They didn’t qualify for nationals, but Duncan’s Caleigh Coels and Darrian Gerard and the rest of the Victoria Devils 96 had no regrets after hosting the provincial U18A girls fastball championships at the Cowichan Sportsplex last weekend.
The Devils, who attended nationals two years ago and qualified again last year but opted not to make the costly trip to Prince Edward Island, finished fourth at provincials, just missing a berth as one of three B.C. representatives at the Canadian championships.
The Devils lost 1-0 in their last game of the tournament on Sunday morning despite giving up just two hits, dropping them to fourth place behind the White Rock Renegades 97, Delta Heat 96 and Delta Heat 97.
"It was a bit heartbreaking," Gerard admitted. "We really thought we were going to make it. The last game was a bit of a disappointment."
Despite the loss, the players still looked back on the tournament in a positive light.
"It kind of sucks because we didn’t make nationals, but overall we had fun," Coels said.
Coels was injured early in the tournament and didn’t get to play as much as she had hoped, but still enjoyed the experience of hosting provincials and playing in her hometown.
"It was so much fun having everybody there cheering for our team," she said.
Coels admitted there were challenges to playing in front of a home crowd, however.
"I was really nervous throughout the tournament, I guess just because it was in Duncan," she said. "My family and friends and teachers were all there. All of a sudden, everyone was interested." The Devils blazed through the round robin, going 4-0. "The other teams were scared of us," Gerard said. "They didn’t want to play us."
Devils head coach Rafer Strandlund was pleased with the way the team played even if they didn’t reach their goal of qualifying for nationals.
"It’s always a goal we shoot for. We work hard, but sometimes you don’t make it," he said. "It’s disappointing for sure; it’s always disappointing when you don’t achieve your goals, but I’m anything but disappointed with the girls."
Many parents and coaches told Strandlund it was the best provincials they had ever attended, and he was pleased with the way the Cowichan Valley community worked to make it a success.
"The folks in Duncan really helped us put together a great tournament," he said. "There were lots of people there with no allegiance other than wanting to help."
With their minor ball careers wrapping up, most of the Devils are bound for postsecondary, including Coels, who will play at Durham College in Toronto, joining another Duncan product and fellow Devils graduate Jolene Bull, and Gerard, who will head to Muscatine Community College in Iowa. The team still has the Canadian Open to play in, on July 14-21, but the end of their time as a squad is looming.
"It’s bittersweet," Gerard said. "It’s the end of the Devils. I won’t be going anymore."