We took a little bit of time off this weekend to watch some of the International Softball Congress adult men's fastpitch qualifier. The winner of the tournament will go on to the ISC World Championship, which will be here in the QCs in August. There are some pretty good teams and players that show up for the event-teams from all over the US and Canada, with players from both countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. I believe Kitchener, Ontario, has won at least two of the last three tournaments, so they're the bunch to knock off in August. The fastpitch tournaments are a good time if you're into stick and ball games. And the players at world championship level are talented enough for the scores to be 2-1 or 1-0.
For a time in the mid 1960s, Rock Island was the home of the ISC Worlds. They played the whole tournament on one diamond. Although a given night's games might be scheduled for 6,7,8, and 9 pm, they'd inevitably run much longer and it wasn't uncommon for games to still be going on at 2am! This year's tourney will be at Green Valley Sports Complex, which has 12 diamonds-makes for a MUCH faster tournament.
The Better Half remembers going to some of the 60's tournaments, especially the 1967 series which saw a local car dealer's squad winning the whole thing. One of the players was an affable fellow named Chuck Thome. As TBH remembers it, Thome had a broken arm one year but he was a good player.
Oh yes, he has a son who plays a bit of baseball. Most fans of the game would have heard of him. Not too bad a player-and one of the nicer guys in Major League Baseball.
But that's the past and the future. Back to the present.
This weekend's matches were in Walcott, Iowa, a town just west of us. It's in many ways your basic Midwest small town. You know the place-a couple of bars, a couple of churches, a big grain elevator along the railroad tracks, truck stop on the edge of town along the interstate. A nice quiet place where no one's in much of a hurry and gossip and news travels at warp speed.
Walcott hosts these qualifiers most years. They have two really well-kept diamonds and the community is happy to have the teams and players in town. The townspeople and civic clubs do a great job with the facilities and concessions. While there are many fanatics of bacon that patronize this blog (including the writer of said blog), when it comes to a debate on ham or bacon, I might posit as a third choice a butterfly cut Iowa pork chop, done on the grill and made into a sandwich, for favorite pork product. The pork chop sandwich is a staple at most town fests and local hangouts around these parts.
First game we saw was Quad City Sox vs Life of Iowa (sponsored, of course, by an insurance company). I think the QC Sox were the #1 seed for this tournament, and generally they played like it.
The windup, and the pitch!
And the score after three innings-QC Sox 11, Life of Iowa 0. Oops!
The game ended up 11-1 as the Sox pitchers combined for a one-hitter (the lone hit being a solo home run in the 4th inning). The Sox advance and Life goes to the loser bracket. It's a double-elimination bracket so it's possible to lose a game early on, get hot, and end up playing for the championship vs the winner of the winner bracket.
The second game was Bones Barbeque vs Bowen Merchants Association:
The nine from Bowen look impressive in the old time grays. They had a couple of players who could flat out fly-I've seen MLB players who didn't have those baserunning instincts. Bowen went up 6-2 early and were rolling along until the 5th inning, when the wheels came off the car. A couple of bad defensive plays and a pitcher who wasn't fooling any of the Bones players after a couple of times through the batting order saw Bones come rip-snorting back to win the game 13-6, the highlight of the Bones comeback being a grand-slam homer in the 6th inning. That's the nature of a game played by people who have other jobs-the team looks good, but a play gets screwed up or some error occurs, and the whole momentum of the game changes. The team that was leading comfortably ends up two or three runs down all of a sudden.
Next weekend, the tournament will wrap up. With luck, we'll be there to catch the championship round games on Saturday. It's always a good time at a great venue!