By Pvt. Choi Keun-wooMay 29, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - Perhaps it was meant to be - again. The final games for the 18th Pacific-wide Softball Tournament May 26 featured some of the usual suspects from past tournaments.
The Guzzlers, a four-time winner, battled the American Legions for the men's title. For the women's division, two previous champs - Lady Guzzlers and Sangji University -- swung it out to the end for the women's crown.
In the end, the Guzzlers men's team took their fifth straight title, and Sangji, from Wonju, Korea, retained its crown as women's champs for the second consecutive year.
All told, they beat out 36 teams that brought more than 700 players from Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, the United States, Taiwan, Singapore, and throughout Korea during the four-day Memorial Day weekend tournament.
"We expected to be in the finals," said Tom Costello, head coach for the Guzzlers. "Here you basically have who's who of the Army softball players. They are the best players."
In the men's division, the favorites were the Guzzlers, a composite team made up of softball players - active-duty and civilian - from around the world. They had won the last four years and had at least seven players who had either once played or are still playing for the team.
For just the first few innings of the final game, it was close. Then the Guzzlers ran away with the win.
The American Legions - a joint-service team base on Okinawa, Japan - started with a 2-1 lead by the second inning. With two more runs in the third, the Legions were up 4-1 at the top of third.
Taking advantage of several Legions' errors, the Guzzlers took control in the bottom of the third with five runs, adding seven more in the bottom of the sixth to end the game early 15-5.
The American Legions, having reached the finals from the loser's bracket, had to play multiple games before facing the Guzzlers, the first one as early as 6:30 a.m.
"Playing a lot of games had its toll," said John O'Brien, head coach for American Legions. "But the Guzzlers were a better team."
In the women's division, the final game was a repeat of last year. Sangji University beat the Lady Guzzlers to win in 2007.
This year, Sangji made their way from the loser's bracket and was faced with a tough mission of having to bring down the Guzzlers two consecutive games to grab the championship trophy.
That is exactly what they did.
The first game started well for Sangji, and for the first two innings a possibility of a blow-out seemed possible as Sangji brought home eight runs in the first inning.
The Lady Guzzlers picked up toward the middle of the game, and by the seventh inning the score stood at 15-10.
With a scoreless top of the seventh, the Lady Guzzlers were at bat and brought in four runs.
With two outs and two runners on first and second, the last Guzzler batter hit a disappointing ground ball to Sangji's pitcher, Choi Ka-ram. The first game ended 15-14, Sangji.
The second game was also a close match with the Lady Guzzlers trailing Sangji 7-6 after the second inning.
But with outstanding defense, Sangji wouldn't let the Guzzlers get the runs needed to overturn the game. Sangji won, 12-7.
"I'm very happy with my players," said Sangji head coach Yuh Chul-hoon. "They played to their best of abilities and won the whole tournament. Frankly, I wasn't expecting this."
"This is definitely a let-down, losing to the same team two years in a row," said Lady Guzzlers' head coach Danny Acosta, who was visibly disappointed. "We should have ended this series in the first game. We will be back though."