Army-Air Force men’s softball: Aviano outslugs RAF Lakenheath
Stars and Stripes August 31, 2009
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – Good strategy. Bad strategy. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter.
Jim DiPalma delivered a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Aviano a 25-24 victory over RAF Lakenheath in the championship game of the men’s Army-Air Force Final Four softball tournament Sunday.
He should never have come to the plate, though. Trying to preserve a one-run lead, Lakenheath walked Norman Dominguez to load the bases and set up a potential game-ending double play.
Mike Aumack delivered a perfect opportunity by grounding to the pitcher, who turned and fired to second. But first baseman George Duggen couldn’t hang on to the throw from second, letting the tying run score. DiPalma drilled a pitch into left a few pitches later, and the Dragons were unlikely champions. They entered the tournament after one of the two Army entrants dropped out. Aviano finished third in the U.S. Air Forces in Europe tournament a week earlier.
"We were disappointed, because we were the defending USAFE champions," player/coach Travis Shoffner said.
So Aviano entered the tournament and didn’t lose, including a 25-22 victory over Lakenheath in the tournament’s first game. The Eagles, minus five players from the team that took the USAFE crown last week, had to come back through the losers’ bracket to play in the final.
"I’m more proud of the way we played this week than last week even," said player/coach Todd Seefeldt, who had a good day at the plate.
His two-run triple tied the game in the top of the seventh, and he scored on a sacrifice fly for the go-ahead run. He also had a three-run home run earlier.
After Lakenheath scored nine times in the first inning, Aviano took a 22-11 lead after three.
Teams are allowed only eight home runs in the rules, and the Dragons used up their limit in the first three innings. Half of them came with the bases empty. It meant that any home run hit after that was an out. And the Dragons did that three times.
Lakenheath chipped away at the lead. Terry Benfield’s two-run home run — his third and the team’s final one — moved the Eagles within two runs in the seventh.
Duggen and Eddie Davis singled before Seefeldt tied the game with a liner to right.