WA pitcher earned spot on Peru U-18 team after TCS event last June
With hundreds of players suiting up and thousands of fans tracking every step, it’s little wonder that the 2021 International Challenge commanded serous attention at the front end of the Colorado 4th of July fastpitch event.
Turns out another group of interested fans was watching – officials for various national softball organizations.
The blizzard of games at the Christopher Complex in Westminster featured matchups between more than 20 teams, playing under the flag of their nationalities ranging from Asia to Europe and many stops in between. Nearly two dozen athletes were later contacted by national federations to suit up for Olympic or developmental squads, with officials understanding the International Challenge was the perfect setting to identify qualified talent.
One of the players who took that next step onto a national stage was Yanina Sherwood, 15, a sophomore at Henry M. Jackson High School in Bothell, WA., a north-central suburb of Seattle. Playing for the ai Bandits 18u Breer program, Sherwood got on the radar of the Peru program and showed her skills at an evaluation workout after the International Challenge -- these workout sessions were a partnership between Triple Crown and the Empowering Leadership in Latina Athletes (ELLA) Sports Foundation.
“It was such a good experience, and I got to meet all these new people,” said Sherwood, who won 10 games as a freshman pitcher for Jackson HS, striking out 156 batters in under 81 innings of work. “It ran smooth and was cool to be around a bunch of softball players from the Latina community.”
About a week after the Colorado 4th of July event, Sherwood was on a flight home from another tournament when she got a phone message from the Peru 18u national team, which was looking to beef up its roster for upcoming competitions in the latter half of 2021. Yanina’s mother, Angelica, was born in the country’s capital of Lima, opening the door of eligibility to join the team.
Yanina, who added 142 strikeouts in her most recent club season, eventually pitched and played some first base at the U-18 Women’s Softball World Cup.
“The experience was amazing. All of the girls that I played with were so sweet, and I couldn’t of ask to have a better experience than I already did,” Yanina said. “I’ve never been to Peru before or never grow up around a lot of people my race, so I had so much fun learning so many new things and getting to see where my mom grew up.
“I got to play pitcher and first base; my coaching staff and team were so welcoming and made me feel at home and a part of their family right away. I’m happy to say that I can call all of them my family. I would love to do it all over again, and I can’t wait to see my team when the opportunity comes.”
Not surprisingly, Angelica Sherwood and Yanina’s father, Jack Sherwood, had a deep and profound response to seeing their daughter suit up for Peru.
“Last time I was in Peru was 20 years ago. This was a perfect excuse for me to go back and for Yanina to see my country for the first time; I was excited,” she said. “I didn’t even know Peru had a softball team until I got the email for the Evaluation Camp. I signed Yanina up just for the experience without thinking anyone was going to reach out to her.
“First game, I had tears coming down my face, seeing Yanina wearing the Peruvian jersey and hearing the national anthem. That was a moment I’ll never forget. The coaches, the girls, the whole staff were amazing and so welcoming; they made the whole experience unforgettable.”
The 2022 International Challenge is set for June 24-26; 28 teams are expected to suit up, with two separate age groups (16u and 18u).
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