Things learned, observed on Day 5 of Marine Far East softball regionals
Published: August 15, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer gets set to cut in the high school sports hyperdrive and fully recompress for the next nine months:
So, what does an All-Marine softball player do when he’s batting 7-for-32 for the week-long Far East Regional Softball Tournament? And what does his team do when it enters the double-elimination playoffs having lost its last two pool-play games and looking utterly worked?
The All-Marine, Francisco Poo, bides his time, provides leadership and mentoring the younger players, never loses hope and when the opportunity comes and he finds his stroke, he just flat kills it, to the tune of batting 4-for-4 with two triples and two RBIs.
And the team, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, refinds itself, rediscovers what it took to win the tournament title a year ago and turns on the jets at just the right time.
With Poo – battling a balky knee – providing plenty of knock out of the No. 3 hole and leadoff batter Derrick Battle raking consistently, 3rd MLG ran the table in double-elimination play, surviving a late rally in Friday’s championship game by Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler and wins its second straight title 11-9.
Poo, we all knew about, and he’s deservedly headed back to the All-Marine tryout camp despite his problems earlier in the week. But Battle? If this guy can avert the same duty bug that kept a large number of deserving candidates home from camp, he’ll be the starting All-Marine shortstop for years to come. Range, glove, arm, bat and speed. Five-tool player.
Don’t be surprised, either, if any of the other four selected to go to Cherry Point distinguish themselves and make the All-Marine team. Henry Kelcinski can play a solid middle infield. When he’s on, Anthony Hawkins can still rake with the best of ’em . Robert Swierbitowicz is as strong a power hitter as it gets. And Tommy Macias brings a certain fire with him behind the plate and at the bat.
How great it was to see command representation of the first order during Friday’s playoffs, with much of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing’s staff out in force.
All other commands represented in the Far East Regional could take a cue from 1st MAW chief of staff Col. Doug Wadsworth, Chaplain (Cmdr.) Terry Gordon, Command Master Chief Petty Officer David Jones, Senior Chief Petty Officer Claude Copeland, Wing Sgt. Maj. Eric Seward and Marine Aircraft Group 36 Sgt. Maj. Mario Marquez. They cheered their charges to the end – a bitter one, I might add, as 1st MAW fell 12-5 to 3rd Marine Division/III Marine Expeditionary Force in a knockout bracket game.
And since Base and 1st MAW share the same headquarters building, the six chose to stay around and root for Base to bring down Division, which it did 5-4 despite committing five errors, and hope Base could dethrone 3rd MLG, which didn’t happen.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment of all in the tournament came in the seventh inning of Base’s 7-6 nine-inning loss to 3rd MLG in the championship-bracket final earlier Friday.
Base loaded the bases with nobody out and appeared primed to walk off the field with a 5-4 victory, when Hawkins dipped his shoulder and popped up to the infield for the first out. That proved to be the turning point, after which 3rd MLG induced a ground-ball double play and got out of the jam.
Nobody felt worse than Hawkins, repeatedly apologizing to his teammates and assessing himself the lion’s share of the blame.
I know somewhat how that feels, though I was never more than a shot-and-beer company-level player with the 3825th Academic Services Group team at Maxwell Air Force Base in the mid-1970s. Our team once put up a 15-spot, batting twice through the order and even leaving the bases loaded at rally’s end. And who, do you suppose, made all three outs in the inning?
Good ol’ Dave.
Better days are certain to come for Hawkins, who’s as professional a softball hitter as you’ll ever see, who still displays superior range, a great glove and a shotgun arm in left-center field. It takes having a short memory to put such things in the past, but for a stand-up guy like Hawkins, it’s much easier said than done,