Two young Duncan athletes had the experience of a lifetime last month when they represented Canada in the Little League Softball World Series.
Mary Murphy and Brooklyn Lang of the U14B Duncan RiverCats were asked to play for the Hampton Little League team from Victoria in the Canadian qualifying tournament, and ended up going all the way to the World Series at Alpenrose Stadium in Portland, Oregon on Aug. 10-17.
Murphy and Lang were asked to join the team by Victoria Devils coach Pat Guiney.
“Their coach had seen us play before, and asked us to play when he heard he was coaching the Hampton Little League team,” Lang related.
Teams had to play at least 12 games to qualify for the Canadian regional tournament, which only two managed to accomplish: Hampton and Beacon Hill, both from Victoria. In the best-of-three regional tournament, Hampton swept Beacon Hill 2-0.
That earned the Hampton girls the right to put on Team Canada uniforms and head to Portland, an experience Lang described as “incredible.”
“The best part was seeing the other teams and getting to talk to them about their leagues,” she said.
In addition to the Canadian entry, the 10 squads at the World Series hailed from six regions of the U.S., Canada, Europe-Africa (represented by a team from the Netherlands), Latin America (represented by a team from Puerto Rico) and Asia-Pacific (represented by a team from the Philippines).
Canada ended up placing a respectable seventh in the 10-team field, something both Duncan players were pleased with.
“All the teams were so amazing,” Lang said. “It was such a high level of softball we played at. We played the best we could, too. We did really well.”
Seeded fourth in their pool after round-robin play, Canada lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Southwest regional representatives from Texas, who would go on to win the championship. They were edged 7-5 by Oregon in their last game.
As Canada’s representatives at the Little League World Series, the Hampton players got all kinds of free stuff, including new gear and the latest bat models.
“It was like softball Christmas,” Murphy said.
The new equipment serves as an inspiration to the young players.
“It makes you want to work even harder,” Lang said.
Both Lang, who played shortstop and first base in the Little League World Series, and Murphy, who played right field, have just wrapped up their fourth year of softball and are committed to the sport.
“I love the sport,” Lang said. “I love the thought of pushing yourself to the absolute limit, and I feel in ball you can do that. You can hit your hardest, dive for balls, get dirty.”
Murphy likes the mental aspects of softball.
“It’s a thinking game,” she noted. “You have to think about plays before they happen and pick up on hints.”
Not lost on the players was the honour of wearing the Canadian uniform in an international competition.
“I felt really proud,” Murphy said.
“Every time we went in the huddle and yelled, ‘Go Canada!’ I couldn’t believe we were Canada,” Lang added.
Murphy noted that it might be their only chance to play for Canada, “unless we make it to the Olympics.”
Lang vowed that she would cherish the memory.
“It was just an experience we will never forget,” she said. “We will always be national champions. No one can ever take that away from us.
“That’s pretty cool.”