The Cowichan Valley’s Ella Duncan-Reda and Oak Bay’s Tess Sawkins formed a formidable Vancouver Island duo on the provincial team that won the 16U Baseball Canada Championships in Nova Scotia last month.
Team BC charged through the tournament on Aug. 22-25, winning every game, including four shutouts. After rolling through the round robin, B.C. knocked off the defending champs from Quebec 5-1 in the semifinals, then crushed Alberta 6-0 in the gold-medal game for the province’s first title in nine years.
“It was great,” Duncan-Reda said. “It was really exciting.”
Duncan-Reda and Sawkins were integral to Team BC’s success throughout the tournament, but really stepped it up in the playoffs. Duncan-Reda slugged her first-ever out-of-the-park homer to plate the first two runs in the semifinal against Quebec 1, and Sawkins had a dinger of her own later in the same game.
Sawkins then pitched the final, with Duncan-Reda behind the plate, holding Alberta to five hits. B.C. jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first two innings, and the game was never really in doubt, so the players just had to focus on keeping control.
“Going into the seventh inning, knowing we had the lead, we all knew we had to get three outs,” Sawkins recalled. “So we all zeroed in on getting those three outs.”
Team BC carried three catchers, but Duncan-Reda handled most of the work, catching 26 of 38 innings, with some time at third base as well. Coach Marty van der Loos praised her abilities in the tricky position.
“She works very well with the whole pitching staff,” he said. “She works very well with Tess. Maybe there’s a connection from the Island. She’s a great communicator.”
Sawkins played for the Victoria Mariners this summer, and was one of just two girls in the B.C. Premier Baseball League. Duncan-Reda, meanwhile, played house baseball in Chemainus and played softball as well. She has her sights set on a college scholarship in softball, and recently made a showcase team that will travel to Las Vegas in October.
Both Island girls bring character to the provincial team, van der Loos added.
“They’re just great players and great kids. They’re willing to learn and willing to do what it takes to be successful.
“It makes my job a lot easier.”
Duncan-Reda and Sawkins were also on the provincial team that won the 14U Western Canadian Championships last summer, and van der Loos expects them to be key players for many years down the road.
“We have a very good core for the next couple of years,” he said.
While at nationals, Duncan-Reda, Sawkins and a couple other Team BC players were invited by a national team scout to attend a training camp in February, which will be the next step toward making the national team. That’s not just a big step for the players, but for girls baseball in B.C. in general.
“We’re very fortunate to have a lot of girls coming from this program to the national program as well,” van der Loos said. “We’re trying to get it out there, and being successful helps.”