La Casse added that the support of the community and the team’s sponsors, were integral to their terrific year.

“The community was very generous and supported us very well, [as were] our sponsors: Cranbrook Dodge, Western Financial and Tim Hortons,” he said. “Without them we would not have gotten this off the ground this year.”