By RYAN MCCRACKEN on July 12, 2019.
The Medicine Hat Thunder are ready to show the Gas City what they’re made of.
The under-14 D squad is one of three local teams hosting the Softball Alberta Championships in town this weekend, and infielder Ryan Sweet says she knows a title is well within their reach.
“I think we have a good chance because we’ve been playing really good this year,” said Sweet, whose Thunder open the tournament today with games at 9 a.m. against Didsbury and 3:15 p.m. against Valleyview at the Moose Ball Complex. “I’m really excited to play here because we know the environment and we know what we’re dealing with. And I’m really excited to play some teams that we haven’t seen before because I’m excited for the challenge. I think it’ll be really cool.”
It’s been an almost perfect season for the Thunder thus far, as infielder Kayla Robinson points out they’ve only dropped a single game – and with any luck they’ll have a chance to avenge that sole loss to Lethbridge if both teams make it out of the group stage.
“If we see them in finals or the crossover game,” said Robinson, who plays catcher and third base. “I’m excited for the rematch because they’re our rivals.”
Thunder coach Derek Mastel says he’s very confident in his team’s potential for success this weekend, as they’ve been able to put it all together in recent weeks to become a consistent threat both at the dish and on defence.
“We’re strong all around. We’ve got a very good offensive team, a very good hitting team, but defensively we’re a very good team too,” he said. “It’s going to be a very good weekend. We have a very competitive team and we’re very excited.”
Mastel added the tournament – which features under-14 D and under-12 D at the Moose Ball Complex and under-10 at the Family Leisure Centre – is a great showcase for the sport in Medicine Hat.
“It’s good to have this focus in Medicine Hat. It seems like we’re always the underdog to baseball, but this time people can come out and watch how competitive these girls can be, how good they are and what good athletes we have in this city,” said Mastel. “They’re very proud of their team and I’m proud of them.”
Robinson agreed the three tournaments will shine the perfect spotlight on the sport, which has been rising in popularity over the years.
“I’m excited because I love softball and before it wasn’t very popular in Medicine Hat,” she said. “Now we have a bigger association and it’s just really cool to see a lot of young girls trying out for softball and doing the sport.”
Sweet added the Thunder have become a pretty tight-knit group, and as a result they consistently encourage one another in their developement on the diamond.
“We’re all friends and we all have a good time, and when you have a good time I think it makes you better as a player,” said Sweet. “I think we’re a talented group of girls and that makes it more fun, to play with people who make you better and are bettering themselves at the same time.”
The Thunder were honoured in style Thursday evening when they took to the field in their positions alongside the Medicine Hat Mavericks prior to their Western Canadian Baseball League game against the Lethbridge Bulls at Athletic Park.
“They’re pretty major compared to us so it’s good to see a high level of ball and some role models,” said Robinson.
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