The bantam A Burnaby Oakeys will be looking to get some pre-playoff practice in at the Canadian open fastpitch international championships, which are set to start this Saturday.
The Oakeys, last season's bantam B provincial champions, moved up to the A division this year and are currently sitting mid-table in the 12-team Lower Mainland softball standings.
Oakeys infielders Kaela Ponte, Shannon Quon and Haley Dore, pitcher Arielle Charuk, catcher Madison Newman and centre fielder Carmen Wong make up a core group of six Burnaby players on this year's squad, along with second-year short stop Katie Reyes.
Reyes, a 14-year-old former Little League World Series finalist from the Hastings association, played a big part in Burnaby's provincial championship win last season, blasting three grand slam home runs in the final two games, including a four-run round-tripper in the gold-medal game.
Reyes, the first Canadian girl to ever play in the Little League World Series, batted in the 14-13 game-winning run over Germany in 2009. She also caught the final out to punctuate Canada's shocking win at the world series.
Now Reyes is hoping to help Burnaby, when it opens the Canadian open 16-and-under gold showcase division against the California Aces at Cloverdale Athletic Park on Monday, July 11.
The Oakeys will also play teams from the Okanagan and Lloydminster, Sask., as well as local teams from Ridge Meadows, Richmond, Abbotsford Outlaws 96 and fifth-place Delta Heat 96 during the preliminary round, which winds up on July 17.
Following the preliminary round, the top five teams from each pool and a wild card team will move into the double-elimination championship round.
"We're doing really well and I think we can win more games, and we are," said Reyes, adding the Oakeys are currently 6-9-1 in a very competitive league.
Her best memory in ball to date still remains the World Series, but she's nonetheless happy she made the move to softball.
"In the beginning, I didn't want to change. I wanted to stick with hardball. But my best friend (Kyrsten Piercey) and my mom told me to just try out. After the second day of softball, I began to like it."
While the Templeton Secondary student still returns to the Hastings association to umpire and help coach the younger players, she says there is something catchy about the way girls approach the game of fastpitch that is different from hardball.
"My first few days (of softball), everyone was cheering and I was pretty confused. The boys didn't really cheer that much," Reyes said.
But the many and varied chants originating from her teammates in the dugout soon caught on with Reyes.
"When you chant and you're up to bat, it gets to the pitchers, it gets in their head and puts them off their game, and we start hitting and stuff," Reyes said. "When we're chanting and cheering everyone, we all get stronger."
The Canadian Open fastpitch championships include an international women's division, involving national teams from Australia, Japan, Venezuela, the U.S. and Canada. It gets underway this Saturday at Softball City in South Surrey.