CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea – Julia Petruff had heard what Far East tournaments are like. The travel. Meeting people from different places. And competing in DODEA-Pacific’s equivalent of a state championship.
The sophomore sort of got to experience that last April 23 when Kadena came from the knockout bracket to win a pair of double-elimination final games against Kubasaki in the DODEA All-Japan softball tournament.
This week, Petruff and her Panthers teammates got the whole package – plus Kadena’s first Far East D-I tournament since 2016.
The fireballing right-hander struck out five Dragons while scattering nine hits in five innings and helped herself with a pair of doubles, a triple and three RBIs and Kadena broke open Wednesday’s final with seven second-inning runs in a 17-7 triumph over Kubasaki.
“This year’s a little different” than the All-Japan tournament, Petruff said. “We’re out of country, we met other people, it was different.”
It was also a bit nerve-wracking, Petruff said. The Panthers entered Far East with a 9-2 record, but lost infielder Janna Hurst to PCS and slugging shortstop Morgan Sayers to a knee injury.
“I was worried that we lost Morgan and Janna, but we pulled through and we were as strong as ever,” Petruff said.
Petruff got plenty of support behind her in the lineup. Her twin sister Jessica was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Ariani Mendoza went 2-for-4 with four RBIs and Lia Connolly and Julia Hunt each drove in three runs.
“They’re hungry. They wanted to be Far East champions,” Kadena coach Jess Geffre said. “They were hungry for it and motivated. This was a well-oiled machine. They wanted it more than anybody else out here.”
The Dragons showed some signs of life: Kristen Lininger homered and stole a base while Taylor Tobin tripled and knocked in two runs.
And the only two games the Panthers lost this season were to the Dragons.
“I’m beyond proud,” Dragons coach Cassandra Pineda said. “One of my seniors with a bum knee, another with an injury to the hand, another one hit in the throat during this game and these girls fought harder than I’ve ever seen. The girls went above and beyond.”
Kubasaki was trying for its first Far East tournament title since winning the D-I in 2018.