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Hohenfels’ Kennedy Liverpool slides into home base during a first-round game against Rota in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at Kaiserslautern High School, Germany. Rota went on to win, 17-10.

Hohenfels’ Kennedy Liverpool slides into home base during a first-round game against Rota in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at Kaiserslautern High School, Germany. Rota went on to win, 17-10. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – The first day of the DODEA-Europe softball tournaments had it all: stellar pitching, clutch hitting and defense, shutouts, blowouts, old rivalries and new challengers.

One reigning champion stayed unbeaten while another took its first loss in Thursday’s preliminary rounds.

Defending Division I champion Wiesbaden kept an upstart Kaiserslautern team in check with strong pitching from junior Lyndsey Urick, who went the distance in the Warriors’ 16-5 win.

But in the Division II/III bracket, 2019 victor Sigonella - playing championship softball like the rest of DODEA-Europe for the first time post-pandemic – fell to Spangdahlem, 22-13.

Vilseck’s Lily Bravo dominated on the mound during preliminary rounds Thursday, May 19, 2022, in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Bravo struck out more than a dozen batters in a game against Stuttgart and threw a no-hitter against Lakenheath.

Vilseck’s Lily Bravo dominated on the mound during preliminary rounds Thursday, May 19, 2022, in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Bravo struck out more than a dozen batters in a game against Stuttgart and threw a no-hitter against Lakenheath. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Stuttgart’s Shannon Correa gets a piece of the ball while at bat during a preliminary-round game against Vilseck on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament. Vilseck went on to win 5-0.

Stuttgart’s Shannon Correa gets a piece of the ball while at bat during a preliminary-round game against Vilseck on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament. Vilseck went on to win 5-0. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

From the outset, teams showed that the European tournament marks a fresh start, no matter regular season or previous years’ outcomes.

In the tourney’s opening Division I match, the Raiders rejuvenated their season and avoided falling ino the double elimination bracket with a 9-7 win against cross-town rival Ramstein, a team that had beaten Kaiserslautern in three out of four games during the regular season.

With the game on the line, Kaiserslautern shortstop Xin Ai Robinson squashed a Royals’ rally in the fifth and final inning with a catch that she turned into a triple play after Ramstein loaded the bases with no outs. Two Ramstein runners were tagged out on the play.

Kaiserslautern’s Xin Ai Robinson makes a running catch during a preliminary-round game against Wiesbaden on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in the DODEA Europe softball tournament.

Kaiserslautern’s Xin Ai Robinson makes a running catch during a preliminary-round game against Wiesbaden on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in the DODEA Europe softball tournament. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Spangdahlem’s Sandrine Bennett comes into score during a first-round game Thursday, May 19, 2022, against Rota in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament at Kaiserslautern High School in Germany. Spangdahlem went on to win 16-12.

Spangdahlem’s Sandrine Bennett comes into score during a first-round game Thursday, May 19, 2022, against Rota in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament at Kaiserslautern High School in Germany. Spangdahlem went on to win 16-12. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

“Honestly, I didn’t even know I was going to catch it at first,” Robinson said. “And then it happened. It was instinct to throw it to the third baseman. It was the thing that won us the game.”

It was “an exciting win,” said Zac Robinson, the Kaiserslautern coach and proud dad of the ace shortstop. “We knew we could play well and put a game together and we finally did at the right time in the tournament.”

Also peaking at the right time was Vilseck, which shut out its two opponents on the unflappable arm of freshman Lily Bravo. Bravo dominated from the mound, tallying 14 strikeouts in a 5-0 win against Stuttgart and tossing a no hitter in an 18-0 rout of Lakenheath.

Spangdahlem’s Audrey Hauck tosses a pitch during a first-round game Thursday, May 19, 2022, against Rota in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament at Kaiserslautern High School in Germany. Spangdahlem went on to win 16-12.
 

Spangdahlem’s Audrey Hauck tosses a pitch during a first-round game Thursday, May 19, 2022, against Rota in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament at Kaiserslautern High School in Germany. Spangdahlem went on to win 16-12.   (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Wiesbaden’s Olivia Office slides into third, trying to get past Kaiserslautern’s Selam Foery in a first-round game Thursday, May 19, 2022, in the DODEA -urope softball tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Wiesbaden went on to win, 16-5.

Wiesbaden’s Olivia Office slides into third, trying to get past Kaiserslautern’s Selam Foery in a first-round game Thursday, May 19, 2022, in the DODEA -urope softball tournament at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Wiesbaden went on to win, 16-5. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

“It’s more of a team thing,” Bravo said of the Falcons’ success. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season. I think we’re going to go far.”

But Vilseck assistant coach Cathleen Burgess didn’t hesitate to give Bravo due credit. “I think she pitched awesome today,” she said, “and I’m proud of her.”

In the Division II/III preliminary rounds, Naples and Spangdahlem pulled ahead of the pack with two victories apiece.

Naples crushed regional foe Vicenza 26-3 in its opening game and went on to beat Alconbury later in the day. The last time the European tournament was held in 2019, Naples competed in Division I.

Rota third baseman Esperanza Rodriguez fields the ball during a first-round game against Hohenfels in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at Kaiserslautern High School, Germany. Rota went on to win, 17-10.

Rota third baseman Esperanza Rodriguez fields the ball during a first-round game against Hohenfels in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at Kaiserslautern High School, Germany. Rota went on to win, 17-10. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Vilseck’s Emma Kolmerten reacts to being called out on strikes during a first-round game against Stuttgart in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Vilseck went on to win, 5-0.

Vilseck’s Emma Kolmerten reacts to being called out on strikes during a first-round game against Stuttgart in the DODEA-Europe softball tournament on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Vilseck went on to win, 5-0. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

Naples will play Spangdahlem on Friday. After beating Sigonella, the Sentinels eked out another victory against a spirited Rota team, 16-12.

Rota gets to play another day after thumping Hohenfels 17-10 earlier in the day.

The Admirals’ bats were on fire against Hohenfels, a game that featured an inside-the-park home run by sophomore Alana Geylani in the third inning.

“I was not expecting that,” Geylani said. “Coach just kept saying ‘Go, go go!’”

No team was eliminated Thursday. Teams that played two games either won both or split their games. Lakenheath won its first game against SHAPE 20-11.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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