One year ago, the North Delta Rays finished their season with a .500 record. In 2019, many of those same players returned to lead the Peewee A baseball team to a provincial championship.
The Rays defeated Victoria 9-5 on Sunday, Aug. 11 to capture the organizations first 13U A West provincial banner since 2007.
Head coach Tony Deane would be the first to admit that it didn’t always come easy for his squad, but the team persevered though trials and tribulations for a well-deserved championship victory.
“I’ll be honest, heading into the season I thought we had a really strong team,” Deane said. “Early in the season I told the parents that there’s a chance to do something special here, and here we are raising the banner.”
“We were a .500 team last year so there were definitely some growing pains. To get stronger, you have to suffer those defeats, then you realize what it takes to get to the next level.”
While some squads can rely on the skill of just a few players, Deane noted that the Rays counted on a buy-in from everyone to bring home the title.
“It might be cliché, but we weren’t the strongest group heading into the season. We had all the right attitudes and for the most part, it was a lunch bucket group made up of guys who worked hard rather than guys who relied solely on talent.
“We were the hardest-working team all season long. We won in some really tight games, and our experience with the defeats of last year really paid off in some of those contests.”
The Rays dominated for most of the season, going a combined 13-3 between tournament and regular season action before provincials. Still, they found out during the first game of the Peewee A championship that winning wouldn’t come easy, after they opened the tournament with an 8-7 nail-biter loss to Salt Spring Island.
“Losing the first game of provincials was tough,” Deane said. “You want to win your first game, it’s certainly easier from a coaching perspective with pitch counts.”
“I said to the kids that we gotta go out and win the next three games. Even after winning those games it came down to a tie-break of runs against, and Salt Spring was eliminated based on that.”
After squeaking through to the semis, the Rays beat the host Abbotsford Angels Red 13-6, setting up a showdown against Victoria in the final.
“It was a close game against Victoria right up until the fifth inning,” Deane said. “We scored two in the fifth and two in the sixth, and there were some great plays that made the difference. Our outfielder Hugo Grieves made a huge catch in left field. Sammy Wong hit a home run which was big. Then we had Timothy Yang, our stud pitcher, who pitched in both the Abbotsford and Victoria games.”
Most teams have at least one leader in the locker room, and Deane said Yang was that guy for North Delta throughout the season.
“Yang was the leader and the kids gravitated toward him,” he said. “He kept kids on an even keel. For a 12-year-old to have that kind of power was impressive.
“I said early in the season that we needed a leader and he stepped up. The kids buckled down when he talked, and he backed it up by throwing a ball that people couldn’t hit.”
While Yang’s pitching was vital, Deane said he was whole-heartedly proud of the entire team’s effort on their way to the provincial title.
“This group worked hard and learned from experiences. They knew what it took to get to the next level, and it’s fantastic to see it pay off for them.
“I told the guys that some of them will never experience this again. It’s a tough road and you have to make sacrifices, so I want all of them to enjoy it.”