Long car rides can be exhausting, and a 13-hour journey to Lansing, Mich., can test even the most veteran of road warriors, but the Delaware Naturals over-55 softball team made the trip worth their while and won the Eastern United States softball Championship, held Aug. 9-11.
Their road to Lansing was a long one and found themselves in a deep hole to start the tournament. The Naturals just weren’t ready to play and lost their first two games by scores of 13-6 and 7-6.
“We must have had car-lag because we didn’t play very well the first day,” said Roger Howard. “We didn’t hit and we had some miscues. We didn’t play our game.”
They must have slept like lambs because they played like a new team, according to Howard.
“We came out the next day and scored some runs,” said Howard. “We won a game 16-5 and [another] 15-10 and all because Pete (Rendina) became a hitting machine.”
After going 2-6 the previous day, Rendina jacked three two-run home runs and motored for a trio of three baggers.
“Those teams never learned,” said Howard. “They would play him in right field because he’s left-handed but he poked the ball into left-center field and ran the bases.”
From that day on, the Naturals were on a course for the championship after winning five straight games. The championship couldn’t get any more nerve-wracking seeing that Milwaukee was the team that handed them a 13-6 opening loss.
“The caliber of teams was better than they were in the Senior Olympics, but that Milwaukee team didn’t think that we were much of a team,” said Howard.
The Naturals never trailed Milwaukee and eventually won 15-10 due to outstanding pitching and fielding, according to Howard.
“[Milwaukee] started a comeback late in the game but [Rendina] made a [heck] of a play in right-center field that was destined for a three-bagger. We also had some outstanding pitching from Bob Gulezian,” said Howard.
Rendina was named the team Most Valuable Player but he insisted that the win was a team effort.
“It’s not really fair that they would name me MVP because the whole team played well,” said Rendina.
The Naturals will head out to Phoenix in October to play for the national championship.
The Naturals recent regional and national success has generated interest from other seniors who want to join local leagues.
Howard and about 10 other guys met up at the old Indian River High School on Aug. 15 in an attempt to get their over-70 league started, but were still a few players short of a game. Howard is quite certain that next week they will finally have enough guys to start playing.
“We only had 11 guys the other day but there were seven guys I know who usually play that couldn’t make it that day for whatever reason,” said Howard. “I also had a few guys express interest in playing while playing at Dagsboro Church of God the day after, so we’ll have a nice contingent playing.”
The Old Tymers over-70 softball league will meet 9 a.m., Aug. 22 at the old Indian River High School softball field.