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Weekend will see if others join Royals as leading contenders

By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 27, 2017

Resurgent teams from Wiesbaden and Stuttgart and a suddenly beatable Ramstein squad have produced the most unpredictable DODEA-Europe Division I baseball race in years. In Division I softball, however, the picture is much less convoluted.

The Ramstein Royals, a year after settling for second place when the 2016 European championship game was canceled due to weather, are charting a clear course back to the Division I final. The Royals have crushed both the Wiesbaden Warriors and Stuttgart Panthers in doubleheaders by a combined 69 runs over the four games, sending an emphatic message to the defending champion Panthers and the rest of the large-school field in the process.

The Royals have succeeded this season thanks to an influx of new talent surrounding a core of experienced seniors. Abby Walker has dominated on the mound while Sierra Nelson and Savanna Sparrow are among the team’s many hitters keeping Royals circling the bases on offense.

Ramstein is due to face two fresh challenges this weekend as northern Division I schools SHAPE and Lakenheath visit Friday and Saturday, respectively. The undefeated Lancers are the more imposing foe, having handled SHAPE 18-3 and 24-3 last weekend, but they’ll need to be at the top of their game to knock off the title-hungry Royals.

Ramstein and Lakenheath make up half of Division I’s set of four teams with perfect divisional records entering the final weekend of April.

Naples has beaten Italian rivals Vicenza, Aviano and Sigonella twice apiece to earn its 6-0 overall and 2-0 Division I marks. Vilseck thoroughly dominated Kaiserslautern 12-3 and 12-1 in its lone divisional doubleheader before faltering the next week in a split with Division II/III Hohenfels.

Naples and Vilseck are scheduled to join Stuttgart in an anticipated four-team Division I meet this weekend at Vicenza, though expected inclement weather might prevent those games from being played. If the games do go on as planned, or if Lakenheath finds success against Ramstein, this weekend’s flurry of large-school softball action might introduce some clouds on the Royals’ sunny spring outlook.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

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