Dallas Hawkes was a tired girl Monday morning.
She stepped off an airplane at 1 a.m., flying back from a tournament in Portland.
By 10 a.m. she was over at the Townsend Park diamonds chatting with your friendly neighborhood sports reporter.
But she shook off the fatigue nicely and had a smile on her face as she talked about the opportunity that awaits her, a trip to softball nationals in August (15-17).
Hawkes and her U16A Surrey Storm are going to Brampton, ON to face the best of the best, and, as one of Surrey’s two starting pitchers, the Chilliwack kid will be in the middle of the action.
Hawkes and her Storm squad punched their ticket to nationals at a tourney two weeks ago.
The qualifier was held at Langley’s Softball City.
After disposing of two outmatched opponents (Delta 98 and Langley Fusion 98), the Storm ran into a buzz-saw in their third game. Hawkes got the start against the White Rock Renegades 98, record-wise the best in the province.
The game was tied 7-7 in Surrey’s final at bat, with the bases loaded and just one out.
A Storm batter lifted a fly ball into the outfield, allowing the runner at third to tag up and race home.
“It was one of the most intense games I’ve ever been a part of, really nerve-wracking and not something I could really watch,” said Hawkes, who described herself as ‘freaking out’ as the winning run crossed the plate. “It was the most runs anyone had scored against White Rock this year, and gave us so much confidence.”
The Storm finished the round-robin with enough wins to lock up third place, with the top three going to nationals.
With Brampton in the bag, the Storm lost their last two games. But it was a happy Hawkes on the car-ride home.
“For me, it’s super exciting and I was freaking out and jumping around,” said the first-year Storm player. “I’m still so excited for it, even two weeks later. The rest of the team, not so much. They’ve been there before so they were like, ‘We’re going to nationals. Awesome.’”
The teenager, who’s enrolled in the softball academy at Abbotsford’s Yale secondary school, has a name that may be familiar to speed-skating fans.
Until last year, she was an excellent athlete with the Sardis Fliers. But she opted to focus solely on softball, then narrowed her focus even more. Prior to this season she split her time between pitching and the outfield. This year it’s been 95 per cent pitching.
“And a lot more icing of the arm,” she laughed.
Practice makes perfect, and Hawkes has developed an outstanding repertoire.
“I’d say I’m more of a low (velocity) pitcher, throwing drop-balls, change-ups and curve-balls that come in low and down,” she said. “I’m not about speed. I’m about spin, for everything.”
Hawkes takes particular delight in her change-up.
She likes seeing batters gear up for a fastball, then flail wildly at her super-slow offering.
“Your wind-up is exactly the same as it is for everything else, but the pitch comes in a lot slower,” she said. “They’re always way ahead of it and it’s so funny to watch. I’ve thrown three in a row and they’re still swinging at all three of them.”
Her pitching teammate, Jessica, brings more heat making them perfect complements to each other.
“Usually we pitch full games, but there are times when we’ve switched out halfway through, and there’s definitely a difference when batters go from me to her or her to me,” Hawkes said.
Until this year, Hawkes said she was a little wild on the mound.
With so much movement on her pitches, it’s not surprising that she had trouble hitting her spots.
But she’s refined her control and command, and knows where the ball’s going most of the time.
She’ll need to be a pin-point pitcher in Brampton, where top level competition will clobber mistakes.
“It’s all of the best teams in Canada, and I think it’s going to be super intense,” said Hawkes, who listens to electronic dance music to get pumped up before games. “I think I’m ready for it and I feel our team is near the top. I expect to see some difficult teams, but we’ll bring our A game and show everyone what we’ve got.”
Teams representing BC have won six times at nationals.
White Rock owns three of those titles. The Surrey Storm won in 2006, with the Delta Heat (2012) and Burnaby Oakeys (2000) also winning.