Although the Travis Field memorial softball tournament drew 14 teams this year rather than the 15 it had in 2010, “the competition is a lot, lot tougher,” said Brian Anderson, one of the popular four-year-old tourney’s founders, who, in fact, had said pretty much the same thing at this stage last year.
But evidence that Anderson, whose Pink Panthers entry is the tournament’s two-time defending champion, is not just speaking through his hat can be found, for example, in the surprising success of the Mighty Midgetts, a team whose lineup includes a number of players from Bono Plumbing and Heating, which failed to win a game in the East Hampton Town men’s slow-pitch softball league’s regular season.
The Midgetts, who have bolstered their tournament roster with some heavy hitters from Riverhead, are one of eight teams that are to play quarterfinal-round games at the Terry King ball field in Amagansett this Saturday.
The tournament was to have ended Sunday night, but because of the all-day downpour, which rendered the field unplayable, with large puddles in the infield and in the batter’s box, the final rounds were put off until Saturday. “If it rains Saturday, we’ll finish up Sunday,” Anderson said Monday morning.
Back to the Midgetts, one of their wins came over the Panthers, who, because of a strong effort by the Greene Machine in an elimination game Saturday afternoon, almost didn’t advance to the quarters.
The Panthers, whose squad is made up of the late Travis Field’s friends, were leading 10-6 going into the top of the sixth inning when lightning, as it were, struck. The Greene Machine’s first batter, Sam Lester, polled a home run, and, with one out, Kamal Jackson, who had earlier made a leaping catch over the center field fence of what appeared to be a home run by Jimmy Miller, drove a two-run shot out of the park.
Jackson’s homer, which pulled the Greene Machine to within one run of a tie, led David Samot Sr., the announcer, to say to the sizable crowd, “We got a game here, folks.”
No sooner had Samot said that than Mike Labrozzi homered to tie the score, and Andy Kassel followed with his team’s fourth tater of the inning, treating Robbie Greene’s team to an 11-10 lead.
In the bottom half, an intentional bases-loaded walk issued to the Panthers’ Andy Tuthill, who is to square off against Joe Sullivan in the home run derby final at around 11 a.m. Saturday, tied the count at 11-11, after which Justin Cruz followed with a sacrifice fly and Anderson drove two more runs in with a double, putting the Panthers up 14-11.
Rocky Notel led off the top of the seventh with a home run for 14-12, but Tuthill, the Panthers’ center fielder, then made two great catches at the fence to stall the Machine, and a game-ending infield out followed.
“It’s nice to have Andy in center field — he’s awesome,” Anderson said after the game.
The lineup, then, for Saturday is to begin with Uihlein’s and Tri-R at 8:30 a.m., to be followed by the Mighty Midgetts and the Bad News Bubs — a team that apparently is the odds-on favorite to win the tournament — at 9:45, the Motley Crew and Hampton Glass at 11, and the Pink Panthers and the Legends of the Hidden Temple at 12:15 p.m., a rematch of last year’s championship.
As aforesaid, the teams are stronger this year, and the Thunder Heat ball, firmer than the one used in the slow-pitch leagues, is livelier, often leaving the bats with an authoritative “crack!” Each batter faces a 1-1 count when he or she steps into the box, and a “strike” mat is positioned behind the plate to assure that things move along with dispatch.
The double-elimination tourney is to end with a championship game at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, to be followed by a second game, at 9, if necessary.
Anderson said that 16 competed in the home run derby, with the top 10 facing each other head to head. The derby’s final four were Tuthill and Chris Pfund and Sullivan and Anderson, who admitted he’d been a bit cowed by the fact that Sullivan had, in the round before, hit 15 home runs off his high-arc deliveries.
Because of the fact that the tournament, now in its fourth year, was able to net $11,000 last year, four scholarships in Travis Field’s memory were given out to Steven Bahns, Dylan Carroza, Myra O’Neal, and Natalie Sequeira, East Hampton High School seniors, in June. The tournament resulted in three scholarships being given out in 2010 — to Danielle Waleko, David Hansen, and Shannon Anderson.
“We hope to raise at least that much this year,” said Brian Anderson.
Many members of the Field family play in the tournament, some with the Pink Panthers, some with the Motley Crew. Travis Field died in 2008 at the age of 20 in a motor vehicle accident. Tuthill, one of the tourney’s founders, who had intended that Field be the best man at his wedding, has said, “He helped me through some hard times — he was always there for you. He’d never say no. When you got to know him, that was it. He’d stick in your mind forever.”