By Atara Shields
After ending the regular season with a 10-10 record, the Ryerson fastpitch team finished fifth in the Ontario Intercollegiate Women’s Fastpitch Association (OIWFA) championship in their first playoff appearance in their two-year history.
After dropping their opening postseason matchup 3-1 in a double knockout tournament against the University of Toronto, the Rams came back with a vengeance in their following game against Queen’s University in the losers round, to record their first ever playoff win, taking the game 7-4.
They would advance to play Laurier, but the last two innings of Saturday’s would be pushed to the following day due to rain. Ryerson couldn’t squeeze out another win Sunday, as Laurier ultimately pulled away with a 2-1 win, knocking Ryerson out from the playoffs.
According to head coach Wayne Nishihama, the loss should be considered a bright spot to end an impressive second season.
“We battled right to the end… It capped a great season and left the coaches, players and fans completely satisfied and positive for the future of fastpitch at Ryerson,” he said. “It felt great knowing that our team was respected by the others and the sense that we belong with good teams in the league.”
What was missing in 2017
The fastpitch team’s 13-player roster is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
“Our team needed a few more skilled players to give us a little more depth and options during the season,” said Nishihama.
Players are often put in the lineup most, if not all, games over the weekend due to the shallow roster. Many other teams have the benefit of being able to bench players for at least one of the games over the weekend, or to pull players during a game. The Rams dependence on a small number of skilled players might have contributed to some of their struggles.
In her first year playing fastpitch, rookie shortstop Emma Carr made the loudest impact on a team with quite a few skilled players. She hit four of the team’s five home runs and recorded 17 RBIs.
“[Carr was] probably our most skilled ball player and was relied upon to lead the team both offensively and defensively,” Nishihama said. “At the same time, Emma was a great team player.”
She was named the Week 4 OIWFA athlete of the week this season, and along with teammate Carly Forrester, was named an all star at the OIWFA annual awards banquet.
Best regular season win
After beginning the season with a 7-1 record, the Rams found themselves in a five-game skid entering their Sept. 30 doubleheader against Windsor. They dominated those games with a combined score of 22-5, breaking free of their slump and more importantly, allowing them the games they needed to clinch a playoff spot.
The entire team contributed, recording 25 hits over those games, and all-star Carr went 5-7 with a walk and three homeruns. Starting pitchers Samantha Jackson and Abby Thompson both earned their wins with strong outings.
Why the future is bright
Nishihama said that the addition of experienced coaches Dan Berlin and Rob McArthur helped “guide this young team quickly on and off the diamond.” Berlin has 25 years of softball and baseball coaching experience, and McArthur coached the Brampton Blazers for over 12 years and spent the last two with Carleton’s fastball team. Both coaches will be returning next year to build on their relationship with the young team.
“The biggest improvement from the last year was the players commitment to the team and the desire to be competitive,” Nishihama said.
Now that the fastpitch team has gotten a taste of the playoffs, the hunger to remain competitive is sure to continue into the next season.