Last year, the Delaware Naturals 70-and-over AA slow-pitch softball team fell just one inning short of winning the Senior Softball World Championship and the Triple Crown (eastern championship, western championship and world championship). An 11-10 world championship loss to their ageless counterparts in Seattle ended their famed run last year, but another year brings new hopes.
The Delaware Naturals beat the Michigan Lakers to win back-to-back Eastern Slow-pitch Softball Championships on Aug. 10, giving them an automatic bid to play the Western champion for the national title in Seattle, Wash., in September.
The Naturals went undefeated in five games, beating teams from Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, while scoring an average of 17 runs per game. They limited their opponents to just five runs per game behind strong play from Newark pitcher Bobby Gulezian.
Gulezian, outfielders Frank Williams of Ocean View and John King of Wilmington earned Most Valuable Player awards for the Naturals during the Eastern Championship tournament.
Local Old Tymers softball players Don Edward, Bill Howlett, Pete Rendina, Bob Schaffer and Jimmy Wright are also members of the Delaware Naturals.
Currently, the Delaware Naturals are listed in the AA division but may move up to AAA if they continue to win championships.
According to Howlett, a team is placed in a certain division by how many of their players can run, throw and hit. A team can be moved up a division if they continue to dominate their division despite the quantity of players with those skills.
“Last year, we really were a Triple A team. But if we win the National and World title then we’ll move up,” he said.
With so little separating the Naturals from softball immortality, Howlett mentioned that his team has made the appropriate acquisitions to ensure a better showing in this year’s National and World Championships.
“We have a total of 16 guys this year, instead of 11 on last year’s team,” Howlett said. “And three or four of them can do all but one of those things (run, hit or throw).”
Once you hit older age, especially in the 70’s, Howlett (75) said, it becomes more difficult to do some of the things that many of the players had done all their lives — but having extra players helps.
“Most of the guys are in pretty good shape,” the former semi-pro baseball player said. “But it’s more difficult for some guys to run the bases. We’re allowed a courtesy runner in league play from the time the ball is hit, but you can’t do that in tournament play.”
“Adding these guys should help,” Howlett said.
The Delaware Naturals, among others, will travel to Seattle, Washington to compete in the National Championship on Sept. 9. The World Championship round will follow the national tournament directly and will run though Sept. 14.