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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Bill Chastain took a couple of steps back, preparing to field a grounder up the middle if the batter hit it his way.

“Stee-rike!” the umpire called. A look of relief crossed the face of Chastain, Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler’s pitcher.

It was the only strike of the at-bat. It was the only pitch of the at-bat.

“There’s no margin for error,” Chastain said of the one-pitch format used for the first seven games of Wednesday’s round-robin play in the Marine Forces Pacific Regional Softball Tournament.

“That’s one pitch. You can’t just look,” added Chastain’s teammate, outfielder Israel Stone.

The use of the one-pitch format — a first in the tournament’s almost 30 years of existence — was made necessary by heavy rain that postponed seven round-robin games Tuesday.

Marine Corps Community Services Okinawa Semper Fit Athletics, which oversees the Marine Regional tournament program, chose the format to get the tournament back on schedule. The only other option, officials said, would have been canceling the games.

“Much as we dislike doing this, we either do it or each team has two less games to play,” Sonny Jones of Semper Fit Athletics said.

The one-pitch games started at 9 a.m. and were played in less than five hours, putting the tournament back on schedule. Wednesday’s other seven games started on time, at 2 p.m., and were played under regular Amateur Softball Association rules.

The one-pitch format drew mixed reviews from players and coaches.

“Pitchers who throw strikes will like one-pitch. First-pitch batters will like one-pitch,” said coach Todd Harding of Okinawa’s 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. “Pitchers who struggle to get the ball over the plate will hate it.”

“It makes you more aggressive,” Wing’s Carlos Cardoza said. “It’s tough. You’re up at bat, you’re having to concentrate more. This is different. You have to bring it up a level.”

“It makes your guys step up,” Jones added. “You either do or die.”

At least one coach felt other options could have been explored, such as starting each batter with a two-ball, one-strike count.

“They can look at a couple of pitches rather than make a hasty decision,” said Base coach Kip Hogan. “I don’t think it [one-pitch] should be a regular part of the tournament.”

But in Cardoza’s eyes, using the format didn’t change much. Since all seven teams were subjected to the same change and pressures, the playing field was level.

“This is regionals,” Cardoza said. “You could be down 4-1 and get a 20-run rally, using one-pitch format or otherwise.”

It did change the way coaches and tournament officials had to evaluate players who might be selected to attend the All-Marine tryout camp later this month at Cherry Point Air Station, N.C.

Noting how pressure increases in one-pitch at-bats, Jones said, “Maybe some of these guys do better under pressure than others.”

One former All-Marine player made the radical suggestion that softball adopt a one-pitch, nine-inning format at all levels.

“The games would be less boring,” said Chad Calvert of Okinawa’s 3rd Marine Division/Expeditionary Force. “Something would always happen on every pitch.”

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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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