Developing the sport of softball

Parksville’s Rage Fastball Club has had a season to remember with a record number of girls giving it their all.

Parksville Rage coach and driving force Kris McNichol

It’s looking like softball really is all the Rage in these parts.

Parksville’s Rage Fastball Club has had a season to remember as a record number of girls have been giving it their all, and it’s not over yet.

The PRSC fielded seven teams this season — a U10 team, two U12 teams, a U14 team, two U16 teams, and the U18 team coached by Kris McNichol, the driving force behind the club.

“I’m most proud of the program that started five years ago with 11 girls, and now we have more than 70,” he said.

The U18s are a Rep B team which doesn’t play in a league but prepares for the provincials by way of tournaments and exhibition games.

To that end the U18s, who beat the Port Alberni Blazers 5-2 in an exhibition game at Springwood Park Tuesday evening, have secured an invite to play in the Canada Cup slated for Softball City in Richmond and surrounding parks this weekend where they’ll be competing in the Future Selects division.

“It’s a great tournament to be in — it’s an excellent venue and because there’s so many teams,” said McNichol, pointing out that with teams coming from all over B.C., Alberta and the U.S. including Minnesota, the competition is stiff and there are plenty of scouts in the stands.

“We’ve never been in the Canada Cup, so we’re looking forward to it.”

The Rage open the big tourney Saturday morning against the Ridge Meadow Rage at Cloverdale Athletic Park then take on a team from Oregon that afternoon. On Sunday they take to the field at Softball City for back to back games against the Surrey Storm.

The U18 Rage leave Friday afternoon and will use the Canada Cup as one final tuneup for the provincial championships slated for Cordova Bay the following weekend. The Rage who won bronze at the B.C.’s last year and have four players in their final season.

The Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship is the largest softball tournament in Canada and among the largest women’s-only sporting events in B.C. With more than 85 teams from around the world, “this tournament allows young athletes to play alongside some of their softball heroes — which include the world’s top four women’s softball teams: Japan, U.S., Australia and Canada.

Canada Cup media person Carmen Bennett from Vancouver points out that since the inception of the original team, McNichol has helped build the Parksville Rage club “and their reputation of fielding highly competitive, skilled teams,” pointing out McNichol founded the original Parksville team of 11 players five years ago, back when girls that were interested in the sport had the only option of traveling out of town in order to find a team to play on.

“Regardless of what these four girls accomplish with Kris at this tournament, their legacy will remain in the Parksville Rage club,” said Bennett.

The U18 Rage are made up of Sierra Spracklin, Sam McKay, Chloe Elston, Olivia Buksa, Alena Holyk, Thalia Wilson, Emma McNichol, Thea Loffler, Ashlee Foy, Gabrielle Spicer, Sommer Burgmann, Elyssa Dunlop and Taylor Smith.

“We’re getting stronger as the season wears on; we’ve played a lot of games,” said coach Kris, “so we’ll see how it shakes out.”

IN OTHER NEWS:  The U16 Rage finished fourth in their provincial finals in Chilliwack last weekend, while the U12 Rage finished first for gold in the A side of their regional playdowns in Port Alberni.

Both teams are done for the season, but McNichol makes the point, “they did a helluva job this season,” adding the U12s “took home a gold medal which is huge, I don’t know if Parksville has ever won gold in 15-20 years.”

“They’ve done super and it shows our program is getting better and that’s what were striving for, we’re trying to be an elite program on the Island. We have a long way to go but every step helps.”