Members of Ball Park Motors of Virginia are pictured after they finished first in the Illinois Amateur Softball Association Class C Co-Ed tournament last year at Moore Park. Sports Tap of Alton finished second in last year’s 18-team tournament.
ALTON – Neither stifling heat nor a stinging defeat could sidetrack Ball Park Motors of Virginia on Sunday in the Illinois Amateur Softball Association Class C Co-Ed tournament.
The defending state champs shrugged off an early-morning hiccup and successfully secured the Illinois title at Moore Park. Ball Park won its final six games, including two over Sports Tap of Alton, 15-5 in five innings, and 9-3.
“It’s absolutely the best one that we’ve won,” said Ball Park’s LeAnn “Punky” Hittmeier, a former standout athlete at Mount Olive High.
Danville Lineoff handed Ball Park a 9-8 loss in the team’s second tourney game. Then Ball Park started its six-game winning streak that ended with another Illinois title.
“We showed unbelievable heart and it’s the best championship we’ve ever won,” Ball Park manager Dan Lindley said. “For us to come back in this heat and win six games in a row says a lot about this team. We didn’t get down and we had a mission.”
The plan was to win it for sponsor Bill Park of Virginia.
“He has been sponsoring the team for 20 years and this was all for him,” Lindley said. “It’s our most satisfying championship.”
Sports Tap just couldn’t curb Ball Park’s momentum. The Alton team won its first five tourney games, including three on Sunday, yet couldn’t snag that last victory.
“They just came out and beat us,” Sports Tap manager Travis Cook said of Ball Park. “It’s tough when you get your butt kicked like that. We couldn’t do anything about it. We just couldn’t hit enough.”
Travis Steer, Murry Wortman, Jimmy Maltby and Marc Luttrell smacked home runs for Ball Park in the final two games. Ryan Brown homered twice for Sports Tap.
Steer was selected the tourney’s Most Valuable Male Player and ex-SIUE player Sarah Lange of Ball Park was named the MVP Female Player.
“We had a lot of fight and everybody stayed positive,” said Lange, an umpire in the 2012 state finals. “We showed a lot of heart and you could feel it as we kept going.”
Cami Chrisman of Ball Park joined Luttrell, Wortman, Stear and Lange on the all-tournament team. Megan Stewart, Matt Shampine and Amy Cox of Sports Tap also were all-tourney choices. So were Levin Graham and Crystal Miller of third-place Nergenan Farm of Chapin, plus Darrell Johnson and Erin Hughes of fourth-place Danville Lineoff.
Lotawata Creek of Fairview Heights and Cat Daddy’s of Alton shared fifth place in the 18-team tournament. Just 10 teams returned for the one-day finals after rain washed out two days of competition the previous weekend. A dozen games were played on Friday, Aug. 15, but none the next two days.
“It’s the first time we’ve had something like this,” tournament director Leroy Emerick said of the two-weekend event. “Several years ago, we had a tournament rained out an entire weekend and we played all of it the next weekend.”
He’s hoping teams that played only one tournament game and were unable to return will be partially refunded for their entry fees.
“We need to reimburse them, but how much is what the state needs to decide,” he said.
Emerick added, “If those teams aren’t reimbursed, people will be sadly mistaken if they think those teams will come back here next year.”