After the 12-U Canby Rebels softball team completed the final out of the state tournament to capture the Amateur Softball Association B-division state title, parents and coaches alike experienced a rush of bewilderment. They couldn't believe that despite being underdogs all season long, the team ran the state tournament table and captured their second consecutive state title.
"It was exciting. The parents said 'We didn't see that coming.' Everyone was pretty surprised to see them play as well as they did," head coach Ty Kraft said.
The 2016 Canby Rebels season featured a similar arc. The team placed second in a few tournaments and had to fight through the loser's bracket of the state tournament and defeat the Oregon Wild twice to capture the state title.
This year's team included seven returners from last year and five newcomers. The Rebels took first place in the silver's bracket of a tournament in Bend, placed second in the bronze bracket in Salem and took third place in the bronze bracket in West Linn.
Kraft knew his team had talent but struggled with consistency. This was not an issue in the state tournament.
"It's a group of girls that are back-to-back state champions. They are more than capable of playing with the best of them but it's just putting it together mentally and they were mentally engaged. When they do that they play at a high level," Kraft said.
The Rebels won their first three games of the double elimination tournament easily and then faced none other than the Oregon Wild with a spot in the semifinals on the line. Canby trailed by one run in the final inning, but after Kenna Kraft scored via a passed ball with the bases loaded and two outs, Canby escaped the game with an 9-8 victory.
Canby cruised to an 11-3 victory in the semifinals and then faced another nail biter in the finals.
The Rebels had to win two games in the state title round in 2016 but because they went undefeated through the first five games of this year's tournament, they simply needed to beat their opponent, the Gorge Thunder, once.
After the Rebels led 7-3 late in the game, the Thunder roared back and trailed by just one run with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning. But Canby pitcher Regan Rourke and the Rebels dug their cleats in and induced a ground out and a strikeout to seal the victory.
Kraft is impressed by the girls' tenacity in tough situations.
"It's incredible. The girls are super resilient. If they get down they don't show it. They keep fighting until the end. It's a truly amazing group of young ladies," he said.
Kraft credits the Rebels' tough pitching in the state tournament.
Along with Rourke, who possesses a blazing fastball, left-hander and accurate pitcher Calli Weaving as well as changeup maestro Anne Brauckmiller all pitched well.
"In order to win something like that your pitching has to be spot on and our three pitchers managed the strike zone and really pitched well," Kraft said.
The Rebels also put up consistently prolific scoring tallies.
"Our offense was on point all week. Every time a team would score two or three against us we would score three or four of our own. We never let a team get ahead of us," Kraft said.
And all in all, it was a team effort.
"We managed to get every girl in in every game and every girl had big hits in big moments. Everyone was performing well," Kraft said.