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Squamish softball team garners silver medal at largest local tournament

'Everyone on our team worked super hard this weekend, and we had a lot of fun,' player.

Squamish's U17 Venom softball team took home silver, while the Langley Bulldogs earned gold at the Sea to Sky softball tournament hosted by Howe Sound Minor Ball this past weekend. 

Last year, the Howe Sound Venom won the tourney and advanced to the provincial championship for the first time. 

“It was a special moment, but last year was a better outcome. Too bad we couldn't do that [again],” said Saylor Wampler of the U17 Venom, “[But] everyone on our team worked super hard this weekend, and we had a lot of fun, she added.

“Overall, we are super, super happy to come second. But in the moment we were a little bit disappointed.” 

The U15 Howe Sound Chiefs came in seventh place.

“The Chiefs had a heartbreaker of a playoff game Sunday morning … We got knocked out of the playoffs in game one,” said Chiefs' coach Mark Smith. 

Fastpitch players from across the province flocked to Squamish to take part in Howe Sound Minor Ball's largest fastpitch softball tournament since its inception, on June 6, 7, and 8. With 15 teams across 10 softball programs, the turnout trumped any previous enrolment.

According to Smith, last year, there were six teams. 

"The fastpitch program is just taking off like a jet," he said.

Smith said the Howe Sound Baseball League's growth is due to its recent investment in travel ball, which involves teams playing games and tournaments across the province. 

A few years ago, they started with one travel team; last year, they had two; this year, they have four.

Smith said there is no pressure or obligation for teams to travel, but when they do, they are hooked. 

"As soon as a team from Squamish does try it once they tend to fall in love with it, and the girls [are] really pushing hard and then parents and coaching staff getting behind it to keep fuelling that fire," he said.

Leah Smith, Mark's daughter, started playing softball last year when she asked her dad to be their coach.

He agreed under one condition: she needed to fill the team roster.

So, she recruited friends and the now U15 team was born.

A year later, the entire team returned for this season.

"That was kind of a really cool bonding moment  …  It's probably the most fun job I've ever had," said coach Smith. 

As for Leah, she loves everything about softball and the "sisterhood" it has given her: "rolling double plays, and catching hits off the bat ... catching fly balls and running bases, and getting to play with such an amazing team. It's [all] the best part." 

Ahead of the tournament, Smith told The Squamish Chief that some of the best players in the province would compete at the highest level. 

"You're going to see a lot of really athletic plays from our catchers, you're gonna see shortstops diving for balls, and you're gonna see really, really aggressive base running … and sliding is super fun to watch," he said.

"This isn't grandpa's slow pitch game." 

He added that balls are regularly pitched at up to 50 miles per hour.

For the Howe Sound Chiefs, who were participating in this tournament for the first time, players knew that regardless of the outcome, they were in it together. 

"If someone's feeling down, our whole team works together to cheer them up. And if one person messes up, we make sure that it's okay. We learn from our mistakes," said team catcher Isla Halliday. 


*Please note, this story has been updated to reflect what happened in the tournament.


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