With the active use of the Canton Softball Center as a host site for premier softball tournaments attracting top softball teams from around the Midwest, the Canton and Plymouth communities have become a recognized hotbed in the state of Michigan for the sport. Furthering this reputation is the growing success of the area's girls fastpitch softball organization, the PC (Plymouth-Canton) Pride. At the USSSA State faspitch tournament held at the Canton Softball Center July 10-13, the Pride 12 and under (12U) and 14 and under (14U) teams achieved the rare accomplishment of state runner-up in their respective age groups - battling and winning against some of the the strongest competition in the state before coming up on the short end of their championship final games. Despite championship aspirations not quite realized, no other girls fastpitch organization in the state is able to boast such a strong finish for two of their teams - a testament to the strength of this organization and an indication of a bright future in the sport in which the community can be proud. From that standpoint, the Pride organization is aptly named!
The 20 teams in the 14U age group began pool play on Friday. The Pride 14's demonstrated their hallmarks of outstanding pitching, strong defense, timely hitting and alert baserunning with narrow victories in their pool over the Downriver Diamonds and the Oakland Sidewinders by identical 3-2 margins.
After a lengthy rain delay, the 14U Pride began bracket play on Saturday by unleashing their offensive attack in a 9-2 victory over the Outlaws, another Metro Detroit-area team.
The Pride's run at a championship on Sunday began with a classic - a 5-4 extra-inning affair in the quarter-finals over their budding rival, the Saint Clair Shores Vipers. The Pride entered the bottom half of the 7th (final regulation) inning down 3-1, but fought back to tie the game and complete a scoreless extra-inning before heading into the "international tie-breaker" format, in which the offensive team begins an inning with a runner on second base. In the first such inning, good pitching and strong defense enabled both teams to prevent the opponent runner from scoring, but in the top-half of the 10th inning, the Vipers pushed across a run, making it critical for the Pride to at least follow suit in order to extend the game. They more than did so by rallying to score two runs to end the game. All in attendance would agree that it was one of the most competitive and well-played fastpitch softball games they had ever witnessed.
Still riding the adrenaline rush from their dramatic come-from-behind win, the 14U Pride scored 7 second-inning runs in their semi-final game against another Outlaws team, and held on to win 7-2, setting up their championship clash with Team Michigan, a strong team that recruits its players from across the state. Although the Pride had been victorious against Team Michigan in a prior tournament, the team was not over-confident heading into the finale, as all knew Team Michigan to be an outstanding team with strong pitching and hitting. In the championship game, those attributes served Team Michigan well - after some tight early innings, the Team Michigan hitters used a strong tailwind to launch several hard-hit balls into the outfield gaps, riding them to a well-earned 6-1 victory over the visibly exhausted Pride. The Pride girls made no excuses, however, and warmly congratulated their opponents, mindful and proud of their own successful state tournament run.
The Pride 12U girls found a different, although no less dramatic, path to their Championship game. They opened pool play by getting their bats going early and often in a 6-2 win over the Ann Arbor Gold, but found the going considerably tougher against the perennial powerhouse Compuware club, battling hard but coming up on the short end of a 6-5 score.
This Pride's loss to Compuware set the stage for a tough road in bracket play, as a loss in pool play makes it necessary to begin bracket play against a comparatively-seeded team. The Pride girls were up to the challenge, riding still-hot bats and strong pitching and defense to a 6-1 victory over the 12U team representative of the Downriver Diamonds organization.
The strong hitting, pitching and defense then continued, as the Pride 12's avenged their earlier loss by defeating another team representing the Compuware organization in the semi's by 5-1 score, earning them their their berth in the Championship finale. Unfortunately, in a result similar to the 14U team, the Pride 12U girls could not continue their offensive onslaught against a strong TORCO (it's an acronym for something that we do not know!) team, fighting valiantly before succumbing 6-1. The 12U girls, however, also had reason to hold their heads high - out of 17 top-level travel teams, they too finished a strong 2nd in the USSSA state tournament.
For area residents interested in high-caliber girls fastpitch softball - particularly parents with young daughters with an interest in the sport - it is not necessary to travel far to see several elite teams. The Pride fields competitive teams in 10 and under, 12U, 14U and 16U age groups, and the Canton Softball center and other area facilities are often the sites of Pride-hosted or softball sanctioning organization tournaments that attract the top teams in the state. In addition to the economic benefits such tournaments bring to the area, the Pride organization and these area tournaments also advance the caliber of fastpitch softball in the state, and provide a tremendous activity for the girls, their families, and their many fans.
As a result of their strong showing in the state USSSA and other qualifying tournaments, many of the Pride teams will now go on to represent the Plymouth and Canton area and the state in their respective age-group World Series Tournaments being held at various sites across the country. Both the 12U and 14U teams will travel to the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando Florida to represent our community.
Stay tuned for updates...Go Pride!