The second season of fastpitch at Ryerson was a year of many firsts.
Last weekend the team made the trip west to Kitchener for their first ever appearance in the provincial championships and won their first ever playoff game in the process, following 10 wins in the regular season.
As the sixth seed, they faced local rival and third seed University of Toronto in the opening round.
The team lost 3-1 but was still in title contention, facing elimination in a game against seventh seed Queen’s University.
Unlike the first match-up, this one saw lots of scoring, with Ryerson coming out on top 7-4 for their first ever playoff win. After that, the Rams advanced to face fourth seed and host team Wilfrid Laurier University in another elimination game.
Laurier was ahead 2-1 part way through the fifth inning when the remainder of the game was postponed due to the weather.
Ryerson fought hard the next morning in the final two innings. In the end, however, Laurier held on for the 2-1 win, eliminating the Rams from the provincials.
Despite the loss, the team is proud of its efforts in making the provincials and scoring their first ever playoff win.
“I think we accomplished our goal of being competitive,” said head coach Wayne Nishihama. “We were in every game, we fought to the end. The main thing on this whole experience is that we could gain respect from the other teams. That we are a team to watch out for.”
First-year social work student Abby Thompson had four hits and a run batted in, and pitched six innings over the weekend.
“I think that most of us are happy that we made it here considering that we’re only a second-year team,” she said. “The whole fact that we ended up making it to playoffs was just a huge deal.”
A lot has changed between the fastpitch team’s first and second year. The team did not know what to expect in its inaugural season, but heading into their sophomore season, they made sure to be competitive.
“In our recruitment, we went after very skilled players,” Nishihama said. “We reduced our roster from 18 to 13, and we have a lot of players with fastpitch experience. The attitude changed because of the fact that we had goals set to make the playoffs. We wanted to be competitive, and we wanted to gain respect from the other teams.”
It didn’t take long for chemistry to form, as a mix of new faces and returning players joined forces for the first time this season.
“A lot of us, we just gelled really quickly,” Thompson said. “Having our away games at the beginning of the season really helped with team bonding. All I remember is us driving down to Ottawa, going like 150km on the highway, blasting music at max 30 in the rental cars, and all of us just singing and dancing along.”
First baseman Hayley Graham, who’s been a member of the team since their inaugural season, will miss that camaraderie after she graduates this year.
“It’s hard to think that it might be the last time [playing] at this level,” said Graham, a fourth-year RTA School of Media student. “What makes it really hard is that I’m going to miss the group of girls because it’s more than just a team setting. When you spend that much time with people, you essentially become family.”
The team has come a long way since the start of the school year.
“We didn’t know how good we were,” Nishihama said. “Now the girls know, and I think that’s good for our future. The experience that we gained from these championship games will go far in our next few years.”
And after accomplishing their goal of being competitive this year, the team is now looking to reach new heights in future seasons.
“I think the foundation has definitely been laid down now for the future,” Graham said. “I think this group of young girls is just going to put Ryerson on the map even more.”
For the graduating players, the memories of this one-of-a-kind team will stay with them, along with the takeaways from playing the sport.
“Our coaches, day in and day out, always told us that there’s tomorrow,” Graham said.
“You can apply that to anything in life, there’s always tomorrow. If I’m able to translate anything from softball to real life or the rest of my life, is that whatever just happened you can’t control, you got to move on to the next thing.”
For now, the team can celebrate a successful end to 2017 as they look back at their postseason experience.