A field of 16 fast pitch girls softball teams from around the state descend on Payson tomorrow, Saturday, for the ASA Junior Olympic End of Summer Madness tournament.
Because tournament play will be in five divisions — 10u, 12u, 14u, 16u and 18u — and teams are guaranteed at least four games, the tournament will be the largest held in Rim Country since July 2011, when Payson hosted the ASA JO Fast Pitch “B” state championship tournament.
That tournament attracted 2,000-plus visitors to the area. So expect area motels, campgrounds and restaurants to be hopping with herds of athletic young women and their families and friends this weekend. And maybe make your way over to Rumsey to get a taste of the tourney fever that heated up just about every summer weekend in Payson in years past — when the town was known as Arizona’s Softball Capital, second only to rival Prescott.
The End of Summer Madness opens tomorrow with pool play games, the results of which will be used to seed teams into a single elimination bracket. Those games will wrap up Sunday with the championship showdowns and the crowning of eventual winners.
Often ASA tournaments are played in “classes.” For example, an “A” class tournament would be for the best teams while a B or C class fray would be for those not quite as powerful.
The End of Summer Madness, however, is being played in an “Open Class” format meaning all caliber teams are eligible to participate.
That could result in some games being blowouts and ending on the run mercy rule.
Then again, there could be some close, hotly contested games.
All games will be played at Rumsey Park.
At press time, Payson did not have a team entered mostly because ASA girls fast pitch is not played in the Rim Country.
Former Town of Payson Recreation Director Don Fishel, the state ASA director from Prescott, said during the 2011 state championships, bringing ASA to the town would give local softball players the opportunity to play year-round, rather than just in the summer months as is now the case with Little League softball. Some local individual players who aspire to play year-round, commute to the Valley where they play on ASA or USSSA teams.