YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Mother Nature won big Friday on the opening day of the 2004 Pacificwide Open Softball Tournament, forcing postponement of 52 games.

It was only the second significant delay, and the longer, in the 14-year history of the tournament, the first of the Pacific interservice Grand Slam. Rain in 1997 delayed play about 12 hours.

The few games played Friday morning were plagued by rain that turned the Lombardo Field FourPlex into a quagmire.

“It was like being a duck out there,” Robert Chastain of defending champion Yellow Box said after a 12-7 win over Camp Casey II in one of 10 completed games.

Driving rain, which began during the coaches’ meeting Thursday, scrubbed the opening ceremony for the first time ever.

Play began at 9 a.m. after the FourPlex grounds crew spent about four hours preparing three fields. But the rain continued and conditions deteriorated, especially in the infields, and play was halted at 1 p.m.

“We had standing water in some places,” said Bennie L. Jackson, the 34th Support Group sports director who founded the event and has been its organizer since 1991. “I didn’t want somebody to get hurt. The infield was becoming unsafe, especially around home plate was becoming slippery.”

Third baseman Mike Upton of South Korea’s Kunsan Wolf Pack found fielding and baserunning equally treacherous. He fielded a grounder and made the throw with a soaked ball, but managed a 3-for-3 effort at the plate.

“I had trouble moving. I was sinking everywhere,” Upton said. “Running the bases was horrible. I was slipping everywhere.”

The batter’s boxes appeared to be under water from the outset, and some fielding plays were just about impossible.

“Balls were disappearing into the lakes,” said Osan/TPS men’s coach Robert Waddle, adding that on one hit back to the mound, the pitcher dropped the ball into a puddle in front of the rubber. “He was splashing around just looking for the ball.”

Play was set to resume at 6 a.m. Saturday. Round-robin play is scheduled to continue until 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

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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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