KAWARTHA LAKES- It’s two weeks to the day when the school buses will start rolling for another season. While most teens are squeezing the last bit of freedom out of their summer holidays, eleven teen girls from the City of Kawartha Lakes are laser focused on something very different. Winning the Eastern Canadian Under 16 Softball Championship. “We put out a goal at the start of the year to try to get to provincials and qualify for nationals,” Coach Kevin Debnam told Kawartha 411. “We succeeded in qualifying, winning the gold medal, then we won silver at the provincials in Chatham.”
Now the Kawartha Lakers U16 girls team is headed to O’leary PEI, one of two teams to represent Ontario in the Eastern Canadian Championships. It’s the final leg of a very successful season. The girls have played in five tournaments, winning gold at two and silver at three of them. In most cases only losing by a run or two. Debnam says. The coach attributes their winning ways to their grit. “I think the biggest difference is they don’t give up. When we were in Chatham we were down 9-4 and they came back and won the game 12-9, they have a no quit attitude.”
The girls say it’s teamwork that sets them apart. “I really like how the team works together to win games and how excited everyone gets when someone hits the ball” Claire Dempsey says. Dempsey is 16 years old and has been playing softball since she was just five years old. Starting out in t-ball, she is now the pitcher and can also play first base. Teammate Emily Armstrong points out there’s no drama on this team. “I think its your bond, we just gel together so well, we trust each other and are able to pull through.” she says smiling. Armstrong, a Fenelon Falls native, started playing ball about five years ago and instantly loved the game. She can play a number of different positions.
All of the players are from the Kawartha Lakes including Fenelon Falls, Lindsay, Little Britain, Manilla and more, getting together to practice at least twice a week. Coach Debnam says his players are high level athletes. “A lot of people say oh it’s just kids ball but you’re still playing 7 inning games, 8 games, 4 in a row so if you think of the major leagues, the Blue Jays playing four games in one day, this takes a special athlete.”
They leave for the east coast on Wednesday morning and Coach Debnam says he hasn’t been able to sleep. ” I told them since I played in sports like this at a higher level, when you are old like me, you want to be able to look back at 16 and have memories of something like this and now they are going to have that.”
The coach isn’t taking anything for granted. “Its not going to be easy but we have a good chance.”
But the girls aren’t leaving anything to chance. They say they have studied the other teams and are ready to shine. ” We are pretty confident being top in Ontario we are going to go down there and kick some butt.”Armstrong says with a chuckle.
Congratulations and good luck!
The team has set up a Go Fund Me page to help with the expenses of the trip. The bus alone is almost $12,000.