Fastpitch softball arrived in North Idaho on the high school girls level this spring.
The players will be even younger this weekend, as the North Idaho and Kootenai girls softball associations conduct league tournaments in Coeur d’Alene.
The minor (grades 4-6) and major (7-9) leaguers played modified fastpitch rules last season and just completed eight weeks of fastpitch play.
Quad Park owner Bob Townsend of Post Falls recognizes that fastpitch’s future is now.
Townsend plans to offer a girls fastpitch league as part of a new fall schedule. Men’s modified fastpitch, along with men’s, women’s and coed slowpitch leagues will be organized pending interest.
“We know we can get coed and men’s,” Townsend said. “The other programs, we’re going to need help from the community, especially fastpitch and modified.”
And the local girls associations are more than doing their part in teaching basic fastpitch fundamentals.
“I think most of the girls have really enjoyed (fastpitch),” said Loni Cook of the KGSA. “There’s a lot more action with the stealing. They were able to catch on.
“The pitching has been great,” Cook added.
Coach Brian Stranger of the NIGSA agrees. One of his fourth graders, Alaina Muehlhausen, is learning to pitch the underhand, windmill, fastpitch style.
“It’s been really rewarding to watch,” Stranger said. “The younger girls throw slower fastpitch than they did in modified because of the timing aspect of getting the windup down.
“The majority of the majors like it better (than slowpitch) because they can steal,” Stranger added. “It’s a more strategic game.”
When the KGSA membership swelled to 850 last year, the NISA formed to help balance the numbers.
With the high schools switching to fastpitch, organizers for each association recognized the need to do the same. They conducted player and coaching clinics to help introduce fastpitch.
Ironically, Coeur d’Alene will be the host for the 1995 Idaho State Girls Slowpitch Tournament and Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament on July 29-30.
But Coeur d’Alene will also send its first representatives to the state girls fastpitch tournament in Boise on July 15-16.
Low tournament turnouts
The season is young as evidenced by turnouts of 11 and eight teams for tournaments during May at Quad Park.
Officials hope this weekend’s Budweiser men’s C slowpitch tournament will draw 20 teams to Quad.
“It seems like in previous years, you could find C teams to come together anytime to play,” said Quad Park owner Phil Marrie. “Teams are getting more selective.”
Next weekend, however, 32 teams are expected for the Miller Genuine Draft men’s D tournament at Quad. “It’s like our season starter,” Marrie added.
“People haven’t really got their summer wind, even though people have been playing ball out here for five weeks.”
Memorable home run
Eleven coed teams spent Memorial Day weekend at play in the O’Douls Spring Classic at Quad Park.
Rob Collins of the Big Foot Tavern in Spokane claimed most valuable player honors in the upper division. Collins’ home run into the wind lifted Big Foot past Action Heating of Spokane 14-13 in the title game.
The lower division champion was Gambino’s of Spokane.
Not only does the ball take on lightning-like quickness coming off the end of the red-hot titanium bats, but they add rocket-like distance, as well.
One home run belted by Sports Cellar outfielder Mike Nyquist measured 411 feet.
Safety is the No. 1 reason why the bats were banned in the Coeur d’Alene recreation and Quad Park leagues.
“We just found out (a titanium bat) crept into a coed game,” Townsend said. “Now it’s a matter of investigating bat bags in every league for every batter.”