Three softball players from Airdrie and one from Crossfield had the opportunity of a lifetime in Delaware last week, competing in the Little League Softball World Series from Aug. 1 to 7 as members of the tournament's sole Canadian team.
While the Canadians only managed one win from six games during their week in Little Sussex, Delaware, coach Brooklynn Burrill from Crossfield said it was a privilege for the girls to take part.
The tournament provided the opportunity to develop their skills by playing against top teams from the United States, as well as other teams from around the globe.
“We didn’t really know how we’d compare at first, but it was good and I think they played pretty well overall,” said Burrill.
The local athletes, all 16 years old, included Burrill’s younger sister Mattea, catcher Claira Stone, third base Jessie Schmidt, and pitcher Danna Juarez. While Mattea is from Crossfield, the other three are from Airdrie.
According to Burrill, the opportunity for the four local athletes to compete in the World Series arose thanks to collaboration between Softball Canada and YYC Softball Little League this year.
“We formed a hybrid team and have been playing with them this season,” she said. “We played against Quebec, which was for the Canadian regionals, just a couple of weeks ago, [and won in a best-of-three series].
“Right away, we had a bunch of paperwork to fill out and a week later, we got on the plane [to Delaware].”
Once in Delaware, the Canadian team had their work cut out for them as they took on some of the best U17 girls’ softball teams from across the U.S., including championship teams from Florida, California, Texas, Illinois, Delaware, and Wyoming.
“There were six American teams from different districts and four international teams,” Burrill explained. “We were one of the international teams and then there was the Netherlands, Philippines, and a Latin American representative from Curaçao.”
Canada got off to a rough start, losing 8-0 to Florida, 14-4 to California, and 5-4 to Illinois in their opening three games.
While the tournament started off with two heavy defeats inflicted on the Canadians, Burrill said their play improved as the games wore on and the team came close to tying Illinois.
“Our first couple games, they beat us pretty good,” she admitted. “We were all a bit nervous. But the third one, they beat us by one in the eighth inning, so it was a really good game.”
In their fourth outing, Canada earned their first victory by overcoming the Netherlands 5-3. Juarez hit a big home run to put the Canadians ahead, according to Burrill.
Even though they were buoyed by that victory, the Canadians were brought back down to earth the following game, when they took on Texas – the eventual tournament champions – who beat them 11-1.
Burrill’s younger sister Mattea was the Canadian team’s short stop and said it meant a lot to be able to represent the small town of Crossfield on an international stage.
“We come from a small part of Alberta and we were able to represent our country,” she said. “It was an exciting opportunity and the highlight of the season.”
Similarly, Schmidt and Stone both said it felt “surreal” to have the opportunity to compete in such a high-calibre tournament, which was also broadcast on ESPN Plus and included a full-fledged commentary and play-by-play team
“I think it was really exciting because it happened so fast,” Stone said. “We didn’t really know what to think, but it was really surreal and exciting.”
Stone added she learned a lot by competing at the Little League Softball World Series.
“I learned there are lots of teams around the world that are really good,” she said. “I learned so much by watching other players from around the world in my position. I’d watch what they do differently from what I do, and learn that so I can bring it back to Canada and work on it.”