Ramstein, Heidelberg easily defend Europe softball titles
Stars and Stripes August 28, 2006
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The Ramstein Rams and the Heidelberg Lady Generals defended their U.S. Forces Europe softball titles in a walk on Sunday.
Heidelberg rode a seven-run fifth to down Army Europe champion SHAPE 15-8, and USAFE champion Ramstein battered Spangdahlem with a 13-home run barrage in a 45-6 title-game romp.
Ramstein men 45, Spangdahlem 6The championship games of this two-day event, matching the top two teams each from USAFE and Army-Europe, are played without the home-run limit ordinarily used to hold down slow-pitch scores, and the muscular Rams took full advantage of the long ball.
“With no home run limit,” said winning pitcher Tim Snyder, “we liked our chances.”
As it turned out, Spangdahlem had no chance. The Rams led 11-2 after one inning, 18-3 after two and 28-3 after three.
Snyder, tourney MVP Lance Blocker, Shane Byrd and Mark Noll each hit two over the 15-foot-high fences of Grafenwöhr’s new softball complex. By contrast, Snyder limited Spangdahlem to just one homer, a solo shot by catcher Mark Klass in the fourth.
“We’ve played those guys about 20 times this season," Snyder said when asked how he was able to keep the ball in the park while the Ramstein batters were losing softballs by the dozen in the weed-covered berm behind the fences. “We know what they can do. There are no surprises.”
The title was the fourth straight for Air Force men’s teams in this annual interservice battle, unofficially known as the Army-Air Force Final Four. Ramstein won in 2006, 2005 and 2003; Spangdahlem took the 2003 USFE crown.
“We just go out to have fun,” said Blocker, a 2006 addition to the Rams from Camp Darby, Italy. “We’re always glad to bring two Air Force teams into the final.”
Blocker went 7-for-7 in the title game, banging out four singles and a double to go with his two homers. As a team, Ramstein registered 22 hits to just nine for Spangdahlem.
Ramstein reached the final with a 25-10 victory over Army Europe runner-up Kitzingen on Sunday morning that avenged a 20-19 loss to Kitzingen in Saturday’s round-robin play. It was Ramstein’s only loss of the tournament.
Spangdahlem, which lost to Ramstein 15-11 in the round-robin, eliminated Army champion Stuttgart 15-1 in the other semifinal.
Heidelberg women 15, SHAPE 8The Lady Generals, who dropped a one-run decision to SHAPE in the previous week’s Army Europe title game and saw three of their previous four games in this event decided by one run, enjoyed a rare romp.
“It felt great,” said Heidelberg shortstop Leigh Anne Newcomer of the big lead the Lady Generals amassed after their seven-run, fifth-inning rally. “It really took the pressure off.”
The relief was even starker in light of Heidelberg’s tense 13-12 semifinal victory in 10 innings over Air Force runner-up Incirlik in Sunday’s semifinal.
Left fielder Tonya Griffin stroked a home run to provide the winning margin in that game as eventual tourney MVP Mary King-Espinoza shut the Lady Nomads down in the late going.
King-Espinoza came back to hurl the title game victory, adding a two-run homer of her own in the decider.
“I didn’t do anything,” she said. “The defense played very well behind me. All I did was throw the ball in there.”
Heidelberg second baseman Juanita Harvin, whose bases-loaded hit cleared them in the decisive fifth, said the victory made up for the tough extra-inning loss her team absorbed in the Army-Europe title game.
“We always do it the hard way,” she said. “They won USAREUR, but we won the Final Four.”