SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
The Sheppard men’s varsity softball team participated in the 2017 Commander’s Cup softball tournament held at Joint Base San Antonio, April 8. This major tournament has become an annual event which pits numerous varsity teams from multiple installations against each other. The tournament is played under the United States Specialty Sports Association, more commonly known as USSSA or U-tip, rules.
Micheal Knetig led the Senator offensive attack with a .692 batting average. Andrew Purshock continues to showcase a rare combination of power, speed and superb athleticism. He batted .656 and led the team in home runs with seven.
This year’s event had 16 teams from as far away as Florida battling it out in two National Invitational tournaments. One tournament featured separate divisions for varsity “A” and varsity “B” teams.
The distinction between the two divisions is based on personnel listed on each team’s roster. Varsity “A” teams are allowed to recruit and pick up players from any installation, no matter the location. As long as the member can show proof of military affiliation, an “A” team can elect to add them to the roster.
On the other hand, varsity “B” teams must utilize talent assigned to that installation with very few exceptions based on personnel location. Consequently, “A” teams have a much larger pool of talented players to choose from. There are some rule differences between the two divisions. “A” teams have a 12 home run limit, while “B” teams have a six home run limit.
In this year’s action, the first of the two tournaments had teams competing against teams within their own division. Ten teams dotted the varsity “B” landscape. No doubt, all of these teams are a combination of the best players each installation can provide. Both tournaments had a three game guaranteed format. Although it was tournament style play, all teams had to play at least three games before being eliminated.
Sheppard, starting out on a winning note, easily dismantled the host installation Ft. Sam Houston squad, 17 – 4. Sheppard currently has 16 players listed on the roster, 12 of which are active duty. Two retirees and two contractors complete the roster. Carlos House, retired Army E-6, paced the Senator effort with a 3 for 3 hitting performance highlighted by all three hits being doubles.
In the next game, Sheppard faced the Hurlburt Field Commandos. This was one of Sheppard’s first big tests. In 2015, the Commandos finished second in the world rankings for varsity “B” teams. Unfortunately for the Senators, the Commandos had too much offense to overcome as they outlasted the Senators 20-14.
Fresh off a tough loss, the Senators faced the GI-40 team based out of lackland AFB. The Senators were able to get on top early, utilize their speed and power advantage, and secure the victory, 15 – 3. Newcomers, Staff Sgt. Wade Clark and Airman 1st Class Patrick Asbell, showcased the team's power by providing two massive 300 plus foot home run shots to help secure the victory.
"This team is young, raw and explosive," said Ron Brown, Senator's co-captain.
Unfortunately the Senators ran into the Cannon AFB team nicknamed Noskillz. The name clearly doesn’t define this team, as Noskillz pulled off the 23-20 win in a last inning thriller. Sheppard finished fourth overall, in the varsity “B” division.
On Saturday Sheppard had to face the eventual second place team out of McConell AFB. Sheppard never really got out of the gate and took an ugly 24 – 1 loss, sending them into the losers bracket and the reality of facing long odds to see a game on Sunday.
A rematch against GI-40 saw team Sheppard bounce back with a much needed 15 – 6 victory. Another tough victory against the Ft. Sam Houston Rangers, 17-14, propelled the Senators further into the tournament bracket. As luck would have it, the Senators had an opportunity to avenge an earlier loss at the hands of Cannon AFB. In a continued display of fortitude, the Senators outlasted a strong Noskillz team 20 – 17, sending them into Sunday play where only six out of 16 teams remained.
On the third day of competition, the Senators would have yet another opportunity to avenge a loss. This time the Senators faced the Commandos once again. The Commandos were up to the task, as they held on to a 18-15 victory to advance in the tournament while the Senators were finished for the day.
“For being a new team and having to rebuild from last year, I could not have been happier with this team’s gumption and attitude during our first big military tournament," said Tech. Sgt Kyle Beisner, Senator coach. "We are that low key, well mannered group of guys that make our statement on the field."