Keith Gilchrist of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing hits a two-run homer in the first inning of Wednesday’s 17-1 win over defending champion Base.

Keith Gilchrist of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing hits a two-run homer in the first inning of Wednesday’s 17-1 win over defending champion Base. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — 1st Marine Aircraft Wing rolled unbeaten through the round-robin phase of the Marine Forces Pacific Regional Softball Tournament and earned the top seed in the double-elimination playoffs.

But it’s meaningless, says Wing coach Larry Borum. His team did that the past two years, only to lose the 2004 championship in two games to 3rd Force Service Support Group, then in 2005 to Marine Corps Base Camp Butler.

“Two years in a row, we’ve been double-dipped in the championship,” Borum said Wednesday, minutes after Wing earned that top seed by pounding defending champion Base 17-1 in a game ended after five innings by the 12-run mercy rule. “I’m not counting on anything.”

Round-robin games and double-elimination games are different, coaches and players said.

“The sense of urgency, more than anything else,” two-time All-Marine third baseman Eduardo Santiesteban said of the difference.

Round-robin games are sometimes the first ones regional teams play together as a unit, with the hope that by when playoffs start, “you’ve jelled somewhat, especially the younger players,” Santiesteban said. “These games are to work out the kinks, know who you’re playing with and see what the kids can do.”

Last year, Base went winless in round-robin play but ratcheted up its game during the playoffs and rolled to the title.

Base coach K.J. Basso has experienced the other side of that coin as a player and a coach. In 2001, he played for a 3rd FSSG team that looked unbeatable, only to fall to Marine Corps Base Hawaii in two games. He suffered the same fate coaching 2nd FSSG the past two years at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“I was unbeaten in round-robin for two years in regionals and walked away with nothing,” Basso said.

Even with an umblemished round-robin record, Wing still has its work cut out, needing to win twice to reach Friday’s championship round for a third straight year. “We still have to get there,” Borum said.

Defending champ AF women routed in All-Armed ForcesHILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Billy Hardy thought he’d seen it all in his five years of coaching in the All-Armed Forces women’s softball tournament. Never before, however, had his All-Air Force team lost a game by the 10-run mercy rule.

That happened Tuesday as Air Force began its two-time title defense on a down note, losing 21-6 in six innings to Army, which Air Force edged for last year’s title at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

“It was ugly,” Hardy said of a game in which Air Force managed only eight hits, made three errors, even walked the No. 9 batter with the bases loaded.

“You can’t do that here. We didn’t hit, we didn’t make plays,” Hardy said. “But we’re coming back. I have confidence in them. We’ll be back tomorrow.”

This year’s Army squad features nine-time All-Army first baseman Viv Colbert and rookie shortstop Roxanne Finks of South Korea’s Yongsan Garrison.

Two-time All-Armed Forces outfielder Kischa Scott-McCloud of Osan Air Base and former All-Air Force second baseman Latricia Munday of Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, and 2004 All-Armed Forces pitcher and 2005 Air Force Athlete of the Year Twyla Sears of Okinawa’s Kadena Air Base are on the Air Force roster.

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