NORTH RIDGEVILLE — There are eight state championship trophies waiting to be distributed today at the National Softball Association Ohio Northern girls’ fastpitch tournament at North Ridgeville’s Victory Park.
The event, which is also a qualifier for the NSA World Series, brought 86 teams from as far away as Toledo and Columbus to Victory Park’s seven fields and an additional four fields being used at the Shady Park in North Ridgeville.
Tournament director Tony Ballachino said this is the biggest event of the year at Victory Park.
“We started accepting teams last October, and then as it gets closer, we have to get umpires and staff to work the fields,” Ballachino said. “With this many teams, there are always going to be a few minor disagreements at the field, but we have good umpires and I would like to think we are well-organized because this is what we do all year is run tournaments.”
About half of the teams came from Cuyahoga, Lorain and Medina counties but some teams, such as the Dirt Dawgs U12 team coached by Matt Sherrieb, came from as far away as Shreve, in rural Holmes County.
“This is the first time I have brought this team to the tournament but it’s the third year we’ve had Dirt Dawgs teams here for the state tournament,” Sherrieb said. “Out of all the tournament directors I’ve worked with over the years Tony’s been one of the best in terms of keeping us informed and organized, and the staff here been great as well. It’s truly a class operation they have going here.”
The NSA is one three main sanctioning bodies of youth and adult softball in the United States, alongside the ASA (Amateur Softball Association of America) and USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association).
Ballachino theorized that competition, the proximity of the national tournament to major Midwest population centers and the quality of umpires and state directors all contribute to the large entry fields in the NSA events.
“Besides the weather, which we can’t control, the biggest key to a successful tournament is good umpires,” Ballachino said. “Umpires that are here on time, friendly, professional and know the rules are the key to a good tournament. Once the games start, my work is basically done. The umpires are the ones who control if the teams have a good experience on the field.”
The umpires for the event come from the North Coast Umpires Association, headed by NSA state director John DeLuca, and the Suburban Umpires Association. Ballachino said some umpires are also brought in from the Akron area.
For some players and coaches the lure of the tournament is the ability to play a major event close to home. Allison Bouscher, a pitcher/second baseman for the Explosive fastpitch U14 team based in Strongsville, was one of those players happy to be close to home.
“This is a good tournament. It’s nice to have so many fields here, and the fields are nice and clean and don’t have any holes in them or anything,” said Bouscher, who will be a freshman this fall at Columbia High School. “It’s also nice to be so close to home. After you play back-to-back games like we did this morning, you can go home and relax.”
Single-elimination bracket play will resume today at 8 a.m., with the final championship games in the U14 and U18 brackets scheduled for under the lights at 8 p.m.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.