Thirteen schools will be chasing two European titles when the DODDS-Europe softball tournaments get under way Thursday at Ramstein High school.

Nine Division I and Division II teams will vie for the Big Schools crown in a pool-play event that begins with 8:30 a.m. games. Championship play is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Saturday.

Four schools, all from outside Central Europe — an area that usually figures prominently in any DODDS-Europe championship — will compete for the Small Schools championship. They begin round-robin play at noon, with the team emerging with the best record winning the title.

While the four — Alconbury, London Central, Incirlik and Rota — comprise a small field, they’ll make up for the shortage of games by playing round-robin doubleheaders. For Incirlik, based in Turkey, doubleheaders will be a welcome change.

“We’ll be playing our first real games of the season,” Incirlik coach John Drake said Monday by telephone.

“During the regular season, we have scrimmages with squadron teams here on base. We don’t have a regular league.”

The Hodjas do have pitching, however, Drake said, which will loom large in the doubleheader format.

“Pitching is one of our strengths,” he said. “We have two good pitchers in (right-handers) Kari Reineke and Mandy Bowers.”

Rota, toughened again this year by playing the base team, has tournament experience in pitcher Hope Foreback and all-tourney shortstop Kayleigh Cradeur,” according to Lady Admirals’ coach Johnny Cooley.

“I think we have a good shot ... staying healthy is the key,” he wrote Monday in an e-mail.

Incirlik, making its third appearance at the Europeans, is the only one of the competitors to have not claimed a Small Schools title. Since softball became a DODDS sport in 1999, Rota, which like Incirlik plays no official regular-season games, has won four times. Alconbury and London Central, both from the U.K., each has one title.

The Big Schools field features a familiar look.

Ramstein and Lakenheath have won every Division I crown awarded, and they finished one-two this year during the regular season. League champ Lakenheath (15-1 overall) won in 2000, 2001 and 2002; Ramstein prevailed in 1999 and 2003-2006.

All three of last year’s champions — Ramstein of D-I, Bitburg of D-II and Baumholder of Division III, promoted to D-II this season — will play in this tournament.

So if any team other than one of those teams wins the title, it can say it toppled three European champs in the process.

DODDS-Europe softball tournamentsBig Schools

Pools (seeds in parentheses)

A: Lakenheath (1); Heidelberg (6); Baumholder (7)

B: Ramstein (2); Bitburg (5); Kaiserslautern (8).

C: Patch (3); Wiesbaden (4); Mannheim (9)

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