Nearly a year of dedication paid off for a pair of Duncan ballplayers as they helped a Victoria softball team win the provincial championship late last month.
Brooklynn Lang and Rylee Smith opted to play this season with the Victoria Devils 2003 when there was no local team for their age group this season, and ended up with gold medals from the U14A provincial tournament.
“We just wanted a change, more competition,” said Smith, who is following in the footsteps of her father, Rick, a member of the Softball B.C. Hall of Fame.
The commitment meant going to Victoria three nights a week in the winter, and at least five nights a week once the season started. The Devils 03, who had struggled at the 2016 U14A provincial tournament in Duncan, turned into a powerhouse team this year and went from the cellar to the top of the heap as they won the 2017 tournament in Langley on July 21-23.
“We worked so hard at the beginning and trained such a long time,” Lang said. “It was nice to see at the end it all came together.”
Lang had played with the Devils at the 2016 provincial tournament, having been called up from the U14B Duncan RiverCats. She also played with many of the same girls, in the 2016 Little League Softball World Series in Oregon last August. Lang’s coach in the World Series was Pat Guiney, who also led the Devils this season with assistance from Dean Henderson and Leann Rompain.
This was Smith’s first time as a Victoria Devil, but it helped that she knew both Lang and Bethany Brass, a former Duncan player living in Ladysmith but playing for the Devils, and the three girls’ families were able to carpool.
According to Lang and Smith, the Devils seemed to lose in the semifinals of tournaments throughout the season, a curse they finally put to rest in the biggest event of the year.
“When we went to provincials, we were kind of worried.” Lang said. “We knew we had to get past that.”
The Devils faced the Vancouver Wildcats in the provincial semifinal. The game was scoreless for a couple of innings, when one really good hit got things going for the Wildcats. Lang added a three-run over-the-fence homer as the game went on, and the Devils prevailed 6-1 to advance to the final.
After a slow start in the final, the Devils eventually cruised to a 6-2 victory over Fraser Valley Fusion 03 to claim the title.
Lang and Smith are already committed to playing for the Devils again next season.
“It’s hard to not come back to a team that wins,” Lang said. “It’s hard to leave a team after you win provincials.”
After playing most of the season at shortstop and third base, Lang ended up playing first at provincials. Similarly, Smith played second base and pitched most of the year before playing outfield at provincials.
“It’s an A team,” Smith commented. “You’ve got to be good at multiple things.”