ALTON — The Amateur Softball Association Class C Co-Ed state slow-pitch tournament enjoyed a rousing start Friday night at Gordon Moore Park.
The defending champions made sure of it.
Wood Fired Pizza, the 2015 champs as Westco, scored a 13-3, six-inning win over LJW Tax Service of Granite City in the tourney opener. Wood Fired Pizza will resume Illinois Co-Ed action Saturday morning, weather permitting.
“We didn’t hit the ball as well as we should have done, but we played good defense,” Wood Fired Pizza manager Travis Cook said. “Bill (Henricks) really had a great game for us.”
Henricks, the winning pitcher, contributed three hits and four RBIs. Teammate Luke Angelo collected three hits, while Derek Edwards, Brandon Keene and Cook clouted home runs.
“It’s a great way to start the tournament. Everybody was hitting and playing good defense,” said Angelo, the team’s shortstop. He’s the new head softball coach at Civic Memorial High.
Angelo added, “Our goal is to win it again — most definitely. That always is the goal.”
The team also finished first in 2012, when it was Revolution. Ball Park Motors of Jacksonville prevailed in 2013 and 2014 before finishing second last year.
Lightning canceled the skills competition and wet weather delayed the completion of several games the first night. State play is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Saturday and continue through Saturday night.
Tournament coordinator Dean Emerick said Sunday will serve as a rain date, if needed. The state winner advances to the Class C nationals in St. Joseph, Mo.
Leroy Emerick, Dean’s dad, was honored before the first pitch, as were umpire Gary Whyte of Godfrey and AdVantage News sports writer Steve Porter of Edwardsville.
Emerick, 91, a lifelong Wood River resident, was saluted for his years of service, including bringing state softball tournaments to Alton and Moore Park 30 years ago. Emerick’s wife, Helen, also 91, and married to Leroy for 72 years, joined in on the celebration.
“Without Leroy Emerick, we wouldn’t have had this tournament here for 30 years,” Alton Mayor Brant Walker said.
Brett Stawar, president of the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, lauded Emerick for his work and presented him with an award from ASA President Don Brewer.
Since state softball officially became a part of the Alton scene in 1987, it has welcomed nearly 1,300 teams and more than 16,400 players at the four Moore Park fields.
Whyte, 79, received the “Men in Blue” award for his years of service with the ASA. He’s one of this year’s state tournament umpires.
“It’s a great honor and I’m appreciative of the award,” said White, who has been umpiring games for more than 40 years.
Porter 64, was recognized for his years of covering state softball tournaments in Alton. He’s retiring later this month after spending 45 years — the last three at the AdVantage News — covering local sports.