Most times, the top and middle of a softball team’s lineup gets the job done. In the case of Osan Air Base of South Korea, the middle and bottom took care of business Sunday.

And the Defenders benefitted by capturing the men’s title in Firecracker Shootout softball tournament in their first appearance since winning it in 2008. Osan beat the same foe it faced in the final six years ago, rallying from 4-0, 6-4 and 9-8 deficits to dethrone American Legion of Okinawa 17-12.

“Pretty good. Awesome,” said Justin James, a two-time All-Armed Forces outfielder who was with that Osan team in 2008. “I told the guys it would be tough, it would be hot, but they worked hard and got the job done.” The women’s final saw a repeat of a different sort. Led by tournament MVP Megan Soldano, the Okinawa Dragons won their second consecutive Firecracker, disposing Revenge 15-2 in five innings. Leading the way for Osan were Chaz Wilson, who had two inside-the-park home runs, a double and five RBIs. Jabbari Cooley homered and drove in three runs and Ben Ernst and Jamie Cummins each had two RBIs for the resilient Defenders. They settled the outcome with a nine-run sixth inning. A Wilson RBI double gave Osan the lead for good 10-9. Cooley, Cummins, Jeramy Aponte, Robert Goodman, Charles Cornacchio and Willie Wilson each had RBI hits and Ernst and Anthony Formell added sacrifice flies.

“The middle and the bottom of the lineup held us up today,” James said, also citing a catch by left-center fielder Aponte that robbed American Legion of a home run in the second inning. “The defense was sound all weekend.” For the former champions, Eddie Perez homered and drove in three runs, Brandon Wolfgang had a home run and two RBIs and Tommy Meinhart hit two sacrifice flies.

“Déjà vu all over again,” Legion coach John O’Brien said. Any Defenders celebration back at their home some 45 miles south of Seoul may be put on hold. They are due to fly out of Okinawa on Tuesday, the same day that Typhoon Neoguri is due to strike the island as a possible Category 5-equivalent storm.

“I have no idea,” James said of what the team might do if stuck on Okinawa. “Hopefully, we’ll try to get out early.”

No such issue existed on the women’s side, as the Dragons made quick work of Revenge in an all-Okinawa final.

Soldano went 3-for-3 with a double and three RBIs, Rebecca Wilkinson added three hits and three RBIs and the Dragons broke the game open with an 11-run third inning. “Huge tournament,” coach Lawrence Occomy said of Soldano, who had just one game all weekend in which she didn’t reach base every time up.

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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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