Idea to reality: Devils Lake Youth Fastpitch combining community opportunity with success
DEVILS LAKE – It all started during a wiffle ball game.
More accurately, a wiffle ball game between boys and girls. And if you wanted to be as accurate as possible, a wiffle ball game that ended after boy participants had to leave to play in their respective travel leagues.
The girls, meanwhile, did not have as many options, if any at all. To compensate, girls simply touted around with the boys and played as many matches as they could between league games.
Christy Remmick noticed the problem immediately and decided to fix it as best as possible.
And so, the summer of 2021 rolled around, and Remmick decided to help form Devils Lake Youth Fastpitch, a fastpitch softball program for girls.
After initially starting with only a 12-U team, Devils Lake Youth Fastpitch has since expanded. After all, a 14-U team took to the field for the first time in 2022. Conversations about potentially forming 16-U and 10-U teams have additionally been pitched.
“I think the biggest thing is we’ve been trying to build the program,” Remmick said. “I think we had 12 girls on our roster last year. It was a struggle to get girls to fill the teams. So, I am hoping this helps build the program and gets more girls excited in wanting to play…I am hoping to keep building on age groups.”
Of course, expansion can come not only from spreading the word but also from succeeding on the diamond. Or perhaps, more importantly, winning on the field. Such a possibility might not have looked promising on paper for the 12-U team – after Remmick returned only five 12-U players after the rest graduated to the inaugural 14-U ranks, an age and experience gap existed.
It all started with hashing out the basics. From there, the team grew. And when the 12-U team won each of their last 10 games en route to their championship victory in the Junior Olympics Fast Pitch 12B State Tournament in Fargo on July 10, word moved around quickly.
“I mean, it was so fun to watch them just keep building the momentum and the way they were playing,” Remmick said. “We were down in the championship game, and everyone was starting to get really tired. It was 80-something degrees out. It was really muggy because it just stormed. And then, just to see the girls step up.”
Any team needs leadership beyond the coaching staff, and the 12-U team was no exception. Remmick’s three “leaders” on the team – Suri Gourd, Dottie Goss and Riley Remmick (Christy’s daughter) – showed their worth on the field. All three players tallied .450+ batting averages during the season (.485, .562 and .579, respectively).
Even with raised stakes, the trio’s leadership gleamed through adversity, especially during the team’s championship bout against Beulah (Devils Lake won, 15-8).
“The three leaders of our team, and one of them was Suri [Gourd], she stepped up, and everyone was just kind of down. She comes up and hits a triple right away out of the first inning,” Remmick said. “So, to see the girls just step up and take charge and go through the process, and then everything just followed suit. Mainly the feeling of pride for all of them.”
The ability to grow the program, to Remmick, can stem not only from winning games but from hosting them, too. After hosting the Devils Lake Jamboree via the Devils Lake High School Complex on June 25 (thanks to Devils Lake High School), the program gained additional fanfare.
After a successful turnout (Devils Lake’s 12-U team swept both games they played), Remmick recognized that the event – and the program – could grow even more.
“I mean, Devils Lake is a perfect location for that,” Remmick said. “We are kind of central to the east and the west. So, if we can get some Minot teams [and] some Grand Forks teams to come and play in Devils Lake, we are hoping to make it a two-day tournament next year and just keep building it as a fundraiser for our program, too.”
A 14-5 final record and state championship for the 12-U team in their second year of existence illustrated the obvious: Devils Lake Youth Fastpitch could be successful. From practice (Kory Boehmer, Lake Region State’s softball head coach, even helped during a session) to games, Devils Lake Youth Fast Pitch helped prove a point: they are here to stay.
Sometimes, it only starts with hashing out the basics.
From a winning mentality to a positive culture in the dugout, the program will now set sight toward further growth and interest from the community.
From a wiffle ball game or two to a fastpitch program, the translation has undoubtedly been one to watch.
“We just kept winning and kept going from there,” Remmick said. “All of the girls did an amazing job. I mean, they all came together as a team. Everyone on the bench was cheering the whole time. Everyone on the bench was ready to go and stepped in when they needed to. Everyone just did their jobs for the weekend. The younger girls were really excited to have something like that happen, and the older girls were great role models for the younger girls too. It was really fun to see.”
John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.