It was a golden performance for the Northwest Zone 7 boys softball team, all of whom are from Terrace with the exception of one player from Kitimat, at the BC Summer Games in Prince George July 21 to July 24.
Coach Ryan Praticante described the team as one of the most talented and skilled groups he has coached in his eight years of working with local teams. “This is a very special team,” he said.
“In years past I’ve coached talented teams and there may have been something absent. But this team …. at 15 years of age they are not perfect …. but this team had everything in a skill set and drive.”
“Our practices were once or twice a week and I can say on Sundays, the practices were to start at 11 a.m. but 95 per cent of them were on the field by 10:30,” Praticante added.
The gold medal came after five games held over three days, three in a round robin and two in the playoff round.
The first win, 10-2, happened July 22 over the Zone 8 Cariboo North East Zone, followed by a closer 8-7 victory over an all-Indigenous team.
The team hit a bump on the road the next day, due to a 12-3 loss to the Thompson-Okanagan Zone 2 squad.
That placed them in second place in the round robin, leading to another game against the all-Indigenous squad and a 10-0 victory. That set the stage for a rematch with Thompson-Okanagan Zone 2 for the gold medal.
For Praticante, it was a repeat of four years ago at the BC Summer Games in Cowichan where the North West Zone 7 he coached also faced Thompson-Okanagan and won the gold medal.
“We had a title to defend,” he said of the final game July 24.
That game saw the North West team take a 4-0 lead after three innings and building to a 7-1 lead by the fifth inning only to have Thompson Okanagan cut the lead to 7-5 going in the seventh and last inning.
“The bottom of our order, seventh, eighth and ninth, really came through,” said Praticante of what ended as a 11-7 victory and the gold medal. “It was a really good game, top to bottom, a great effort.”
If the gold medal demonstrated a local commitment to talent, it also demonstrated a multi-year development of local coaches.
At 24 years of age, Praticante has been coaching for the past eight years and on this gold-medal team was one of five coaches. Three were brought on who were younger with the fifth, Jorde Edmonds, being singled out by Praticante for leading the way.
“I would say he’s been my mentor,” said Praticante of the role Edmonds has played in local softball. “He got me into coaching.
Praticante describes his own coaching style as one that “finds the strengths in the team and adjusting my coaching style to the group you have.”
“With this team, the age group was fresh to me so I was able to bring a little bit of different perspective. These kids were already so talented, I really enjoyed just working with them.”
Also at the BC Summer Games was a girls team made up of players from Terrace, Kitimat, Hazelton and Smithers. It finished eighth in tournament play.