The U19 Central Energy is making its way to the Maritimes.
The girls punched their ticket to the U19 Women's Canadian Fastpitch Championship with their impressive performance at the provincial tournament in Portage last weekend. Outfielder Kindal DeGraeve says she couldn't be more thrilled about heading to Fredericton, New Brunswick.
"I've never actually been to a ball nationals, so this is going to be my first one," DeGraeve explains. "To be able to experience it with this team makes me extremely excited."
DeGraeve says she's also looking forward to the challenge that will come when facing the best teams from across the country. The Energy went through the round-robin at provincials with relative ease, however, they faced some adversity in their two games on the final day of the event. DeGraeve believes those games were exactly what they needed heading into a tournament of this calibre.
"I always find that the harder the team plays against you and the closer the game is, the more exciting it gets, and the better you play as a team," DeGraeve continues. "In those games, you know you can't be dropping balls, you have to run for everything, nothing can get through, you have to be hitting the ball, and you just have to be at your best. I thought having those two close games gave us a little more confidence in knowing that even when the game is close, we'll be able to push through and keep our energy up."
The Energy had to battle back from a deficit and force an eighth inning against the Smitty's Terminators in their qualifier for the provincial final. In that final, they played Smitty's once again and halted their comeback efforts in the final innings to take a 3-1 victory. DeGraeve says they want to recreate that championship feeling again this week in Fredericton.
"It was amazing. The feeling is overwhelming when you realize that you just won the provincials and are the top team in the province right now."
The Holland, Manitoba product says she's really looking forward to the new scenery she will be able to take in because of their accomplishments.
"I think the furthest I've gone out that way is Toronto. My siblings went out there on an exchange trip when they were younger, and they loved it. So, I'm stoked for the opportunity to go and see that part of our country because I know it's going to be absolutely beautiful, and I'm excited to do that with the girls on the team."
The outfielder, and MHSAA 'A' Athlete of the Year award winner, notes they won't just be happy to be there, they are looking to show the country what Manitoba is capable of on the diamond.
"We have to get on the sticks right away. There are going to be a lot of different types of pitchers, some faster and others with more junk to throw at us. So, we'll have to be able to figure out and talk as a team about what each pitcher is throwing," says DeGraeve. "We'll also have to have a very strong defence. We can't take any team lightly. We have to run it out for every ball, catch every pop-up, and play clean defence the whole time."
The Energy will begin the tournament tomorrow at 1:30 as they take on the third-ranked team from Alberta, Calgary Kaizen Green. The Energy will play in six round-robin games between Tuesday and Friday before the elimination rounds take place on Saturday and Sunday. For more details on the tournament click here.