Softball star bound for Texas

Another talented ball player from Maple Ridge has won a U.S. college scholarship.

Sunny days are ahead for Calli Birch

Sunny days are ahead for Calli Birch

Another talented ball player from Maple Ridge has won a U.S. college scholarship.

Calli Birch has a full-ride scholarship to play softball for Blinn College in Blenham, Texas – where her best friend and former Ridge Meadows Pride teammate Bobbi Berkey is attending now.

When U.S. schools recruit talented kids from north of the border, often it is for pitchers. But Birch won her place in the college ranks by being a great athlete, and an all-around ball player.

She can hit, having put up a .413 average last year, and leading her team in runs batted in, generally hitting in the third or cleanup.

And she can field any position, but generally finding herself either catching or playing shortstop.

“I like the action of it all,” she said, and prefers a position where she is active on every play, and takes pride in playing solid defence.

Despite hitting in the middle of the order, Birch is not known for her power at the plate.

“I’m pretty tiny compared to everyone else. I’m not jacking them over the fence,” she said.

This summer she will play for the White Rock Renegades, and her new coach said he’ll take advantage of her consistent contact and speed on the base paths by moving her to the top of the order.

In addition to her bat, Arnie Groenewegen said he is impressed by her great range in the field, and her knowledge of the game.

“Calli was a highly recruited player. She’s a great athlete, but also a versatile athlete who can adapt to anything,” he said.

There will not be a Ridge Meadows team in her age group this year, so she was courted by several other teams. Groenewegen’s group of ’98 girls has already won two national championships at other age levels, and he said they will have a great shot to win another one this year.

“We’re going to take a good run at it for sure. If we play smart and hard, we’re going to have some good success,” he said.

Groenewegen said Birch’s new coach at Blinn, Rick Church, was once a Renegades coach, and called him “a great technical coach.”

Church is now in his 17th season in the NJCAA, has a winning record of 749-308, and heads the coaching staff of the year in his conference.

“This is a great stepping stones for Calli,” Groenewegen said of Blinn, and added he has no doubt that she will be moving up to the NCAA in two years time.

Finishing her Grade 12 year at Samuel Robertson Technical, Birch will head to the Lone Star State in September. She plans to get an education in health science and is interested in kinesiology, and plans to pursue a career as an athletic therapist.