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'(Posted 5 p.m., Aug. 11)
Orléans-based women's fastball team heading to Canadian championships
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Orleans Rebels pitcher Jillian Taylor winds up during the second game of a double header against the Quebec Rebelles on Sunday. The two teams played each other as a tune-up for the Canadian Senior Women's Championship which gets under way in Kitchener on Thursday. Fred Sherwin/Photo


The Orleans Rebels senior women's softball team is heading to the Canadian championships in Kitchener this week hopeful of a top six placing.

Their optimisim is based primarily on their play at the provincial championships in Port Perry last month. After mounting a dramatic come from behind win against the University of Western Ontario Mustangs in the opening game of the tournament to earn a berth in the Canadian championships, they had the eventual champions from Kitchener down 3-0 with one out to go in the sixth before allowing five unaswered runs.

Despite being emotionally drained, they managed to limit the host team from Port Perry to just three runs in a 3-1 third round loss.

The team is a very tight knit group of mostly university players. The core group of Jenny Allen, Sarah Renaud and Jullian Taylor are all Orléans natives who have come up through the Orleans Amateur Fastball Association. Allen went to Colonel By, Renaud went to Sir Wil and Taylor went to St. Pete's.

Allen and Taylor also play with the Ottawa Gee-Gees women's team along with Emily Ernst, Elissa Sivel and Laura Gallant, while Scott Searle, who is also a resident of Orléans and a teacher at St. Peter High School, coaches both teams.

The remainder of the team comes from across the province: Amber O'Connor lives in Pembroke, Nicky Shillington and Kelsi Ball are from Kingston where they attend Queen's University and Jessica Scholey lives in Mississauga.

The only time they get together as a team is during tournaments and during two weekend camps held prior to the provincial championships.

After finishing third at the Ontario Junior Championships and sixth at the Canadian Junior Championships last year, they decided to move up to the senior level, not because they all turn 24 this year but because they will all reach the cut-off age over the next three years. Rather than risk having the team slowly disintegrating, they decided to make the jump to senior together even though only two of them, Hayley Fleming and Gallant, are 24.

According to Searle, the girls all share a love of the game and a dedication to their craft.

"I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I get to coach a group of elite athletes who are committed to each other and committed to playing softball," says Searle who is in his third year as head coach.

In order to be successful in Kitchener, Searle says they need to take advantage of their speed on the base paths and hope for some timely hitting.

As far as pitching goes they should be fine with the one-two punch of Taylor and Ernst. That said the competition will be tough. Kitchener has four current and former Olympians on their roster, while six other current and former national team members are sprinkled among the other teams.

"It's a great oppotunity for the girls to play against some of the best athletes in the Canada," says Searle, "It's also a great opportuntity to gain some experience and continue to grow as a team."

'(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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