by Ho Hoffman 22. November 2011 08:50

GALLATIN, TENNESSEE - The Villages Vixens made it three National SPA Women’s titles in a row but it didn’t get any easier as they needed some late inning heroics to keep the streak intact.

Trailing 4-2 with two out in the sixth inning against the Golden Gals in the third game of best two-out-of-three finals, the Vixens came up with the big hit. Karen Clausen’s two-out single scored both Tiny Cazel and Linda Landry to tie the game at 4-4.

In the seventh it was tournament MVP Aileen Laing who supplied the key hit plating Terri Skinner from third with two-out for the eventual game winner and a 5-4 lead.

Laing wasn’t finished because in the bottom of the seventh she was the middle player in a rally-killing 4-3-5 double play to choke off the Golden Gals’ hopes.

With a runner on first the Golden Gals batter hit a grounder to Vixen second baseman Wendy Neff, who threw out the batter. The runner tried to make it to third but first baseman Laing fired a dart to Bev Morgan, who slapped the tag to complete the double play.

The next batter grounded out to end the game.

“Those plays were the difference between winning and losing,” Vixen’s coach and SPA women’s 65 Major Manager-of-the-Year Alan Mahar said, “To win championships you need to have a lot of luck and be able to make the defensive plays and have the two-out hits.”

The Villages Vixens must have had a lot of luck this year because the championships continue to pile up. With 2011 championships at Gallatin, Pensacola, Columbus, Huntsman and a second at Fort Myers, the gold medal count has climbed over 20.

Not bad for team which has only been around for three years.

“You need a solid team effort in each and every game and every tournament to accomplish that,” Mahar said, “The biggest difference between us and other teams is we have hitters from the first spot in the batting order to the twelfth spot. We do not have any easy outs in our batting order.”

“Every team has at least five-or-six good hitters,” Mahar continued, “but what decides who wins and who loses is usually determined by the bottom six batters in the order and our bottom six are as good as a lot of team’s top six”.

“Because of that our girls have a lot of confidence in each other,” he continued, “They do not feel that additional pressure of one-or-two people having to deliver because they know there is somebody always there to pick the team up.”

Because of the team balance, everybody on the Villages Vixen roster plays.

“They may not play every game in the tournament but they will all play a few games,” the manager said.

Laing had an outstanding tournament for the Vixens hitting .824 with an on-base percentage of .842 to go along with a team high 14 hits. Joining Laing as tournament All-Americans were Lee Dragon (.643 BA, .722 OBP, 9 hits); Karen Clausen (.600 BA, .692 OBP); Terri Skinner (.500 BA, .600 OBP); Brenda John (.526 BA, .550 OBP,10hits,9 runs, 7 RBI’s) and Jeanne Harrington (.722 BA,.750 OBP, 13 hits, 10 runs, 8 RBI’s).

Other members of the Villages Vixens are Dar Huntsinger (,235 BA, .409 OBP); Deanna Rhea (.455, .538); Wendy Neff (.667 BA, .692 OBP); Tiny Cazel (.500, .529(; Virginia Roward (.615 BA, .615 OBP); Bev Morgan (.400 BA,.400 OBP); Linda Landry (.667 BA, .688 OBP, 10 hits, 7 RBI’s); Karen Adams (.533 BA, .611 OBP, 10 RBI’s),Bobbi Crocker (.182, .308) and assistant coach Fred Greenlee.

Mahar also spoke highly of the Golden Gals, the team they have beaten the last two years in the deciding third game for the SPA National title.

“The Golden Gals are our neighbors, we are both from the Villages,’ he explained, “They are a very talented team and in the majority of the tournaments it always seems to come down to us playing each other for a championship. That shows the type of talent we have here in the Villages, I think we (the Villages) have two of the best women’s senior softball teams in the country.”

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Tournaments | Women


by Ho Hoffman 22. November 2011 08:35

GALLATIN, TENNESSEE – Some say it takes a village but Dreamgirlz SPA 50 major Coach-of-the-Year Elliott says, “It takes the entire team” to win a National Title.

The Norfolk, Virginia team did that using a full 20-player roster to go 6-0 in pool and bracket play to win the five-team SPA 50 Major title in Gallatin, Tennessee.

“The secret to us winning the Gallatin National was  we had our entire team there,” Elliott said,  “It was the first time ever, we had our full squad at an SPA tournament and it helped us to win our first SPA National championship.”

As effective as they were in pool play outscoring the opposition 38-21, they were downright nasty in bracket play with a 46-15 differential in the three games.

“Our result was sort of surprising,” team captain Freda Jones said, “We came into the tournament not knowing what to expect because we had never played these teams before.”

“I think maybe because we weren’t sure of what to expect, we concentrated on playing our best games and I think that is what happened  We just kept saying five runs or crooked numbers every time we came to bat” Jones added.

The big question is how do you play twenty players in a six game tournament and keep everyone happy?

“No problem at all,” Elliott said, “With the run differential in pool and bracket play we were able to give everyone ample playing time. You always need extra runners and the weather also determines how often you have to sub.  Another thing, with our team, we do not lose that much when we sub non-starters for starters.”

Of course every team needs a leader and the leader in Gallatin was Tournament MVP Diane Mobley, who compiled a lofty .727 batting average. All-American tournament selections from the Dreamgirlz are: Barbara Miles-Davis (.583), Barbara Foxx (.695), Cynthia Tucker (.521), Debra Tucker (.687) and Sylvia Echols (.714).

The rest of the roster who also played a huge part in the title run are: Kathy O’Meara (.710), Jan Jones (.574), Diane Rooks (.550), Jones (500), Treva Green (.500), Linda Puentes ).444), Gina Sivells (.444), Vanessa Farrington (.418), Carolyn Cotterell (.333), Ernestine Saunders (.333) and Terri Houpos (.333). Also instrumental in Dreamgirlz success are assistant coaches Angela Holloway and Harlin Trapp, scorekeeper Diane Graham , team president and manager Jo Ann Moore and Elliott, the 2011 SPA 50 Major’s Coach of The Year.

Dreamgirlz relies a lot on teamwork and fellowship.  The team is actually run by a committee. They have a President (Moore), Secretary (Terri Houpos), Chaplain (Jones), Treasurer (Carolyn Cotterell) and the coach (Elliott).

“Our team has been together since 2007,” Moore said, “We started adding players to strengthen the team each subsequent year and that has helped us to get to where we are today.”

“It is a good feeling to win a National title, especially when the teams we played were so good,” Moore said, “There is no doubt winning gave us  the lift because we went on to win in Myrtle Beach, giving us two SPA tournaments and two SPA championships.”

All three Jones, Moore and Elliott believe the secret to the Dreamgirlz success is the closeness of the team.

‘The camaraderie of our team is awesome, we all get along so well,” Jones said, “Everyone realizes they will get to play and they all want to win. We have so much love for one another and we not only respect each other but also the other team and the game in general. We are also all in accord with coach Elliott and we all respect and listen to him.”

They are definitely a coach’s dream and ironically that is how they got their name.

“I had a dream one night and was thinking if I ever would coach a woman’s team I should call it Dreamgirlz,” Elliott, who has been coaching women’s team since 1963 said, “ When I got the call to coach this  team it was like someone had already told me what to call them and the name was Dreamgirlz.”

One thing they would still like to add to the mix is a sponsor.

“We are self sponsored and hold a lot of fund raisers to support our other tournament expenses,” Moore said, “It certainly would be nice to obtain a sponsor to  help offset those expenses. There is little doubt the sponsor would benefit from name  recognition and exposure as a result of all the tournaments in which we participate.”

A sponsor could do a lot worse with his promotion budget, where better to place that money than with a Dream that does come true?

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Tournaments | Women


by Ho Hoffman 21. November 2011 10:39

GALLATIN, TENNESSEE– For the third straight year the SPA Women’s 70’s National Championship title is heading north across the Canadian border to Southern Ontario province’s SPORTACULARS.

Not only have the Canadian ladies won three straight championships, they have yet to be beaten in bracket play. In 2009 it was 4-0, 2010 3-0 and this year 3-0 for a10-0 record in the championship double elimination bracket contests.

“Regard less of how old you are or how many championships you win you never get tired of it,”2011 SPA Women’s 70 Division Manager-of-the-Year Sylvia Mengl said, “We all liketo compete and as long as we can still compete you never get tired of playingand winning.”

Winning has become a rite of passage for the Sportaculars ever since they were formed asa 50’s team more than twenty years ago. This year has been especially fruitful. In addition to the SPA Nationals they have won the SPA Columbus, Ohio Heart of Ohio tournament; another three-peat at the Huntsman games, the United States Senior Olympics in Houston and a second in Phoenix.

“We love coming to the States to play,” Mengl said, “Actually we don’t have anyother options since the only other 70’s team in Canada is in Vancouver (3,000miles to the west) and the Canadian tournaments do not have an age division for us unless we want to play in the 35-40 group.”

Mengl also said, “It is no contest as to who has the best run women’s tournaments inthe States and that is SPA. We just wish there were more of them a little closer since we are a self-sponsored team.”

Mengl was also proud of the fact that five of the original Sportaculars who took to the diamond 22-years ago are still playing. That quintet is Mengl, Adeline Rosmus, Jean Mills, Jackie Crawford and Earlene Fogal., Mengl and Rosmus have also been inducted into the SPA Hall of Fame.

The secret to the team’s success is simple; keep in shape.

“We all love to compete in anything during the off season be it curling, bowling,badmitten or tennis,” Mengl said, “I just love to play tennis, almost as much as softball, Well, not really but I do like tennis.”

Being in shape helped the ladies go 5-1overall in Gallatin losing only to Freedom Spirit of Florida 8-1 in the final pool game. In bracket play it was over quickly as the champs defeated the Golden Girls 14-4 and the Tennessee Senior Stars twice by a 16-7 and 15-10count.

In an unusual MVP selection, the girls decided the MVP was the entire team and the team received the bat.

“Itdidn’t surprise me thatwe all thought everyone contributed equally so as a team we were our own MVP,” Mengl explained.”We all respect each other and thereis never anything negative said, it is always positive reinforcement.”

“That is part of our secret for winning,” she continued, “That and teamwork and a strong passion for the game and always wanting to compete at the highest level of play possible.”

Nextyear the Sportaculars will get that wish because they will compete as a major meaning opponents will be able to use an extra player in the field during the game.

“Wetreat that as an honor being moved to major,” the Hall of Fame manager said, “It took us 22 years to get to this point and we don’t want teams staying away from tournaments because they don’t think they would be able to compete with us. Whatever it takes to level the playing field to make the games competitive, we are in agreement.”

GallatinAll-American selections for the Sportaculars went to Delsie Clayton, Arlene Johnson, Lil Baughman, Nean Bohn and Mengl. Other members of the team are Rosmus, Mills, Crawford, Mary Cole, Helen Edwards, Doreen Garrett, Barbara Keller, Arlene Marshall, Claudia Wasik, Judy Bolton, Mady Szumlinski, Mary Lynne Patterson, coach Dave Keller and scorekeeper Lucy Parker.

Despite being moved to majors, the only big problem the ladies may face in 2012 is getting anymore championship hardware back across the border. The border guards have got to start being suspicious soon.

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Tournaments | Women


by Ho Hoffman 21. November 2011 10:19

GALLATIN, TENNESSEE – It was a different age bracket but the result was the same as the MARYLAND ROADRUNNERS added the 2011 SPA Women’s National championship to their 2010 SPA “50” Major national title.

The Maryland team earned the 2011 crown by coming out of the loser’s bracket to first edge the Golden Girls 11-9 and then force a “winner take all” game by defeating Jolico 12-6 before defeating Jolico 11-2 in the eventual title game.

“Jolico is a very good team,” Roadrunner “55”’s SPA Co-Manager of the Year Janet Mitchell said, “We play them at least eight or nine times a year because we are always at the same tournaments and have developed a friendly rivalry with them. At this tournament, we just had a better Sunday than they did. At the Huntsman games they beat us to win the silver medal, while we got bronze.”

Huntsman was one of only two tournaments in seven tries; the Roadrunners have not won this year. Championship trophies have come from tournaments at Pensacola, Columbus (Ohio), Raleigh, Gallatin and Fort Myers. The other finish was a second at Reno.

“This has been a very good year for us,” Mitchell said, “We have been really playing well.”

To keep their game sharp the majority of the team plays in a women’s 40-and-over league in Montgomery County, although they are all not on the same team but split up among a number of other teams. They also try to practice on the weekends.

“We really enjoy playing softball together,” Mitchell said, “The chemistry among us is nearly perfect we get along so well. We look forward to traveling together and the fellowship is just great. We are truly just like a Band of Sisters.

Mitchell points out one of the key factors to the team getting along so well together is the team code. A list of nine “rules” important to the team’s existence. Liz Dommel is credited with putting down in words the way in which the team operates.

                                         ROADRUNNER CODE

1.     We always play to win; but we do not win at all costs.  We win as a team, not as individuals.  We strive to be competitive in every game.

2.     We practice faithfully because we’ve made a commitment to our teammates and we do so because we know practice makes us better as a team.  We understand that people have commitments and may miss practices occasionally.  If the coaches and captains feel a player’s absence from practice has become a problem then it must be addressed with the player.

3.     We always give our best effort and we know that each of our teammates is also giving her best effort.  We make mistakes, but we do not dwell on them.  We move on and, in doing so, improve ourselves.  Negative body language and words cause stress.  A negative reaction to a mistake causes everyone’s focus to shift from the game to the mistake.

4.     We know we play best when we’re relaxed.  We work hard to avoid stress and turmoil because they take our focus from our goal.  We communicate openly with each other to avoid misunderstandings that may lead to stress and turmoil.

5.     We graciously share our playing time with our teammates because we think as a team and we play as a team.  We do not expect our playing time to be pre-determined and equal, but we want everyone to have the opportunity to contribute.

6.     We respect our coaches, are open to their instructions and abide by their decisions.

7.     We only exhibit and allow positive and supportive attitudes on the field of play.  We do not criticize, minimize or ostracize.  We treat our teammates as we want to be treated by them.

8.     Our skills, attitudes, chemistry and respect for each other and our coaches are the keys to winning.

9.     We support each other not only on the field of play, but also in our daily lives because we have become much more than a softball team.

The team is also self-sponsored supported by player’s donations, fund raisers and in 2011 some generous contributions by some of the husbands.

“We play a lot of tournaments so everyone can not afford to go to all the tournaments,” Mitchell explained, “So occasionally we have to pick up additional players for some tournaments to fill the gaps, but the majority of our players are all from the Maryland area and Northern Virginia.

At Gallatin the team was led by Tournament MVP Sharon “Okie” Allen who carried an eye-popping .725 batting average. Earning All-American tournament recognition were Delores Grandison (.675), Sheila Hutchison (.667), Pam Mest (.650), Mary Byrnes (.600) and Maggie Bennett (starting pitcher, .570). 

Byrnes also joined with Mitchell received SPA Women’s “55”’s National Co-Managers of the Year Awards.

“Mary and I do everything together in handling the team,” Mitchell said, “We do the batting orders together and also make certain everybody plays. It is a great situation that we have each other, it makes it so much easier. Our teammates are so cooperative and helpful, which makes running our team this way possible.”

The rest of the National champion Roadrunners are: Liz Dommel, Joyce Kraimer, Barb Hyde, Gail Chambers, Kim Long and Patti Martin.

‘This has just been a great year for us and we are all looking forward to 2012,” Mitchell said, “It will be our 13th year together and I am sure it will be just as enjoyable as the previous twelve.”

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Tournaments | Women


by Ho Hoffman 21. November 2011 10:13

GALLATIN, TENNESSEE – Sports World battled back from a sub-par 1-2 pool play record to take the six-team 40 AAA SPA Women’s Division national title with an undefeated effort in double-elimination play held at Gallatin, Tennessee..

The champs started their run in the double-elimination brackets with a 22-9 win over Ladies First and followed it up by avenging a pool play loss (0-7) to Lews Crew with a 17-12 verdict. Sports World finished the blitz by downing Ladies First for a second time, this one by a 12-9 count.

Tournament honors went to MVP Myra Jane Goodson and SPA 40 AAA Manager-of-the-Year Dana Whited. All-American selections were Tonya Stone, Reechelle Troyer, Tracie Edwards, Susan Quarles and Brenda Everette.

Other members of the championship Sports World team are: Christi Russell, Robin Bergdorf, Miranda Johnson, Carrie Campbell and Tammy Jones.

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Tournaments | Women

About the Editor

Ho Hoffman of Wadsworth,Ohio is a sports writer for the Medina (Ohio) Gazette daily newspaper. Hoffman also has been playing competitive softball for nearly sixty years and 3,000 games starting in the adult fast pitch leagues as a teenager and continuing through into today's 70's senior division.  

Hoffman for the past twenty years has also been playing on senior softball travel teams. In addition, he along with Red Bole are the tournament directors of the highly successful SPA Ohio Buckeye Classic June senior softball tournament which last year drew 77 teams, in the 50, 55, 60, 65, 70 and 75 AA and AAA only divisions. 

He is also married. He and his wife Sue have three sons who are also active in softball and baseball. The youngest Matt plays adult slo-pitch softball, Mike plays Roy Hobbs 40-and over baseball and Marc is the founder, owner and president of U.S. Baseball Academy, the nation's largest baseball training program.


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