In an endeavor to continue positive relations with the Marshallese neighbors and friends, U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll/Reagan Test Site staff arranged to have an international softball championship game between the best of USAKA and the Ebeye All-Stars on Ebeye Dec. 11.

The USAKA team arrived at the Ebeye softball field and the two teams banded together to help clean up the rain-soaked field so it was ready for play. Of course, as soon as the field was ready, they were blessed with a torrential downpour. Luckily, the Ebeye All-Stars had graciously put up a tent for spectators and both teams and their fans waited patiently for the rain to subside.

To begin the game, Kwajalein Atoll local government Mayor Johnny D. Lemari threw the first pitch to USAKA Commander, Col. Joseph Gaines. USAKA coach Ray Drefus had his bullhorn ready to announce players up to bat and the Ebeye All-Stars provided an umpire for the game.

As visitors, USAKA went to bat first. Gaines started the game with a solid single. Not wasting any time, Joe Moscone nailed a double, bringing Gaines in for the first run of the game. Pumped for the second inning, Charlie Dodd came up to bat and nailed the ball - right into the two-foot deep puddle a few feet in front of home plate. As we all witnessed throughout the game, the ball seemed to frequent this spot quite a bit, keeping catchers from both teams on their toes.

Later in the third inning, Stephen Parrish got the crowd in the flurry thinking he was going to get a home run, but he was held up at third by the quick Ebeye All-Stars outfield. Mike Sakaio finished the job, hitting a long double, bringing Parrish in to make the score 4-0; USAKA ahead at the top of the third.

The Ebeye All-Stars had a slow start, their first few innings ending rather quickly. But they got into their groove and came alive toward the midway point of the game.

The first run for Ebeye was scored by Almar Taitos in the bottom of the fourth inning. He ran hard into home and made a dive for it to secure the run.

At the bottom of the fifth, the Ebeye All-Stars pulled out all the stops and gave USAKA a run for their money. Pitcher William Robert started off with a sturdy single. Next up was catcher Terry Lorok, who slammed one far into the outfield bringing Robert in to score. The Ebeye All-Stars were quick to show their skill in the outfield and up to bat; they had a good eye for the ball and didn't have one strike-out the whole game.

By the top of the sixth inning, the competition grew more exciting. USAKA came out strong, with Sakaio launching one far into the outfield to bring in Gaines and Lonnie Gentry to score. John Theologidy followed with a firm single. Ebeye answered with a big hit by Stanley Ruben, and by big hit I mean straight to the wretched puddle in front of home plate; regardless, he still got on base. Before you knew it, the bases were loaded thanks to Ruben and Jacklick. The Ebeye All-Stars took advantage and brought the score up to 7-4, USAKA still ahead.

The last inning was by far the best for both teams. Sgt. Maj. Hohn Wolf, who had an injury due to a pre-game scrimmage, came up to bat for the first time. He wowed the crowd as he propelled the ball far into the outfield, hitting a big triple at the end of the game and bringing in two runs. Gaines was up next and sacrificed himself to bring Wolf in to score. Down by six as they went into their last turn up to bat, the Ebeye All-Stars left it all on the field. Lorok, Ruben and Eugene Bejang got the crowd cheering with their big hits and fast plays. But a diving play by USAKA short stop Theologidy ended the game with USAKA as champions, 11-7.

Despite the rain, mud and puddles, the game was full of enjoyment for both teams and the spectators.

"The softball game was a great team building event for our staff," said Gaines, "and the Ebeye All-Stars gave us a real run for our money. Everyone enjoyed themselves and we were honored to have Mayor Lemari throw out the first pitch."

A trophy will be made and held on USAKA until the next championship game can be scheduled - and there will be one soon.

"I look forward to more U.S./Marshallese community events like this in the future," Gaines commented. "I think these events play an important role in strengthening our relationship with the host nation."

It will be quite the game to see. Now that both teams have had the chance to see how the other plays, the next match up will be even more exhilarating and entertaining than this one.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16