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2003 Delta Heat happy to be out of horse barn and back on the diamond

U19 girls fastpitch team loaded with players headed to post-secondary programs this fall

From Crescent Stables in Ladner to Softball City in South Surrey - what a wild ride 2021 has been so far for the 2003 Delta Heat, and fortunately, they are far from done.

The U19 girls rep fastpitch team is, at last back, on the diamond, thanks to loosened health restrictions that will result in provincial championships taking place next month in Richmond. This comes after the COVID-19 pandemic essentially wiped out the entire 2020 season and about three months of the 2021 campaign, long enough - for Softball Canada to cancel the U19 nationals that were slated for early August in Montreal.

“We have kind of had a raw deal the last couple of years. A lot has been taken away from them,” said Heat head coach Chris Roper who guided his team to a second place finish at last weekend’s Canadian Pride and Power Tournament at Softball City. “If we can have a good run, finish strong at provincials in Richmond, then the girls can head off to school on a good note.”

The Heat are loaded with players that will be continuing their careers at the university or collegiate level on both sides of the border this fall.

Even though few games have been played since 2019, the team made plenty of noise that summer to get the attention of scouts.

It was highlighted by capturing the prestigious U16 Showcase Gold title at the Canada Cup that year, defeating Chinese-Taipei in the title game.

The girls ran out of steam by the time they hit nationals a couple of weeks later in Calgary. That’s why they were very much looking forward to making the trip back east for this year’s Canadian Championships.

“When we went to nationals in 2019, we ended up seventh which left a bit of a sour taste in our mouths as we were a top team. The whole thing was about going to Montreal this year and it was gone,” continued Roper.

The team would usually book gym time through the Delta School District for January workouts but that option wasn’t available due to COVID. Instead, Crescent Stables in East Ladner offered its indoor riding arena for training.

“Crescent Stables was gracious enough to give us access so we ended up in a horse barn,” chuckled Roper. “The kids had to deal with about a 12-foot high pile of horse manure each time but that’s how badly they wanted it.”

Roper and his assistant coaches are hoping this season isn’t the girls’ final chapter.

The team is eligible to return for a final year at U19 or could just continue on at the senior women’s level in 2022.

“As coaches, that’s what we are hopeful for is that everybody wants to come back,” he added. “If it’s making a run at (2022) nationals Fredericton at the minor level or going for it at senior and having some fun. Just keep playing. That’s what we want to do.

“We thought we had a legit shot at winning nationals this year. Losing that opportunity, making a run at Fredericton next year would make a lot of sense to do that.”

The Heat’s roster includes: Shae Sever, Paige Scott, Camryn Milley, Ashley Epp, Jordan Roper, Olivia Chandra, Hayley Reid, Chloe Maher, Kaitlyn Eng, Jasmine Polazjar, Lauren Rawson, Joanna Inkster and Bianca Tomlinson.