ETOBICOKE: Humber Hawk veteran outfielder Natalie Stoberman will be writing a daily blog outlining her and the team's experiences as they travel to South Carolina next week to play a series of games against NCAA competition.
Natalie, a 2-time OCAA champion with the Hawks is also the on-site sports journalist for the Humber varsity program. She is sure to share good times, outings and hopefully highlights of some competitive games on the field.
Sunday, February 23
Good bye to this beautiful view of Harbison Lake. But it's finally time to go.
Now, as excited as we were to go back home, there was no way that we would leave without making sure we could watch Canada win the gold medal.
We had the laptop on the steps of the bus before we left the hotel parking lot for starters. Once we got moving we made good use of the Internet stick to watch Canada's 3-0 win every step of the way (and to see Don Cherry's snazzy suit).
We celebrated, even though some of us were half asleep, then we snoozed as we hauled through South and North Carolina. It was great to see the beautiful views that we missed driving on the way in. The most scenic drive was definitely through Virginia and West Virginia.
The drive went by much faster with a mini Harry Potter marathon that the coaches thoroughly enjoyed. But, I had a lot of time to reflect on Spring Training and we truly accomplished a lot over the last nine days. We put up a fight with our brand of Humber determination to leave with a 5-3 record. We've been fighters since the beginning of the season and it was great to bring it to teams that had no idea what to expect from us. The team worked hard to make this trip happen and I'm positive that many of us are happy with the outcome.
Just thinking about how we show other teams what we're made of and the opportunities that the future could hold for this team puts a big smile on my face. Here's to another season come and gone, with a gold medal and a successful inaugural Spring Training, and to waiting and preparing for next season.
Thanks to everyone who supported us throughout our season and on our trip. The team gets the recognition but we wouldn't be anywhere without everyone's belief in us. Thank you.
Saturday, February 22
We had another successful game day after sweeping the USC Sumter Fire Ants. We loaded the bases every time we were up to bat for the first three innings and then Judy went up and launched a rocket over the left field fence for a grand slam. That fired up the bats. At that point we had a 4-2 lead with Jean on the mound who hold them for the rest of the game. We mercied the Fire Ants 12-4.
The bats were not finished when the second game came around. As if a grand slam wasn't enough, Shawna and Bardy hit a home run each for their first's of the year. It was quite funny actually. Shawna had no idea the ball went over until she was halfway to second base and she threw her hands in the air and jumped for joy as she did her trot. She had the biggest grin on her face from ear to ear. Bardy's home run hit the top of the fence and bounced over. She glided around the bases with a mega-watt smile. Hot bats and great pitching from Shelby and Jessie helped us to win that game 8-2.
After the double header we had an authentic southern barbeque dinner with the Fire Ants. Oh boy it was amazing.
We had some rice, potato salad, green beans, hash, pulled pork, fried cornbread (ah-mazing) and banana pudding for dessert. Soul food for the win. The best part besides the meal was hanging out with the other team. We surprised them with a lot of things that they didn't know about Canada, like Rob Ford and the amount of snow we get that doesn't cancel school.
With full bellies and a 5-3 winning record it was time for our hour long bus ride back to the hotel to enjoy our last night in South Carolina.
Thursday, February 20
It was so hot in Hartsville, S.C. And please don't feel sorry for us. But some of us got a bit of a sunburn. Despite the heat we swept the Coker College Cobras. The first game had a slow start but we battled to come back and tie it and send into extra innings again. We did the classic "get her over, get her in" by bunting the runner from second to third and capitalizing to score the runner. We held the Cobras in the bottom of the eighth to win 4-3.
It seemed that we took the wind out of their sails because we jumped on Cobras right away to take a 5-0 lead. Bun did the unthinkable by hitting two home runs and counting for four runs in the entire 6-2 win. The umpire even called her Barry Bonds, but now it's Barry Buns.
We were so relieved to be done. Being hungry, tired and in need of shade is never a good combination. You can probably see it in our faces as we walk off the field after the sweep.
Two big wins meant time for some rest and relaxation in the evening to recuperate for the next four games. Nothing special but totally necessary.
Tuesday, February 18/14
You know how I said we just needed a little bit of time? Well in this instance I don't mind saying I told you so because we rose to the occasion last night. We handed the Columbia College Fighting Koalas their first loss of the season. It was a nine inning nail biter and coach said it best: we turned a scrimmage into a battle.
The game was scoreless going into extras. We scored two runs in the eighth, and then the Koalas gave it right back to us to tie the game 3-3 with none out. Our one-two punch of Nixon and Cardona held Columbia the whole game, and in that eighth inning Cardona locked in and made them fizzle out to get three outs with no extra runs. Smart at-bats from J.R, Keira, Crudo, Hollidge, Jaco, Bardy and Judy set the table for huge RBI's from Jess and I to complete the 8-5 win.
By the end of the night we were gassed and our bodies were sore. We put everything we had into that game. The team was mentally tough and we brought the fight when we needed it most. But we knew we could do it. I told you all we needed was a little time.
Monday, February 17/14
I'm going to go right ahead and say that tonight's double-header against Southern Wesleyan University was not everything that we had hoped for. But the stats sheet doesn't nearly tell the whole story.
The reason why we lost isn't because we played terribly. There was very little that separated us from them and they were very beatable. But we had one bad inning in each game where we let freebies pile up at the wrong time and the wins slipped through our fingers. However, there were a number of things that we did incredibly well. Defence was great in the grand scheme of things and we played aggressively on the bases and out in the field. For example, Judy made an amazing cross diamond double play with bases loaded where she touched third base to get the force and gunned it to first base to get the batter and us out of the inning. Bardy ran into the fence to catch a ball and probably would've caught it if the fence moved out of the way. Shelby made her pitching debut after her back injury. Jean simply put made the other team look silly at the plate with her dirty change-ups. Jaime was hit by a freight train of a runner and still got her out at second. Lauren was phenomenal behind the plate and nabbed high and low pitches with ease. And I may as well say I crushed the ball over the left field fence in my first at-bat. It was pretty awesome that everyone had their own contributions.
That being said, we still lost at the end of the day. We're rusty, we're figuring out new plays with new coaching and players, and we need to see more live pitching and game situations. This isn't me making excuses, this is me saying that our team knows what we have to do to win and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that we just need a little more time. Tonight's breakthroughs depend on tomorrow's double-header. No pressure, but we have to prove ourselves. And because we are very capable and talented we have to step up to the plate and show these teams what we've got and what Humber's all about.
Sunday, February 16/14
I thought Saturday was busy. But Sunday was a whole day event. We had double practice at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. with beautiful sunshine and spring weather. Coach Joe did his part and made sure we were on track.
And then Jess and Jac needed some help to take off their sweater.
And then the coaches put us to work.
A few hours later we wrapped up our first practice and made our way to a Piggly Wiggly for a quick lunch.
Bardy had cookie dough, beef jerky, chocolate milk and a banana for a well-balanced lunch. And Crudo bought a cucumber and proceeded to peel and cut it on the moving bus.
She works in a bakery so it's OK.
After lunch it was time for part two of practice. A few more hours of situational plays, running and defence went by and we packed up for the day. Luckily we had a few hours of downtime before dinner and some of us took advantage with either a walk to Harbison Lake behind the hotel, watching the Olympics or taking a snooze and relaxing in the room.
No matter what we did, we were patiently waiting for our BBQ dinner. We all got together for some burgers, chicken and salads for a nice night outside with the full South Carolina moon.
Crudo took the reigns and made her nonna proud by cooking for us.
And it was delicious. The BBQ made for great team bonding with great music and lots of laughs. At 10 p.m. we were all exhausted and called it a night. It's game time on Monday!
Saturday, February 15/14
What a busy day.
Breakfast consisted of lots of coffee for 9 a.m. practice time. Especially the jumbo size coffees for the coaches. Then they took a sip of their XXL coffees and the scowling pucker on coach's face was just the beginning of everyone missing Tim Hortons. But enough funny business, batting practice was great. Until Bun beat everyone in our batting game (by herself!) since no group could hit more than 10 line drives together. Pathetic. But none the less it was an awesome practice to get in the swing of things, pun totally intended.
Next on the itinerary was taking in a University of South Carolina baseball game. The seventh ranked Gamecocks smoked the Bucknell Bisons 12-2, but the atmosphere at the park was the most impressive part of the evening. Every single fan wore their best Gamecocks attire and Sir Big Spur was at the game, an actual gamecock. Some of us got his autograph too, it was kind of a big deal.
Here's our night at Gamecock Stadium in a nutshell:
Thank you coaches and Jimmy for organizing an awesome evening!
Friday, February 14/14
The bus left at 7:30 this morning, and it was too early to start blogging. Just so we have an understanding here.
By 11 a.m. I figured that I'll probably be telling time by the amount of movies we'd watch. First up was 'Major League'. That's always a good start. Maybe we can get a little help from Joboo to get to S.C. considering this beautiful ski weather and get turnt up like "Wild Thing" Ricky Vaughn when we get there. I'm sure Shelby wouldn't mind (she worships this movie by the way).
It took about an hour and a half afterwards for the stomachs to start growling, so we made our own Hunger Games to try and find some real food. We tried distracting ourselves with another movie, 'We're the Millers', and laughing our way through the emptiness. We made our first stop in Cranberry, Pennsylvania for McDonalds (you can buy 20 nuggets for $10?!?!) then it was back on the road again. Time for some peace, quiet, and enjoying the snow covered hills outside the window. Great.
And then it hit me how ironic it was to be driving through the third snow blanketed state, West Virginia, while we're trying to get to Spring Training. There's no room in the equation for snow.
Anyways, after some well needed quiet time, especially for the coaches, we put on 'We Are Marshall'. Funny enough we were still in West Virginia, where Marshall University is located, and the first thing that popped up was an ad saying its the best recreational state in the East. Too bad we only drove through it. But that's besides the point. It was about time we had an inspirational movie during our first ever Spring Training.
The first Harry Potter movie came after, and it just brought back so many memories and all the feels from when I was 10 years old on my grade four class trip to see it in theatres. I'm usually forgetful but of course I remember the "important" things. Oh, and the mind wanders when you've been on a bus for that long (approximately 12 hours at that point). Then we made a dinner run in Willcall, Virginia and that meant we were close to the Carolina's. You can believe everyone had enough of being on a bus since 7:00 a.m.
Six states, three stops and three movies later, we made it to the hotel at 12:45 a.m. Notice the smiling faces…
Shawna was organized…
And then these scarves happened…
Thursday, February 13/14
One. More. Day.
Finally, we're less than 24 hours away from boarding a bus with 24 people to drive roughly 14 hours through snow, and quite possibly ice, to play 10 games in 10 days in South Carolina for Spring Training. Call me crazy, but that is totally my kind of fun. And in all seriousness, we are kind of crazy to begin with. Who decides to wait until the sixth inning of an OCAA Championship to make a five run comeback to win a back-to-back provincial gold medal in extra innings? Us of course. And I'm sure if you ask our coaches you might get a similar response.
But, I can guarantee you that when we have a goal in mind that it's best not to get in our way; there's no stopping the Hawk Train once she gets rolling. And this Spring Training trip is one of the best examples. It's been roughly a year and a half ago when the team started to get serious about planning this trip. We kicked off our fundraising with our first annual Humber Fastball Classic during the summer (shout out to J.R. for treating it like her baby). Then we put on a few skill clinics, including a high-profile clinic with Team Canada and NCAA alumni. And we sold raffle tickets for some of the best prizes in the GTA (Golds Leafs tickets anyone? On-field access during Blue Jays batting practice? Or how about platinum Raptors tickets?) I wasn't kidding, we don't fool around when it comes to prizes.
Then we started our early morning/late night practices four times a week. Plus jobs, homework and internships. We even missed the first half of the Super Bowl and halftime show for practice (told you we're crazy).
But now we're here, with less than 24 hours left before we hop on our cozy bus. Our blood, sweat and tears have led up to this moment. And we have so many wonderful people to thank for our journey to Spring Training. Thank you coaches, trip organizers, and the Athletics Department for all your time, effort and support.
Now let's go play some ball.
Monday, February 17th, 2014
· 5:00pm/7:00pm: Doubleheader vs. NAIA Southern Wesleyan University (Central, SC).
Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
· 5:00pm/7:00pm: Doubleheader vs. NAIA Columbia College (Columbia, SC)
Thursday, February 20th, 2014
· 1:00pm/3:00pm: Doubleheader vs. NCAA D2 Coker College (Hartsville, SC)
Friday, February 21st, 2014
· 1:00pm/3:00pm: Doubleheader vs. NCAA D1 North Carolina State University (Orangeburg, SC)
Saturday, February 22nd, 2014
· 11:00am/1:00pm: Doubleheader vs. NJCAA D1