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Local softball tourney 'is where it's' at'

June 05, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Coaching the Tri-State Thunder 18-under traveling softball team in this weekend's Thunder PONY Qualifier tournament may be the most relaxing part of the entire experience for Missy Cutchall.

Organizing the 40-team tournament, being played at four locations - Williamsport High School, the Pinesburg softball complex in Williamsport, Marty Snook Park in Halfway and Black Rock Park in Hagerstown - in five age groups (18U, 16U, 14U, 12U and 10U), surely makes coaching feel like a breeze.

"The past two weeks have been the (most difficult)," said Cutchall, who played at Hancock High School and Hagerstown Community College in the mid-1990s. "That's the big thing, is making 40 teams happy. (The players) all have SATs or other commitments, too."

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The tournament - the first the Tri-State Thunder organization has hosted in its four-year existence - carries some weight in the world of traveling-team, fast-pitch softball. The winning team in each age group, to be determined in today's championship games, earns a trip to the PONY national tournament.

A star-studded list of area high school talent is participating.

The Thunder 18U team includes James Buchanan's Allie Holland, Hedgesville's Emily Cunningham, Musselman's Kristen Linton, Megan Holmes, Faline Brown and Eileen Garnreiter and Jefferson's Courtni Williams.

South Hagerstown's Brittany Hyatt and Hedgesville's Jennie Finafrock play on the Thunder 16U team.

The Heartbreakers 18U squad includes two of the top prep pitchers, South's Jamie Fowler and Catoctin's Alicia Brandenburg.

Martinsburg's Lexi Rodgers is part of the Pennsylvania Xplosion 18U team.

"It's probably five steps above high school ball," Cutchall said after her Thunder 18U squad defeated the Frederick Heartbreakers early Saturday at Williamsport High School. "Every player out here (on 18U or 16U teams) is probably the No. 1 or 2 player on their high school team."

"This is where it's at," said Heartbreakers 18U coach Terry Burdette, who would know after coaching for the Heartbreakers organization for 12 years and seeing many of his players advance to the college level and beyond. "The big thing at this level is every player is good. You're seeing better pitching, better fielding. It's hard to get a hit."

Cutchall hopes the tournament is a hit itself, both for the players and the organization.

"We get to play here in front of our hometown fans, and it's a fundraiser for us so we can send our kids to nationals," Cutchall said.

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