Abbotsford’s Dave Paetkau witnessed a feat the Canadian women’s softball team hadn’t achieved since 1983 – winning gold at the Pan Am Games.
Paetkau, an assistant coach with the team and the owner of Power Zone Academy in Abbotsford, said the tournament win over the U.S. showed Canada’s determination to turn the table against an American opponent that claimed the previous seven Pan Am Games softball titles.
The game, tied 0-0 after seven, was pushed into an extra eighth inning where international rules came into effect.
A runner was placed on second to begin each team’s inning, and it sparked the scoreless game.
Canada carved out fours runs in the top of the eighth, started by Joey Lye who singled home the team’s first two runs.
The Canadians then kept the U.S. to just two in the bottom, effectively securing their first Pan Am title in over 30 years.
In the past four Pan Am competitions, stretching back to 1999, the women’s team has finished with silver, behind the U.S.
Paetkau said pitcher Sara Groenewegen was exceptional. She pitched through the eight innings, tallying seven strikeouts while allowing one earned run on six hits.
Paetkau believes it was the energy in team culture that made the difference this year.
A mantra – Fear the Leaf – stuck to the team throughout the Games, said Paetkau. Created by outfielder Logan White, the slogan was synonymous with supporting each other, committing wholeheartedly and competing hard.
For a squad with a cast of talent that hadn’t won a Pan Am championship, building a winning culture was vital, said Paetkau, adding that sports psychologist Dr. Lauren Tashman played a significant role.
“She did a wonderful job to get the girls to buy into competing every game.”
Paetkau has worked with the Canadian women’s softball team since 2010, and has owned Power Zone Academy since 2003. He works with up-and-comers and elite players, including Abbotsford product, and junior national team member, Taylor Lundrigan.
Paetkau is also a Softball BC Hall of Fame inductee, with a number of awards and recognitions, including gold medals in the 1991 and 1995 Pan Am Games.
Between Paetkau, head coach Mark Smith and another team trainer, at least one had been to a Pan Am Games in some capacity since 1979.
The three agreed this year’s version in Toronto was the best-run Games they had been to.
He hopes Toronto wins the bid for the 2024 Olympics, and that the International Olympic Committee makes softball an Olympic event for Tokyo 2020. That final decision is set for August 2016.