Canby Rebels Dominate NAFA Firecracker Tournament in Newberg

The Canby Rebels 10U softball team has had a good summer so far — culminating in an absolutely dominant performance in the annual North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) Newberg Firecracker tournament over the Fourth of July weekend.

The Rebs were firing on all cylinders throughout their 5-0 romp to the championship, outscoring their opponents by a staggering 42 to 5. Brooklyn Brady was magnificent on the mound, logging zero hits and 28 strikeouts against only 11 walks in 12 innings of work.

The stellar performance put Canby at 32-16 on the season. Head coach James Heckathorn said it has been a joy to work with such a talented and high-character group of young athletes.

“They’ve all progressed tremendously this year,” Heckathorn tells The Canby Current. “They put in the effort in everything that we do and do a great job of taking care of each other. It’s really amazing to see how much these young ladies have each other’s backs. When they step on the field they know they have a job to do.”

The previous weekend — with record-smashing temperatures being recorded across Oregon — the Rebs took third place at the USA Softball of Oregon State Tournament, with both Brady Rilynn Saucedo throwing no-hitters.

“The heat was something else, but the girls didn’t complain once,” Heckathorn recalls. “They love this game and came to play. All the girls in the tournament were troopers. They still hustled between innings, were on their feet cheering in the dugouts and having a great time. Lots of personal spray bottles and water guns certainly helped, too.”

Coaches and tournament organizers took several steps to ensure the safety of athletes, umpires and spectators during the scorching heat wave, including a reduced game time (a hard 70-minute time limit, as opposed to the average of 90 minutes).

“They also started games as early as 8 a.m.,” the coach says. “We also got to play under the lights thanks to later game times. These changes did make for a long day on Saturday. Our first game was at 8 a.m. and our fourth game was just after 10:30 p.m.”

Heckathorn says coaches “preach” about hydration every tournament — but doubled down on the mantra heading into the state tourney. All players were expected to drink a glass of water as soon as they woke up in the morning and right before bed.

“One of our girls, Abby Morrow, wore her water bottle like a bandolier all week,” he said with a laugh. “It was great to see them all preparing and to see all the teams taking care of each other, like calling timeouts during long innings to get pitchers, catchers and umpires water and a drenching from an ice-cold rag.”

Coming off the coronavirus pandemic — and the trials it brought for student-athletes — coaches have put an emphasis this summer on the principle of “mind over matter.”

“Softball and baseball are mental sports,” Heckathorn explains. “Teaching the girls that they are going to fail and to be OK with that has been a huge factor in our success. They don’t hang their heads when things don’t go their way and they’ve done a great job not dwelling on mistakes.”

Some of the team’s youngest players have been their biggest contributors, including Paetyn Thomas, Nalani Samson and Harper Sager — whom Heckathorn describes as “small but mighty.”

“They swing the bat really hard, and they aren’t afraid to step in against the older pitchers — who in some instances are two to three years older.” Heckathorn says. “When we are talking about 8- to 11-year-old girls, that’s a huge difference, physically and mentally.

The Rebels’ bats have been red-hot this season. Eight players — more than half the team — are hitting over.300, led by Miranda Gray (.424), Madison Shultz (.491) and Rylee Morgan (a ridiculous .585).

They have also been playing stellar defense.

“Adelynn Smith has made some amazing catches in the outfield that have saved us from giving up extra runs,” Heckathorn says. “Presley Ricksger and Maddy Marsh play the left side of our infield and have both been consistent. Ava Heckathorn has impressed with her glove at first base, playing phenomenal defense all season.”

The Rebels’ Madison Schultz is widely considered one of the top 10U catchers in the state.

Assistant coach Lindsay Monk, a former catcher for the University of Washington and a member of their 2013 College World Series team, has been working with her this year and has “helped take her to the next level,” Heckathorn explains.

“She is extremely coachable, has a fantastic work ethic and loves the game,” he says. “She is fun to watch behind the plate.”

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