It was an unexpected end to their season for the Moose Jaw U13A Ice, losing in their provincial finals to the Regina Lazers 13-2 – a team they have beaten in recent years, according to head coach, Shawn Okerstrom.
The Moose Jaw-based girls fastball team has a chance to redeem themselves this weekend, as they are headed to the Canadian Regional Softball Championships in Victoria, with a chance to play in the Little League Softball World Series in Greenville, N.C., next month.
Okerstrom explains that the decision was made to register for both the Little League and their own house league following Softball Canada removing the Canadian or Western events for the U13 age group.
“When that happened we started looking at other things we could do to take the team to the next level and then we stumbled across this Little League idea,” says Okerstrom. “Everything fell into place, it lined up perfectly with the age categories. It started out as an idea and then grew quickly.”
Another piece into the decision process was a number of their players from their U12A provincial winning team from last season came back, so Okerstrom knew they would be contenders this year.
The Ice were able to qualify for the Canadian Regionals by following the same guidelines that Little League Softball Canada follows, which is having players play on their league teams and then coming together for a "selects" team.
Now with the Ice at the big dance, and a chance to play for Canada, Okerstrom says there’s a lot of apprehension heading into the tournament.
“We don’t know what we’re getting into, we’ve never played any of these teams, and it’s a fairly small tournament. They're ones that we’ve never come across before.”
The tournament is comprised of four teams, one each from Alberta, Quebec, the host BC team, and the Ice representing Saskatchewan.
The Ice’s first game is on Friday against Quebec and then Alberta later that day. The coach notes that leading up to their first game, the team has been working on strengths in practice.
“Two things that have got us to where we are today in the last two years have been our pitching and our offense – our girls hit well off good pitching. We just plan for different scenarios, we’ve done over the last two years, we’ve worked on things that may come up in a game so the girls know how to handle them.”
Moose Jaw will conclude round-robin play on Saturday against Alberta, with the hopes to make it to the final. Okertsrom concluded by saying that without them making the decision to dual-register into Little League the team wouldn’t have this chance to travel to play in the U.S.
“We would never have that opportunity on the Softball Canada side. You, at best, play other divisions, and it’s the older ones who go to Canadians and that’s pretty well the end of it. This is something completely new, the girls were really excited when we told them. It’s an opportunity we haven’t had with any other teams before.”
The U13A Ice isn't the only Moose Jaw Little League team with the chance to represent Canada. The Moose Jaw Major AAA All-Stars are off to Calgary next week to compete in the 2022 Little League Canadian Championship, with the chance to represent Canada in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. starting August 17.