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Things observed in Far East spring sports tournament week

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as the decompression process begins following Far East high school spring sports tournament week:

Champions were crowned in nine Far East tournaments in four sports last week. But rain was the biggest winner, forcing delays in play in Division I soccer and moving some matches to an off-base, turfed facility in the Division II boys and canceled pool and elimination matches in baseball and softball. The latter forced a few eyebrows to be raised, especially in softball. More on that later.

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Kuga athletic facility, some 45 minutes from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, did nothing less than save the Boys D-II Soccer Tournament. With Iwakuni’s Penny Lake Fields waterlogged and unavailable after two days of rain, two days of matches were played at the turfed Kuga facility. Sometimes, the athletics venue becomes an event’s true Most Valuable Player, as in this case.

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Copious rainfall may make DODDS Pacific’s Far East Athletics Council rethink having Kubasaki host the Girls D-I Soccer Tournament next May on Okinawa. With both of its fields still grass, rains of Biblical proportion rendered both Mike Petty Stadium and Upper Field muddy and, at times, unplayable. The Boys D-I was delayed once by lightning in the area, though it escaped the standing-water puddles that accompanied heavy rain last May.

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A couple of goods and bads that came out of the Far East D-I and D-II Softball:

Nile C. Kinnick coach Katrina Kemper had suggested from the beginning that she had a turfed field available at Yokoauka Naval Base, She and tournament organizers, knowing that Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s forecast called for rain, felt that they should grab a few buses and drive the teams from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, the host site, to Yokosuka, home of the tournament host school. The decision to do just that was made around 11 a.m. Wednesday, the tournament’s final day. The D-II final was played first, followed by the D-I at Yokosuka’s turfed Berkey Field, guaranteeing winners.

But at what cost?

Some of the remaining elimination games were taken off the board as a result of moving the finals to Berkey. That left Humphreys and American School In Japan in third place, denying them the chance to reach the final and perhaps win the D-II and/or D-I tournaments.

Organizers said they looked at all options, such as waiting out the weather and hoping things would turn at Atsugi where the full tournament could be finished, playing more games at Yokosuka, among others. In the end, they said, they did what they felt was best and most feasible for the tournament to at least crown champions.

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Baseball was also affected by the wet stuff later in the week, D-I at Atsugi’s Bandy Field and St. Mary’s International School in Tokyo and D-II at Camp Zama’s Rambler Field.

Rain hit Zama and St. Mary’s especially hard on Day 1 of the tournament, last Thursday, with rain, thunder, lightning and in some cases hail pelting the fields. Atsugi got hit hard Thursday afternoon.

But even before that, organizers called off the last two pool games at Bandy, suggesting that because the last two B Pool games at St. Mary’s could not be played, the teams in A Pool at Bandy would be at a disadvantage because of more pitcher arm wear than those of Pool B. It meant D-I teams would only play two pool-play games, instead of three.

The last three D-II pool-play games Saturday were scrapped as well, leaving each D-II team playing four pool games, instead of five.

But in each tournament’s case, observers pretty much agreed that the right teams played for their respective championships.

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Congratulations to outgoing Zama American baseball coach Tom Allensworth, who retires next month after more than two decades of teaching and coaching in Trojan Nation. He got as good a send-off as any retiring coach could: That long-elusive first Far East tournament title.

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Zama now needs just a girls basketball banner to have won Far East tournament titles in all sports. Seoul American is one overall school track and field banner away from the same honor.

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Goalkeepers are sometimes referred to as the “wall” or the “backbone” of soccer teams. Like baseball catchers, keepers are the only players on their teams to see the whole field. They not only stop shots, but are the loudest communicators, shouting everything from encouragement to positioning players.

For Kubasaki girls soccer, that was Harleigh Lewis, a junior who against American teams gave up just two goals in regulation the entire season, plus one shootout goal in the Far East D-I Tournament. In last week’s Far East, she pitched five shutouts, four of them by 1-0 scores. Clutch.

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Last week could very easily have been called Redemption Week, where Kubasaki girls soccer, Kadena softball and American School In Japan and Zama American baseball were concerned. They each completed unfinished business from 2013 and won their respective titles they so long sought.

Kubasaki soccer avenged its 2-0 loss to ASIJ. This was their fourth meeting in the D-I finals in as many years, each school winning twice.

Justin Novak and ASIJ baseball could very easily have been wrapping up their fourth straight D-I title on the heels of their 2011 success. But the Mustangs weren’t invited back to defend their title in 2012, something DODDS Pacific officials called an unintentional oversight. And in 2013, there was that 1-0 D-I semifinal loss to Kubasaki. Novak’s 3-0 pitching gem over Kadena salved those wounds.

Zama came up short in the D-II baseball finals last year against Robert D. Edgren, after losing freshman star Keiyl Sasano to ejection in game prior to that one. Sasano and the Trojans downed Matthew C. Perry for the title last Saturday.

And Kadena softball got back in the winner’s circle 8-1 over Guam, a year after losing a 1-0 lead in the very last inning of a 2-1 victory by Kinnick in the 2013 final.

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Kanto Plain track and field’s distance present and future were very much on display in the Far East meet last week at Yokota. Panthers sophomore Daniel Galvin won the 800 to open the meet in Pacific-record fashion and would also take the 1,600. ASIJ freshman Tatiana Riordan won the girls 1,600 and 3,200 and helped the Mustangs establish a meet record in the 3,200 relay.

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Sixteen meet records fell at Far East. That’s an outgrowth of the meet still being in its infancy after five years. As the years wear on, setting those type of standards will get more difficult.

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75 days until the first official day of football two-a-day practices.

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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.)

 

Oct. 17: The Nile C. Kinnick football team can ensure its fans have good seats for the Far East Division I final with a win over Kadena on Saturday.

Oct. 3: Dave Ornauer talks about the weekend's key football matchups, including Matthew C. Perry at American School In Japan.

Sept. 12: Dave Ornauer highlights Nile C. Kinnick's win over Zama, 30-0, during high school football last week, discusses other games throughout the Pacific.