Fastpitch Tourney Attracts 52 Teams

Stealing third early in the second inning, this Hawk player slid into third with ease and was declared "safe" by the umpire.

Stealing third early in the second inning, this Hawk player slid into third with ease and was declared "safe" by the umpire. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Even Mother Nature couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the Rim Country visitors who played in or watched the Class B Arizona ASA Junior Olympics Fastpitch Tournament played July 8 to 10 at Rumsey Park and Payson High School.

But that didn’t mean Ol’ Mom didn’t try.

On Saturday evening, she opened the skies and a downpour began forcing the postponement of some games and rescheduling of others.

But once Mother Nature retreated on Sunday morning and allowed the skies to clear and fields to dry, the 2,500 to 3,000 in Payson for the tournament returned to Rumsey and PHS where play resumed with all the enthusiasm and zeal traditionally associated with a big-time, state showdown.

Cameron Davis, director of the Town of Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, is sure the rainouts didn’t affect the success of the tournament.

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The lead off game was the Aces and Hawks (16 and under age bracket) at Payson High School softball field. The Hawks had plenty of good hitters but were not able to stave off the relentless Aces.

“Even with the elements we had to deal with, it could not have been run better,” he said.

“At the end (of the tournament), coaches were coming up to me saying how much they enjoyed our town and the tournament and how much they loved playing here.”

Of the 114 games scheduled to be played, only nine were not contested due to the rain.

For the championships, a field of 52 teams from around the state including Prescott, Mammoth, Coolidge, Tucson, Yuma, Flagstaff, Kingman, around the Valley and even Needles, Calif. showed up to play with ambitions of winning age division titles and earning berths in the Western National Championship when it is played Aug. 3 in Prescott.

Some teams in Payson sported unique and somewhat distinctive names such as Insanity, Inferno, Venom, Sidewinders, Scorchers, Iron Dynamics, Hot Peppers and Lunachicks.

Then there were the more common monikers like the Tucson Aces, East Valley Pride and the Yuma Diamonds.

Due to rainouts, delays and rescheduling, ASA State Commissioner Don Fishel of Prescott did not have at press time the complete results of the five age group divisions — 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U — that were played.

He, however, expects to announce winners and results by midweek.

What Fishel was sure of was something he anticipated before the pitch was thrown — all weekend long, the town was swamped with young players and their parents who filled motels, restaurants, the Sawmill Theatres and grocery stores.

The huge field of teams and players also created plenty of tournament challenges for town workers and ASA officials who scrambled to keep up.

But in the aftermath of the tournament, Davis has no doubts the workers were up to the challenges.

“My team did a fantastic job and we are so appreciative to all the volunteers who were there to help out.”

For the tournament, the teams were guaranteed to play at least three games for the $375 entry fee but most teams played many more especially those who reached championship showdowns.

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The 10 and under age bracket players looked a little rough around the edges, as there were many errant pitches and lots of stolen bases because of it, as witnessed here by this Aces player sliding into second agains a hapless Pride shortstop.

The 10U age division drew a great deal of attention as spectators flocked to the Rumsey Kiwanis fields to watch and cheer for the fledgling players, many of who were in their first year and still learning the nuances of the game.

By the time the final tournament games were played on Sunday evening, players and their parents were retreating from ball fields, packing up family SUVs and preparing for the road trip home.

One young player, Michelle Garcia, took time while packing up to turn and look at the Rumsey fields, saying “This was a tournament we won’t forget ... it was so much fun.”

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