Sports

Triple Play makes final stand at Canada Cup

By COLE COSGROVE

Sports editor

Triple Play fastpitch softball coach Gayl Bailey remembers a time when his players were “pumpkin heads” — small, wobbly 10-year-olds wearing giant batting helmets.

What a difference eight years makes.

Triple Play, an 18U fastpitch softball team based in Federal Way, is playing against some of the best teams in the world this week at the Canada Cup International Fastpitch Futures Tournament in Surrey, B.C.

“It’s a real opportunity,” Bailey said. “This is our last year together as a team. Most of the players have been here since I started coaching them eight years ago. They were little kids with big dreams. Now they get to end their traveling team experience with the best in the world. This is a little girls’ dream come true.”

The Canada Cup is the last big tournament for the team, as some of its players head off to college while others still have another year of high school.

“It’s been fun to watch them grow,” Bailey said. “When they come together on the field, it’s a unit.”

The invitation-only tournament for elite 17- to 19-year-old teams coincides with the annual Canada Cup International Women’s fastpitch tournament, which features 22 Olympic teams from around the globe.

“This exciting new venture will provide even more opportunities for talented young athletes to develop their skills and rise to the top of the ranks of international softball,” said Glen Todd, chairman of the Canada Cup. “This is a logical extension of the Canada Cup tournament, which is now recognized as one of the top developmental tournaments in the world. The Futures tournament will assist younger players in developing their skills by bringing top teams together for high-caliber competition.”

Triple Play opened the tournament Monday with a 7-0 loss to the San Jose Strikers. The Federal Way squad played two games yesterday and has two more games scheduled for today.

“Our goal is to play with these girls,” Bailey said. “If we can sneak up and snatch a win, we’ll be happy.”

While other teams might have more skill, Triple Play has the intangible advantage of team chemistry.

“All of my best friends play on the team,” catcher Jamee Martello said. “Our friendships are stronger than anybody’s could be. Having your best friend covering second base helps with your confidence and it’s a lot more fun.”

“The core of our team is really tight,” Kaitlin Bailey said. “It’s a comfort factor. You know what to expect from people. I know they’ve got my back.

“We’ve been doing nationals every year. This is our last big tournament. Everybody is pretty excited. We’ve been working hard for it.”

The team qualified based on its national finishes: it was fifth last year at the 18 B nationals and ninth the year before. It moved up to 18 A this year.

“We’ve been to nationals, we’ve done that,” said Michelle Mask, who plays second base for Triple Play. “We’re playing teams from around the world (in the Canada Cup), so it’s a little different. We’ll be up against some tough competition. We’ll have to play our best.”

Martello has been practicing more than 100 throws from home plate to second base every night because she will be going against “the fastest players I’ve ever seen.”

Forty-one college coaches will be watching the games and recruiting at the tournament. Some players will likely go on to play in college. Others will find new things to do with their summers now that their softball playing days are nearly over.

“It’s going to be strange,” Martello said. “The sport means too much to quit all of a sudden. The sport may end, but we’ll all still have contact forever.”

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