Weather won’t cut tournament short

Last year, rain caused the American Fastpitch Assn. National B Tournament to be an abbreviated version of what it should have been.

A series of showers and thunderstorms put a damper on the tournament, forcing officials to cut the weeklong event short because of the unplayable, saturated fields.

The weather shouldn’t be a problem when the tournament invades the Lawrence area this week for the third straight year. More than 120 teams from 20 states, including a team from Canada and Hawaii, will compete in the final tournament of the AFA season.

Officials made changes to this year’s tournament set-up to make more certain they can finish what they start.

Organizers built in a rain day this year to accommodate for rescheduled games.

“We have been really satisfied with Lawrence as a host city,” said AFA assistant state director Kala Bray. “Last year, rain just got in the way.”

Games will be played at more fields this year, with games at Youth Sports Inc., Clinton Lake Sports Complex and Sport2Sport taking up a total of 10 fields each day.

Using Sport2Sport’s field full-time for the tournament this year will help squeeze more games in a shorter period of time. Last year teams played a limited number of games at the facility.

Teams began to come into town on Sunday just in time for Monday’s opening ceremony and tournament pool play, which began at 6:30 p.m. and will continue each day starting at 8 a.m. Teams had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the fields in pre-tournament practice games Sunday.

The Phenix organization not only has the home-field advantage but is helping host the tournament. The 14-U Phenix-Finucane, 16-U Phenix-Fyler and 18-U Phenix-Riling helped welcome teams from out of town before the tournament began on Monday.

On Monday, teams assembled at Free State High School to kick off the tournament with the opening ceremonies.

The AFA fired up the grills for players to get to know one another with a cook-out, and a DJ in the high school commons. The teams let loose before the teams had the opportunity to introduce themselves to one another with short cheers and skits at a presentation ceremony.

A skills exhibition gave players the opportunity to utilize their competitive energy.

The skills competition included racing around the bases in a home run dash. It also included fielding ability and arm strength with a quick cut-off relay and around-the-horn contests. Also, power hitters showed their long-ball hitting ability in a home run derby.

To add to the flare of the tournament, all players in the tournament exchanged gifts after their first game in the three-game pool play.

To qualify, teams had to win a direct berth by taking the top spot in a qualifying tournament. Teams could also have earned enough points to qualify by competing in approximately five AFA-sanctioned tournaments. Two of the AFA-qualifying tournaments were in Lawrence earlier this season. They included the state tournament July 9 and 10, and the Wham Bam Slam on June 18 and 19.