GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Big innings fueled another year of Air Force dominance Sunday as the U.S. Forces Europe slow-pitch softball tournament wrapped up a sun-drenched, four-day run in this sprawling installation far better known for rain and snow.
Spangdahlem’s women rode an eight-run third to a 19-10 title-game victory over Baden-Wuertemberg, the lone Army community team in the 2012 Final Four, and Ramstein’s men completed a successful title-defense with a 10-run first that eventually produced a 25-20 victory over the Lakenheath Eagles.
Ramstein men 25, Lakenheath 20
Ramstein’s Tom Yost, who hit two of his team’s five title-game homers, summarized the slow-pitch strategy which has carried the Rams to the last three USFE titles and nine of the last 12.
“You need to come to hit every inning,” said Yost, who doubled in a run and hit a two-run homer in Ramstein’s big first inning. “You need to keep the sticks rolling and hope the defense can pull you through.”
Sunday, Ramstein’s sticks never let up. The Rams, who benefited from home runs by Mark Noll, Chris Pint and Jake Peeterse, banged out 28 hits, 10 of them in the first inning.
Lakenheath, which dropped a 27-12 verdict to Ramstein in Saturday’s winners-bracket final, almost survived Ramstein’s 10-run first by striking for eight runs in the fifth and four in the seventh before Ramstein turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the game and complete an unbeaten run through this double-elimination tournament.
Lakenheath had no counter to Ramstein’s power game. Keith Serrano collected the lone homer of the game for the Eagles.
Spangdahlem women 19, Baden-Wuertemberg 10
Baden-Wuertemberg, historically known as Heidelberg, rode Jennifer Schab’s two-out, two-run double to a 4-2 first-inning lead, but the Sabers put the game away with the eight-run third which saw 12 batters come to the plate.
The victory was Spangdahlem’s third over Heidelberg over the weekend, but it didn’t come easily, according to Spangdahlem starter and winner Tava Blair.
“They’re very patient hitters,” said Blair, who pitched all three of those victories. “If that first pitch isn’t a strike, they stay back. They really put the pressure on me.”
Blair said the soon-to-be champions weren’t taking anything for granted, even thought they’d beaten the Generals twice before, the latest one a 6-1 winners-bracket final triumph on Saturday.
“We watched them take out (defending champion and top-seeded) Ramstein,” Blair said about the Generals’ 11-8 losers-bracket final victory over Ramstein Sunday morning. Saturday, Baden-Wuertemburg downed Ramstein 12-6 in a winners-bracket game before falling to Spangdahlem in the winners-bracket final. “We knew they’d be tough.”
Spangdahlem catcher Heather Hayes savored the history of the moment.
“We’re always second here,” said Hayes, who drove in five runs with a triple, two doubles and a single. “We’ve been progressing throughout the season. It was time for the girls to bring it, and they brought it.”