Zama’s Prather powers parade of upsets
In the scorebook, it simply went down as a 2-1 victory for Zama American’s girls softball team. But the way the Trojans celebrated after Tuesday’s opener, it looked as if they’d won the Far East Tournament first-place trophy.
Certainly, it was merely a three-inning pool-play game. But it came against host Kadena, considered one of the “teams to beat” entering the Far East tournament.
And most responsible was right-hander Alysa Prather, who helped herself with a walk-off, two-run, inside-the-park home run with two outs in the bottom of the third inning, one of three homers she hit Tuesday.
“I was going to bring them home, no matter what. And I did,” Prather said of her mindset going into the at-bat.
A great way it was, Zama coach Veronica Jones said, for the Trojans to ring in the inaugural Far East tournament after “five years of fighting for it.”
“It’s finally happening. I’m so excited. So worth the wait,” Jones said, adding that all 10 teams feel that way, especially after sitting Monday when play was called due to wet grounds. “Their dreams are coming true. They wanted this so much. I wish everybody could see it. They should get a plane ticket to Okinawa.”
For eight-time island champion Kadena, it served as a wakeup call, coach Jesse Costa said after only the team’s second loss of the season.
“The one thing we’ve been struggling with is we don’t start playing ball until the fourth inning,” she said. “If you’re in a three-inning game, by the time you start playing, the game’s over.”
Zama’s comeback victory sparked a parade of upsets on the diamonds and the soccer pitches throughout the Pacific:
n Edgren’s softball team took advantage of four walks, two wild pitches and three errors to score six second-inning runs and beat two-time DODEA Korea champion Seoul American 6-2.
“They did a very good job,” Eagles coach Sarah Richardson said. “Very impressive. Good teamwork, good batting — that’s been our weakness all year. They’ve been working hard on hitting and it’s paying off.”
n At the Far East Baseball Tournament at Camp Zama, Alec Holt ripped two doubles and drove in two runs as host Zama American stunned two-time DODEA Korea champion Seoul American 11-1 as the single-elimination playoffs began.
“Pretty good for being the underdog,” assistant coach Teresa Toribio said. “They’ve been playing really well. I can’t complain.”
n Gabby Navarro’s second-half goal boosted Yokota’s girls soccer team to a 1-0 blanking of Kadena in the Class AA Tournament at Kubasaki. It was Yokota’s first victory over Kadena since the 2003 Class AA Tournament at Zama American.
n After losing twice to the Knights during the regular season, Elijah Gamble and Nile C. Kinnick edged defending Boys Class AA Soccer Tournament champion Christian Academy Japan 3-2 — the first time CAJ has lost to somebody besides Kubasaki and Kadena in Class AA play. Kadena later shut out CAJ 2-0, winning Pool B and dropping the Knights to third. Kinnick took second.
Meanwhile, as expected, defending Girls Class A Tournament champion Osan American captured the top seed of the double-elimination playoff round.
Boys Class A host Matthew C. Perry similarly took the No. 1 seed entering that tournament’s single-elimination playoff.
With Thursday’s forecast calling for rain, Far East Baseball Tournament organizer Ed Fogell decided to accelerate the schedule and finish the tournament on Wednesday.
The championship game is at 4:30 p.m. at Naval Air Facility Atsugi’s Bandy Field.
Similar thought was given to ending the girls softball tournament a day early, but a change in the forecast prompted organizer Ken Hudson to keep the championship slated for Thursday at a time to be determined.