When the European Divisions I, II and Small Schools softball tournaments open their three-day run at Ramstein High School on Thursday, it’d be wise to ignore the record book.

In the jumbled world of regional scheduling, it’s easy for the smaller schools to roll up mediocre-or-worse marks when regularly tossed against schools with enrollments three and even four times their size.

Of the 15 teams entered in the in the three tournaments, just five – the four D-I schools, predictably, and D-II Wiesbaden – are playing better than .500 ball.

In addition to regional play, isolation also plays a role in skewing records. Small schools entrants Incirlik and Rota, for example, too far from the center of things to play a regular season against other DODDS schools, have, for tournament purposes, yet to play a game.

They will, however, get their chance to play beginning Thursday. Each tournament will begin with a round-robin, with the top two in each event earning to right to advance to championship play. For the D-II and Small Schools elite, championship play means a one-game, winner-take-all showdown on Saturday. For Division I, the title round is a two-day, best-of-three playoff scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

Here’s the way it looks going in:

Division I: Top-seeded and unbeaten Ramstein and No. 2 Lakenheath enter the event as the teams to watch. Between them, these two programs have won a European crown every year since the highs schools in Europe took up the sport in 1999.

Ramstein, coached every year since 1999 by Kent Grosshuesch, has won the event five times. Lakenheath, coached every year since 1999 by John Gilmore has claimed the other four titles, the last coming last May.

Ramstein swept visiting Lakenheath 10-8 and 7-4 on May 10, but that was then and this is now. Lakenheath made that trip minus three starters who had committed to take Advanced Placement tests that week.

Tom Burriss has revitalized the program at Kaiserslautern (11-5) and Alan Simoncic’s Heidelberg Lions come in at 11-1, but both remain long shots to make the best-of-three finals in spite of their gaudy records. Heidelberg split with K-town on March 29 and didn’t play either Lakenheath or Ramstein, and K-town was swept by both.

Still, Burriss reminded in an e-mail, "any of the teams in Division I are capable of taking the crown on any given day."

Division II: "D-II is wide open," Dan Vasquez, coach of the second-seeded Bitburg Lady Barons, wrote Tuesday in an e-mail about the field of teams with so-so records or worse.

But with newcomer Vilseck still looking for its first victory and Mannheim (2-11) having numbers difficulties, top-seeded Patch, Bitburg and Wiesbaden seem to be the main contenders.

Patch and Bitburg have won all except one of the D-II titles contested, and either school’s adding another plaque to the trophy case wouldn’t surprise Vasquez.

"I see the Patch-Bitburg rivalry to play a role in the outcome of the tourney," he wrote.

Small schools: Alconbury, which won this event in 2002, is the top seed after a season spent battling mostly against Lakenheath, a school with just over four times the students as Alconbury.

Perennially powerful Rota is second and Incirlik third, while Hohenfels, a near-.500 club in its first year in the sport, AFNORTH, another newcomer, and 2006 champion Baumholder round out the field.

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