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by Bob Fromer

Vancouver, Canada: July 16 -- "We've never really had summer here this year," the natives grumble. "Feels just like it's still spring!"

July is supposed to be the driest month of the year in the Vancouver area (all the guidebooks say that), and the tournament that used to be called the Canada Cup has rarely lost much playing time to the weather.

But this year, rain destroyed the schedule on Thursday, July 14 at what is now called Canadian Open Fastpitch Tournament and that cost the GB Junior Women's Fastpitch Team their final group game in the Futures Gold section of the event.

Having been knocked out of the fight for Consolation Round prizes yesterday, the GB Juniors had just one more game remaining today -- a consolation game in every sense of the word. But the heavy grey clouds were socked in when the team worke up this morning, the rain kept on for hours, play didn't begin at Softball City until 3.00 pm, and it was no surprise to anyone when the consolation games got cut from the schedule so that teams in the playoff rounds could play for their prizes.

But it's a bummer for the GB Team to come all this way (and spend all that money) and lose a quarter of their tournament games.

Close but yet so far

So the GB Juniors finished the tournament with just one win and five losses. But as anyone who has followed the reports from Canada on this website will know, they were competitive in every game, could have won any of them and certainly should have won more than one.

That was hugely encouraging, since there were fears before coming here that the elite American and Canadian junior teams that play in this tournament might blow GB away -- but it never came close to happening. As a result, every game GB played was meaningful and lessons were learned under genuine competitive conditions, not in the course of blowouts.

The good news

A key reason that the GB Juniors were competitive was the effective pitching of Carling Hare and Ellie Pamenter. Good pitching will keep you in games, and for the most part, good pitching is what GB had.

Ellie Pamenter, who turns 16 this year, will lead the GB Cadette (Under-16) Fastpitch Team in a few weeks' time at the European Cadette Championships in Belgium, and should be even more effective at that age level, while Carling Hare will now join the GB Women's Team for the World Cup in Oklahoma City and then the European Championships in Italy, where she will provide valuable support for GB's #1 Stacie Townsend.

Next year, when the GB Juniors play in the European Junior Championships, they will have high hopes that Carling and Ellie can lead them towards a top three finish.

The not so good news

But why didn't the GB Juniors win more games?

One answer was the inability to mount a consistent attack and to get key hits with runners on base. Overall, GB had no shortage of hits and baserunners, and out-hit their opponents in two of their losses. But the hits were concentrated in certain parts of the line-up, so rallies tended to die after that point. While all but the best teams taper off as you move towards the bottom of their order, the GB attack was more top-heavy than most.

Another more subtle factor was that the best hitters on the GB team, by and large, were the slowest baserunners. There are some genuinely quick GB Junior players, but they tended to be on base less often to take advantage of their speed. This made GB into a station-to-station team, and made it harder, unlike many of their opponents, to turn doubles into triples or take extra bases on throws or misplays.

The plain ugly

But the biggest single reason that the GB Juniors didn't win more games was the number of errors they committed on defense -- 23 in six tournament games, or an average of just under four a game. In those games, GB's opponents scored exactly 22 earned runs and 22 unearned runs, and you just can't win games when you give that many runs away.

And yet the GB defense was a Jekyll and Hyde affair, because at times the team played extremely well and there were outstanding individual plays scattered throughout the team and the tournament.

So it's about defensive consistency, certainly not ability.

And it's precisely in this regard that the experience of playing in one of the world's top junior competitions should stand the GB Team in good stead for the future.

The roster

The players who took part for the GB Juniors in Canada were:

Lauren Bromage
Susie Hall
Carling Hare
Saskia Johnston
Vicky Keswick
Ellie Pamenter
Nicole Ratel
Sara Robb
Louisa Scott
Amy Trask
Amy Wells
Charlotte Wells
Chloe Wigington

Hayley Scott and Liz Knight did the coaching, but Liz will become the GB Junior Head Coach going forward.

Rachael Watkeys was the physio, and Carmel Keswick and Bob Fromer shared team management duties, with help from Lynda Medwell.

Once again, there were an extraordinary number of parents and other relatives who were here in Vancouver to support the GB Junior players, which is a recurring and amazing feature of GB fastpitch teams on tour at all age levels. Their support is invaluable, and is the rock on which these teams and the GB Fastpitch Programme are built.


Reports from previous games in this tournament can be found in the News section on this website.