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More teams than ever will be eligible to earn top honors in this weekend’s Pacificwide Open Softball Tournament at South Korea’s Yongsan Garrison, which will welcome players from as far away as Germany and Turkey.

According to tournament overseer Bennie L. Jackson, the top three teams in each of the six round-robin pools (four men’s, two women’s), will be reach the double-elimination playoffs. In past years, it was limited to two each.

That will give 50 percent of the men’s 24-team field and 40 percent of the women’s 15-team field at least seven games, said Jackson, Yongsan’s 34th Support Group sports director. Play begins at 9 a.m. Friday and ends with the championship games at mid-day Monday.

“The number of games each team plays is important,” Jackson said. “These teams come a long way and spend at lot of money” to get to Yongsan. “We want them to play more than five games. Of course, they have to earn their way into the playoffs to do it.”

The field includes the usual number of post- and base-level teams from the Korea Traveling League, U.S. Forces Japan Varsity League and the open tournament circuit on Okinawa. They’ll be joined by a civilian men’s team from Seoul and another from Tokyo.

Also joining the four-day event is Air Force Sports, a women’s team including eight All-Air Force and one All-Army player, some stationed in South Korea, others from the States and two former Pacific Air Forces players now assigned to Europe: JoJo Dancer at Incirlik, Turkey; and Amanda Snyder of Ramstein, Germany.

According to Air Force Sports coach Danny Acosta of Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., who played for Osan Air Base in 2005, the purpose of sending the team to Yongsan is three-fold:

Provide good competition for the players and get them ready for their All-Service tryout camps in August.Promote Air Force softball and try to get the best athletes to submit their tryout-camp requests and résumés.Find players not only talented but who have the “right attitude with a team concept.”“In the States, it’s hard to get good competitive tournaments against other services,” Acosta said. “That’s the main reason we’re going there.”

Air Force Sports’ main challenge could come from defending champion Kadena of Okinawa, Jackson said: On its roster is Twyla Sears, the 2005 Air Force women’s athlete of the year. Air Force Sports’ lone soldier player, Tammy Baldwin of Fort Riley, Kan., is reigning Army women’s athlete of the year.

Going for a men’s title three-peat will be the International Guzzlers of South Korea, which won the tournament in 2001 and also will welcome players from the States: former All-Army standouts Greg Zayas, Jimmy Perez, Jon Nicholson and former All-Army coach Andy Watts.

16th Pacificwide Open Softball Tournament

Dates: May 26-29.

Site: Lombardo Field FourPlex and Field 5, South Post, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea.

Format: Single round-robin, 24 men’s teams, four pools of six; 15 women’s teams, seven in one pool, eight in the other, first 2½ days. Top three teams in each pool qualify for double-elimination playoffs last 1½ days.

Schedule: Opening ceremony 8:30 a.m. Friday at Lombardo Field FourPlex. First round-robin games at 9 a.m. Friday. Last men’s round-robin games at 9:45 a.m. Sunday. Last women’s round-robin games at 12:15 p.m. Sunday. First playoff games at 2 p.m. Sunday. Men’s championship at 12:40 p.m. Monday, with second “if necessary” game at 2 p.m. Women’s championship at 10 a.m. Monday, with second “if necessary” game at 11:30 a.m. Awards ceremonies and post-tournament barbeque follow championship games.

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