U.S. Air Forces Europe tournament: Lakenheath masters Spangdahlem again
Stars and Stripes August 24, 2009
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — A Spangdahlem player returning to the dugout for the final inning summed it up nicely.
"We win this inning, we win the game," he said to his teammates.
Unfortunately for the Sabres, the words "winning" and "Lakenheath" haven’t been a good combination this season. The Eagles continued their mastery against Spangdahlem with a dramatic 21-19 victory that earned them the final crown as softball champions for U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
The Aviano women won the title with an 18-7 victory over Lakenheath, though they had already won the championship by defeating the visitors three times. All four teams take on their Army counterparts next weekend at Aviano in Army-Air Force Final Four.
The Army and Air Force are both doing away with their season-ending tournaments in all sports starting in the fall.
Ian Walker’s two-run home run with two outs in the seventh was the game winner for the Lakenheath men, who went unbeaten during the tournament and had Spangdahlem’s number all year long.
"I don’t know what it is," Spangdahlem coach Tony Bickerton said. "They just win."
It’s not a lack of passion. Down 16-12 heading into the sixth, Spangdahlem rallied to go ahead. Bill Allen hit a three-run home run and a player was tossed for taunting the umpire while he was rounding the bases. That seemed to push the team on, though, because three of the next four batters hit the ball over the fence as the Sabres took an 18-16 lead.
"We could definitely feel them getting the momentum," Lakenheath coach Todd Seefeldt said. "But this team has been in that situation all year long. We never give up. Sometimes we’ve won and sometimes we’ve lost, but …"
This time it was a win. Lakenheath tied it in the bottom of the inning, but Spangdahlem went out ahead again in the seventh on a three-base error by outfielder Keith Serrano.
Joe Hacker — Lakenheath’s starting pitcher since 2000 and the tournament’s MVP — led off the bottom of the inning with a single. Jared McMillan also singled. Serrano atoned for his error with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Walker won it a few pitches later.
Aviano women 18, Lakenheath 7: Every batter in the lineup had at least two hits as Aviano topped Lakenheath for the women’s title.
There were the only two teams entered in the tournament, so they played a best-of-five. Aviano won four of them, including Sunday’s final game.
"Hitting is 80 percent of this game and defense is the other 20 percent," Dragons coach Angelo Plaza said. "So getting a hit 50 percent of the time is pretty good."
Amanda Finch had four hits and tourney MVP Jennifer Cavanagh had three. Two of those hits came in the fourth when Aviano turned a 4-2 deficit into a 14-4 lead.