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Ex-Falcon among Pacific players headed to All-Service softball camps

A 2008 graduate of Seoul American High School who played softball in Falcons Navy blue and white now gets a chance to represent Army black and gold in the All-Armed Forces softball tournament in September.

Kris Spann, now a first lieutenant stationed at Camp Humphreys, was one of eight Korea-based soldiers selected to the All-Army women’s tryout camp scheduled for Aug. 13-Sept. 9 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., All-Army sports announced on its Facebook page.

High schoolers take their cuts vs. adults in Firecracker softball

Asia Abdul, a Kadena High School soon-to-be junior, plays catcher for the Far East Division I Tournament champion Panthers and also plays for Revenge, an Okinawa women's open team in the Firecracker Shootout softball tournament.

It’s a case of unlikely alliances and opponents: A Kubasaki High School catcher playing alongside two Kadena players playing against a Panthers teammate.

That’s the narrative in this weekend’s Firecracker Shootout softball tournament for Kubasaki’s Sydney Kieweg, catching for Revenge, an Okinawa women’s open team, and having Kadena outfielders Asia Abdul and Bailey Prince as teammates. Macalah Danielsen, a Panthers shortstop, plays for the Okinawa Dragons, another open team and the defending tournament champion.

“It’s kind of hard,” said Prince, a soon-to-be junior, of playing against Danielsen, who along with Abdul and Kieweg are teammates on the Lady Ambassadors fastpitch club program. “We’re all really close, we’re on the same club team and stuff. But it’s fun. It’s competitive.”

Kieweg, who’ll be a junior, could be forgiven if she felt reticent about suiting up with players from Kadena, which won the Far East Division I Tournament title six weeks ago. But she says she’s fine with it. “I would rather play with them than against them,” she said.

If anything, the four lend each other encouragement on the field during games, such as their mid-day Friday game which the Dragons won 11-6 at Foster Field 4. “We still tell each other what to do, good hit, things like that,” said Abdul, a soon-to-be junior.

Is there any significant change when switching from fastpitch, which they do far more of, and slowpitch, which they might play once or twice a year?

“The attitude is different,” said Danielsen, who will be a sophomore and at 15 is the youngest player in the tournament. She received a special coin for that during the tournament’s opening ceremony on Thursday. “It’s more fun, less serious, but it’s still nerve wracking. I feel like I have to prove myself to people.”

High school-aged players are allowed to play in the Firecracker with their parents’ permission, according to the tournament by-laws.
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For the second straight year, tents have been pitched by teams both local and off-island throughout the Gunners Fitness & Sports Complex, and some are quite well appointed.

Somehow, teams have managed to string electric lines to power sources near the field. One team uses a gasoline-powered generator. All manner of appliances populate tents ranging from the tiniest of pup tents to a field mobility tent, from the simplest of fans to a couple of air conditioning units in Club Red’s mobility tent. At least 15 grills can be found, mostly propane units, and the smell of cooking bratwursts, hot dogs and hamburgers can be enjoyed throughout the complex.

For the off-island teams camping out, it saves on hotel or billeting dinero. For the local teams, it’s just as convenient to rough it as it is for the visitors. “It keeps everybody close to the fields and it limits how much you have to drive,” Club Red’s Ed Prince said.
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The three teams from Japan and one from Korea might well be keeping one eye on the weather forecast and the other on the field as Tropical Storm Neoguri makes its way northwest from Guam to Okinawa. It likely won’t affect the tournament, but it could impact their ability to fly back home; they’re all slated to fly on Tuesday, when Neoguri reaches its closest point to the island.

Asked what they would do if they were grounded by the storm, Ben Whitehead of Osan Air Base in Korea shrugged and said: “Just enjoy another day on the island.”

Things learned, observed in USFJ-AFL Torii Bowl title game

They’re the new Kings of the gridiron … literally and figuratively … following the most lopsided U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League Torii Bowl title game in history. The Kinser Kings blanked the Kadena Dragons 36-0 Saturday at Kadena Air Base’s McDonald Stadium, becoming the first team in league history to capture both the regular season and Torii Bowl titles in just its first season of play.

In brief: Devante Dudley, named the game’s Most Valuable Player, rushed for two first-half touchdowns, for 4 and 5 yards, and Kings defensive backs Justin Grems and Jason Jarmond each returned interceptions for TDs to break the game open in the fourth quarter, Grems for 66 yards and Jarmond for 86. Jarmond also caught a 50-yard scoring pass from Sanford James late in the first half to make it 20-0 at intermission.

Kinnick’s Johnson to play D-I soccer; Perry’s Lange, Hess earn academic honors

The honors keep coming even after senior soccer players Kaile Johnson of Kinnick and M.C. Perry’s Gaku Lange and Sam Hess graduated earlier this month.

Johnson will become the first girl striker in school history to suit up for a Division I program – the University of San Francisco, where she’s already on ROTC scholarship and is being added to the team as a walk-on, the Dons’ coaching staff and compliance department confirmed by e-mail Wednesday.

Things learned, observed in USFJ-AFL regular season, playoff semifinals

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League’s Torii Bowl championship game stares at a rainy weather forecast:

There are some silver linings to the clouds swirling and swelling over the USFJ-AFL as it completes its 15th season since it constituted into its current structure in 2000.

Three Pacific prep spikers to play college ball in Texas

Three former Pacific high school volleyball stars will be taking their game to the next level, at Vernon College, a two-year school in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Daegu High outside hitter Rachel Wyche and middle blocker Lari Robertson will attend Vernon on scholarship. They’ll be joined by Nia Rodriguez of Clovis High in New Mexico, where she transferred last September from Kadena just before the start of the season. Rodriguez will try to make the team as a walk-on.

Wyche and Robertson signed their national letters of intent on Tuesday, the second day of the annual Korea Volleyball Camp, which includes as its instructors Cole Tallman, Vernon College’s coach. Former Daegu middle blocker Kristina Bergman played for Tallman at Vernon.

Wyche’s younger sisters Rheagan and Rhamsey along with their mother, Daegu coach Joanna Wyche, will soon call Kadena their new home. Joanna Wyche, with three Far East Division II Tournament titles to her credit,has transferred to Okinawa and will take the reins of the Panthers volleyball team.

Kadena’s Shea taking his baseball game to a higher level

Kadena High School senior catcher Dominic Shea signs a national letter of intent to play baseball at Danville Community College in Virginia. Surrounding him, top row, are assistant coach Scott "Boe" Roberts, senior teammate Cody Prince, Advanced Placement history teacher Dana Thielen, teammates Kota Manning and John McBane and Kadena soccer player Sydney Jenkins; bottom row, freshman brother and teammate Devin Shea, father Senior Master Sgt. Michael Shea, mother Roseann Shea and younger brother Dylan Shea.

For Dominic Shea’s hopes of playing big-time college or pro baseball, thinking big means starting small, as in signing a national letter of intent last Thursday to play catcher at Danville Community College in Virginia.

It’s the best way, said the Kadena senior, of getting on the field and at some point later on having the eyes of major college scouts on you, especially if you come from the Pacific, where visibility is far more limited than in the States.

“Start at a JUCO (junior college) and work your way up,” he said. “It’s the easiest way. You’re guaranteed playing time and getting noticed, and then after a year or two you can transfer up” to a Division I school.

As part of his signing package, Shea said he will receive an academic grant-in-aid to attend Danville, the amount to be determined. One of the other attractions of attending a smaller school is that most times, the students’ education comes directly from professors instead of graduate assistants.

After a slow start to the just-completed 2014 season, Shea bounced back to finish with a .289 batting average, a .500 on-base percentage, a home run, six doubles and 13 RBIs. His Panthers finished second to American School In Japan in last month’s Far East Division I Tournament, losing 3-0 to Justin Novak and the Mustangs on May 24 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.

Hail Galvin, Lewis, Stripes’ Pacific spring sports Athletes of the Quarter

Refuse to lose.
That was the narrative, if not the motto, for Daniel Galvin and Harleigh Lewis in the just-completed Pacific high school sports season.
Galvin, a Yokota sophomore distance specialist, shattered two Pacific track and field records, breaking the 800-meter mark and rebreaking it at the Far East meet and also topping the 1,600-meter record over the course of a season in which his only loss came in a Far East relay event.
Lewis, a Kubasaki junior goalkeeper, was the backbone of a Dragons girls soccer team that began the season in turmoil, but quelled it, losing just once after March 30 and giving up just two regulation goals all season. That led Kubasaki to the Okinawa district title and its second Far East Division I title in four years.
For their efforts, Galvin and Lewis have been named Pacific high school spring sports season Athletes of the Quarter by Stars and Stripes.
“That’s amazing as a sophomore; there are plenty of other spring sports,” said Galvin’s coach, former Hong Kong Olympian Maggie Chan-Roper.
Talent, parental support and a “can’t-lose” attitude were the qualities that fueled Galvin’s record run this spring. His father, Dan, a mathematics teacher at Yokota, is constantly entering Daniel in local races against strong Japanese competition to ramp up his game.
More than that, “he hates to lose, maybe more than I do, and it drives him,” Chan-Roper said.
Galvin broke the 800 record April 19 in Tokyo, topping the old mark of 1 minute, 57.3 seconds, set in 2008, with a 1:56.89. He followed that April 26 at Misawa Air Base with a 4:23.42 mile, beating the old record of 4:25.88 set only a year ago.
At the Far East meet last month on his home Yokota track, Galvin beat his own 800 record with a 1:55.54, He just missed beating the 1,600 record, but beat the old 3,200 record by more than six seconds, clocking 9:57.35.
And it might be just the beginning, both Galvin and Chan-Roper said. “The future is bright,” she said, suggesting he could push 47 or 48 seconds in the 400, 1:52 in the 800 and under 4:20 in the mile.
Kubasaki looked far from a champion soccer team on March 22 after a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Okinawa’s top-rated Japanese team Misato. Injuries pervaded in the ranks and coach Rob Loyd stepped down unexpectedly just two weeks into his first season at the helm.
Terry Chumley, who’d coached the Dragons to three D-I titles in the 2000s, returned to the helm and Kubasaki took off from there. A 1-0 loss to Kadena was the only blemish on the Dragons’ record the rest of the way. And with Lewis in the net, Kubasaki won the Okinawa district season series 2-1, then blanked five opponents in the D-I Tournament, four by 1-0 scores en route to the title.
Kubasaki met American School In Japan for the fourth straight year in the final, outshooting the Mustangs 3-1 in a penalty-kick shootout.
And the Dragons did it with a handful of key stars injured and out of the lineup, including second striker option Sydney Johnson (knee) and Lewis’ younger sister, Peyton (ankle), who had shored up the defense as sweeper. That responsibility fell to Harleigh Lewis and she responded, Chumley said.
“She was obviously the anchor of our defense, her ability to help get players the opportunity to succeed in the net and outside the box,” Chumley said. “She was a big part of our success. We’re happy to have her.”

-- Coach of the quarter: For stepping in at almost the mid-season point and molding the Dragons into a cohesive unit that climbed to the D-I mountaintop for the fourth time in school history, Chumley gets the nod here.
-- Team of the quarter: There were a handful of teams on a redemption mission during spring, perhaps none moreso than ASIJ baseball. Stunned in last year’s Far East D-I semifinal 1-0 by Kubasaki, the Mustangs stormed through the Kanto Plain season unbeaten and did likewise over the three-day Far East last month at Naval Air Facility Atsugi.
-- Programs of the quarter: Zama American practically ruled the Division II roost, sweeping every banner there was to be won in Far East track, coming in second in both D-II soccer tournaments and atoning for last year’s finals loss in Far East baseball. At the D-I level, ASIJ also came in second in the D-I girls soccer tournament, came in third in its first Far East softball appearance and won the girls and overall school banners at Far East track.
-- Most improved teams: Behind the 34 goals scored by Kayla Kinney, nicknamed “Lady Dash” for her speed and quickness on the field, Guam High girls soccer went 7-1-2 in the regular season, earned the league playoffs’ No. 2 seed and made it all the way to the finals before losing to three-time champion Southern. Then there was Robert D. Edgren girls soccer, which claimed its first Far East D-II Tournament title with a 3-1 win at home over Zama American last month. Kadena baseball secured its first Okinawa district title since 2005 and reached its third D-I final in five years.
-- Most improved program: Zama American. See Programs of the quarter.

-- Game of the quarter: Few rivalries have become as intense and pitched as Matthew C. Perry vs. Nile C. Kinnick in boys soccer. It took Gaku Lange banging in a goal in the 78th minute to settle things as the Samurai edged the Red Devils 1-0 on April 26 in the DODDS Japan boys tournament championship match at Yokota.
-- Play of the quarter: Kadena had it going on, bases loaded, one out in the second inning of the D-I baseball final. Kota Manning dropped an attempted suicide squeeze bunt, which ASIJ’s Novak fielded and tossed out of his glove to catcher Kenji Yoshii to erase the runner headed home. Yoshii then fired to first baseman Ryan Glasenapp to nail Manning for the out to end the threat and inning.
-- Performance of the quarter: Talk about a dream weekend for ASIJ’s Mizuki Shumsky at the plate. In a four-game stretch May 16-17, all wins, two each over Zama and Kinnick, the senior went 8-for-11 with two walks, a double, five home runs, four of them grand slams, 18 RBIs and two steals. ASIJ closed the regular season 22-0 and repeated as Kanto Plain champions.

Pro scouts to visit with Kanto high school baseball players

Six Major League Baseball scouts will visit with 17 Kanto Plain high school baseball players at 11 a.m. Sunday during Nile C. Kinnick High School’s Pro Scout Day at Yokosuka Naval Base’s Berkey Field, organizers announced via e-mail on Tuesday.

The event was put together by former Japan and U.S. pro baseball players Keichi Yabu, who played for San Francisco and Oakland in the major leagues,and for Japan’s Central League Hanshin Tigers, according to Ray Denny, a Yokosuka civilian who helped set up the event.

The event begins with a clinic from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a shortened game. Scouts expected on Sunday are San Francisco Giants’ Jeff Kusumoto and the team’s director of scouting, John Cox; David Kim and Koji Takahashi of the Minnesota Twins; Manabu Kuramochi of the Kansas City Royals; and Cleveland Indians’ Clinton Matsuzawa.

Kanto players expected to attend are:

-- Zama American: Keiyl Sasano, Jaron Brown, Keanu Cruz.
-- St. Mary’s International: Luke Shinoda, Toshiki Aburaki, Kyotaro Terai, Kaimi Miyazawa.
-- Yokota: Leo Austin, Clay Brownell, Marcus Henagan, Jacob Mansberger.
-- American School In Japan: Kern Singh.
-- Kinnick: Daniel Ross, Dion Williams, Chris Deibel, Bradley Burt, Ethan Olson.

For information, phone DSN 243-7978 or e-mail Raymond.denny@fe.navy.mil.

 
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Ornauer on AFN

 

Stars and Stripes reporter Dave Ornauer talks about the Pacific sports scene on AFN Radio. (Click on right arrow to play file.)

 

May 30: Recapping ASIJ's and Zama's Far East baseball championships that capped the Pacific high school sports school year..

May 23: A look back at the Far East track championships and a look ahead at the ongoing baseball finals..

May 9:High school track's postseason begins in Japan and the regular season comes to a close in soccer..