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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Twyla Sears had no idea she was pitching a no-hitter. Nor did she think about much other than her Kadena women’s team winning.

“I don’t pay attention to that,” she said after the Lady Falcons allowed one baserunner and blanked Pacific Heat 15-0 on Friday, the second day of the 9th Firecracker Shootout Open Softball Tournament. “I just want to play. I’m having fun.”

So are her teammates. Ever since an 11-6 loss to Red Fox, a Korean team, which consigned them to third a month ago in the 14th Pacificwide Open tournament in South Korea, the Lady Falcons have gone 7-0 and outscored their foes 116-11.

“If we were in Korea now, there’s no doubt we’d win it,” said Kadena coach Al Lozano, whose team features players from the TPS Diamonds squad that won all three legs of the Pacific interservice Grand Slam in which it played.

Losing in South Korea seemed to light a fire under the club.

“They were very disappointed in Korea,” Lozano said. “They tasted a bit of winning, but they didn’t win it all. Now, all they want to do is play ball and practice. There’s a lot of young players and they’ll play anybody.”

Their run began two weekends ago with a 14-4 victory in a practice game over Fleet Activities Okinawa — a men’s team.

Next came the KinserFest tournament, in which the Lady Falcons beat three teams by a 55-5 margin. In its first two games in the Firecracker, Kadena won by scores of 15-0 and 17-2.

In Friday’s victory, Sears retired the first 11 batters. An error by shortstop Maegan Sinclair permitted the only Heat runner to reach base, in the bottom of the fourth.

Aside from that, “they’re playing great defense,” Lozano said. “I can play any of these players anywhere in the field. And we’re scoring runs.”

The scoreboard certainly attests to that.

Ross tries his hand at slow-pitch

Alone in representing South Korea in the Firecracker, Keith Ross is also trying something new — slow-pitch softball, after having spent the last 28 years playing nothing but hardball.

“It’s just like hitting soft toss or hitting fungoes to the outfield. You have to go with a more uppercut swing,” said Ross, 34, a third baseman for the Taegu Lumber all-GI baseball team and a teacher and basketball coach at Taegu American School.

He played third for Japan’s Yokota Samurai in the Firecracker.

Ross could be called a “baseball lifer.” He’s played everywhere he’s been, including four years at Nile C. Kinnick High in Japan, where he played for Japanese club teams while coaching the Red Devils prep team and the Ikego Mud Hens club team.

About two weeks ago, he joined Taegu’s post-level team in South Korea’s Traveling League — and the change in pace from facing 90-mph fastballs to slow-pitch cupcakes was noticeable.

He fouled out, popped up and grounded to the pitcher in his first three at-bats.

“It was my first time adjusting to that strike zone. If the ball hits the plate, it’s a ball. Stuff like that,” Ross said. “So I tried to keep my hands back and wait, try to go to right field.”

That paid off. A week ago against Osan Air Base, he hit a three-run homer. “So in baseball or softball, I can go yard,” he said.

The chance to play for Yokota came when Taegu, slated to attend the Firecracker, withdrew because of duty commitments. Ross then contacted Yokota player/coach Dana Finniss, who offered him a spot on the team.

“These guys are motivated and they play to win,” Ross said. “I bat 11th and there’s 10 in front of me wanting to play.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.
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