Cowichan Sportsplex a hit with visitors at Western Canada tournament

Some of Western Canada’s best U16 boys and girls softball teams did battle at the Cowichan Sportsplex last weekend.

Emerging victorious at the Western Canada U16 Softball Championships were Manitoba’s Pimicikamak Thunder, who defeated Saskatchewan’s Shellbrook Rangers to win the boys division, and Saskatchewan’s Regina Lazers defeated Alberta’s St. Albert Pride to win the girls division.

Both tournaments were hosted by Sooke teams, who won the right to represent the South Vancouver Island District. There aren’t any boys softball teams in Duncan, and the girls teams play in C-level house leagues, but the Cowichan Valley wasn’t without representation as Rayne Hankins suited up for the Sooke girls. Hankins played well throughout the tournament, and bounced back from a scary incident in one game.

"She took a horrible hit right at her while she was playing third base, but she got up and threw the girl out," said Katrina Bull, the tournament director and Softball BC minor coordinator for Vancouver Island.

Because Duncan didn’t have any A-or B-level teams, Hankins played the entire season with Sooke, regularly making the trip over the Malahat.

"That’s a big commitment on her part,"

Bull said, commending Hankins.

Every province sends the second-place team from their A-level provincials to the Western Canadian tournament, except B.C., which sends the top teams from their B provincials. That’s no problem for B.C. "They usually hold their own just fine, because the B.C. program is so much stronger."

The first-place A teams compete at the national championships, held this year in Brantford, Ont.

Joining Sooke as B.C representatives in the boys division were Prince George and Richmond, while South Delta and Cloverdale carried the flag in the girls division. Cloverdale barely missed qualifying for the medal round.

The tournament brought 115 teams to Duncan, and the 287 hotel rooms booked by Bull turned out to be too few for the visitors. The teams and their families toured the Cowichan Valley and Vancouver Island and packed local eateries.

"It definitely brought a lot of money to town," Bull said. "And everybody loved the town. They said it must feel like we’re on a permanent vacation."

The venue was also a big hit with the visiting teams.

"The Sportsplex was great to deal with," Bull noted. "People from out of town were absolutely amazed we have a facility like that that we don’t have to pay to get into."