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'96 Heat win B.C. title in thrilling fashion

Girls rep fastpitch team stuns '95 Renegades in championship game to head to nationals as province's top seed

Delta '96 Heat entered the Bantam "A" Provincial Fastpitch Championships with high expectations and the first-year squad certainly didn't disappoint.

The Heat will be heading to the upcoming nationals in Winnipeg as B.C.'s top seed thanks a thrilling ride in Richmond that concluded with a stunning upset of heavily favoured White Rock '95 Renegades in the championship game.

Delta's road to glory began with a perfect run in round-robin play to clinch the top seed for the playoff round. The locals opened with a mercy win over the Fraser Valley '95 Fusion, thanks to key hits from Holly Speers, Montana Turnovitsky, Jennifer Linde, Mackenzie Welsh and Francais Olexa.

A no-hitter from Carolyn Thoveson and four hits from lead-off batter Kaitlin Fraser propelled the Heat to a 12-0 win against Nanaimo. Great hitting by Siara Couper, Lexie Brenneis and Turnovitsky, as well as pitching from Speers and Thoveson, saw Delta roll over the Victoria '95 Devils 9-3.

Facing the Ridge Meadows '96 Pride in game four proved to be much of the same. With Welsh delivering seven strikeouts and giving up only one run, Delta cruised to an 8-1 mercy rule triumph. Also credited to this achievement were great at-bats for Speers and Paige Harbord, who connected for a triple in the third.

The Heat's strong hitting continued in its opening playoff game against the '96 Fusion with an 11-4 mercy win. Harbord belted out another three-bagger, but the victory came with a price. After being hit twice by pitches, Couper sustained a wrist injury which sidelined her for the balance of the tournament.

Delta then needed some outstanding pitching by Olexa to pull out a hardfought 3-1 win over the White Rock '96 Renegades. Her 10 strikeout performance sealed at least a top three finish and an automatic berth to the nationals.

The win streak came to an abrupt halt against the'95 Renegades. A 13 strikeout performance by Sara Groenewegen led White Rock to an 8-1 win . A run driven in by hits from Welsh and Cyleste Mackay was nowhere near enough.

The Heat needed a win over the Abbotsford '95 Outlaws to earn another crack at White Rock in the double knockout format.

This time, the bats came out on fire, producing eight hits and seven runs in just two innings. Abbotsford threatened in the third with the bases loaded and none out but some quick thinking by winning pitcher Thoveson and Brenneis produced a double play. Additional hits by Turnovitsky and Kennedy Bailey paved the way for a 9-0 win.

Facing the '95 Renegades and Groenewegen again, the Heat resigned themselves to silver medal placement, but not without a fight. Their hope gained momentum as they limited the Renegades to just one run in the first and an amazing solo double play by Mackay in the second fed more fuel to her team's fire.

Despite three hits from Fraser and terrific pitching by Olexa, Delta still trailed by a run heading into the bottom of the seventh.

With one out, Turnovitsky hit a hard shot which caused a collision between the outfielders and put the tying run on base. Brenneis then delivered a second hit and Mackay advanced both runners into scoring position.

With the pressure on her, Bailey stepped up to the plate to meet the challenge and managed to foul off the first two pitches. She fouled off four more and the frustrations of Groenewegen were showing.

The next pitch proved to be one sweet enough for Bailey to get a hold of and send it just over second base. While the Renegades scrambled to get the ball, both runners scored for a dramatic victory.

Coaches Bill Olexa and Bob Houtman are proud of the girls and their determination. They know the experience at nationals, whatever the outcome, will only continue their growth.

The Canadian Championships are slated for Aug. 17-21.