Like the Stanley Cup that visits the hometown of each player on the winning team, a championship trophy is making the rounds in the North Okanagan.
Vernon’s Annie Morrison, Emma Wilton and Bailey Wellman, who play with the Kelowna Heat U16 girls rep softball team, each has two weeks to take photos with their team’s trophy, before passing it on to the next in line.
The Heat took gold when they dominated the Spokane Crash tournament in Washington, and the trophy is making the rounds in Vernon after spending two weeks with a teammate from Sicamous.
“It was the most pressure in any game I’ve pitched in,” said Morrison, who clinched the win for the Heat when she struck out the last two batters in the gold-medal game against the West Plain Bandits of Eastern Washington.
The Bandits’ fans were “really loud” added Morrison, because the Bandits had runners on second and third, with the go-ahead run at the plate.
Having moved from the Lower Mainland, Morrison is a newcomer on the Heat. The determination she showed in the tourney final made a big impression on head coach Bernie Penner.
“During the final in Spokane, against one of their local teams, with a very large boisterous group of fans, their goal was to rattle Annie as she pitched.
“Annie had the look in her eyes that said ‘Bring it.’ This was contagious and the rest of our players rallied around that attitude to create one of the most intense and memorable finals that I have experienced in years.”
Said Wellman: “What a great experience it was. I really enjoyed playing with all these girls that put their whole heart and effort into each game.”
Wellman got her start in Vernon Minor Baseball and went on to Team B.C. before switching to fastball. Penner said she is adapting well.
“She brings enthusiasm and a strong desire to learn the differences between the games as quickly as possible,” he said.
Wilton’s poise stood out for Penner, who said her demeanor has a positive effect on her teammates.
“She added leadership to the younger players with her solid defensive play, very timely hitting, along with a calming presence in the dugout.”
Wilton is already looking forward to next season, saying: “I played with this team two years ago and we hardly won a championship. Next season will be good.”
Penner is also optimistic about the Heat’s 2015 season after watching the girls shine in Spokane.
“I was very happy with the quality of players that came to our fall tryout,” he said. “This was very evident when we were in Spokane for the fall tournament. We played some exceptional teams and our girls stepped up and answered in every category – hitting, defence and pitching.
“Our team depth is exceptionally good, which gives us coaches numerous options when we step on the field.”
With just one other high-calibre girls softball teams in the Interior, more out-of-town travel will be expected of the Vernon trio next spring if they hope to compete against other top talent. Last year’s team travelled to Idaho, Washington and Lower Mainland numerous times.
The Heat’s end goal is to win the provincials and represent B.C. at Western Canadians next August.
To help cover travel expenses, Morrison, Wellman and Wilton are seeking individuals and businesses to sponsor them. Anyone interested in lending support can contact team manager Darren Bennett at 250-870-6388, or Darren.Bennett@shaw.ca.