By JOHN SCHWARB
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 8, 2001
A fabulous summer came to a happy end Sunday for the 14-and-under Clearwater Bullets as the club team picked up its second national title in a little more than a month by earning co-champion recognition at the National Softball Association World Series in Jupiter.
But a late addition to the co-champions list left the team baffled.
The Bullets had just started its championship-bracket game with the East Cobb (Ga.) Angels Saturday night when lightning struck. The game was canceled, and the teams were invited to return Sunday along with three teams from the loser's bracket.
Instead of playing a tiebreaker, the coaches agreed to end the tournament and allow East Cobb and the Bullets to share co-champion status as the sole unbeaten teams.
But on the NSA Web site (www.nsa-worldseries.com), the Miami Mini Canes are listed as a third co-champion. The Mini Canes were among the three teams in the loser's bracket.
The coach of the Mini Canes is an NSA area director in south Florida. Bullets coach Ed Hofer said it is not hard to connect the dots.
"We're not bitter about it. It's just you don't like that back-room deal," said Hofer, who along with other coaches has written a letter of protest to the NSA. "I'd like to see how they justify that."
The Bullets were untouchable during the tournament, winning five games by a combined score of 58-3.
During the summer, the team also won an AAU national title, an Independent Softball Association state title and an NSA state title.
BOMBERS: How successful was the 18-and-under Clearwater Bombers' summer? A third-place finish at a 124-team national tournament could be considered disappointing.
The Bombers finished third in the American Fastpitch Association Nationals last weekend in Texas as heat and a depleted roster took a toll.
With second baseman Denyve Duncan having already left the team to go to Saint Leo, Kattrina Dowd (Countryside) took over the position. But during a game late Saturday night, she rolled an ankle, and an outfielder filled in.
"With only 10 or 11 players left, it makes it tough," said coach Chuck Poetter, who had also lost Dorothy Donaldson to college. "We just ran out of gas."
Nonetheless, the Bombers fought the eventual tournament winners to the last out. Georgia Southern signee Crystal Crews hit a deep drive in the bottom of the seventh only to watch it reeled in by a Texas Intruders outfielder at the fence.
During the summer, the Bombers won five tournaments and Poetter estimated their record at 59-11.