Navy, Army Win Veterans Softball Championships

Army hitter John Roberts, of the Village of Amelia, bats during Sunday’s Division 5 championship of the Veterans Softball Tournament at Saddlebrook Softball Complex.

The interservice rivalry between the Army and Navy is at a standoff after the second week of play in the Veterans Softball Tournament.

The Navy withstood a seventh-inning rally by the Army to win the double-elimination Division 4 championship, 13-12 on Sunday at Buffalo Glen Softball Complex. In Division 5 it was also a battle between the Army and Navy for supremacy and there the Army picked up a 15-7 victory in the single-elimination event at Saddlebrook Softball Complex.

In Division 5, the visiting Army 1 team scored four runs in the first and never trailed, thanks to six singles in the inning. That was the pattern throughout the game. Army scored another four runs in the third inning on six consecutive singles and five more in the fourth with four singles, a walk and a 2-RBI double by Chet Gould, of the Village of Caroline. Gould went 4 for 4 with 3 RBIs on Sunday.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Gould said. “Today I just waited for the pitch.

“It’s a funny game.”

Navy did make a run in the fifth inning, when the team scored four runs, but couldn’t continue the threat.

“We just ran out of steam,” Navy manager Joe Rocco said.

Army 1 manager Mike Welch was pleased to win the title but also just to participate in the event with his fellow veterans.

“It’s been a while since Army won the tournament,” Welch said.

“It’s a great experience, it really is. I’d recommend it to anybody who didn’t come out. It’s a fun two weekends.

The Division 4 Navy team jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Army was able to close the gap and went into the bottom of the fifth tied, 8-8. But Navy scored five runs in the fifth inning with the help of two doubles and four singles.

The Division 4 Army team went into the top of the seventh inning still down 13-8. They put up a tough fight, scoring four runs to come up just short.  

“It was a team effort,” Navy manager Jack DiMaggio said. “It seemed like when we needed it, we got the clutch hit.”

DiMaggio pointed out that the Army team had had to defeat Air Force immediately prior to the championship game to earn a berth, so the Army players may have been fatigued.

Despite the close loss, Army manager Chuck Burgett was in good spirits after the game. So good, in fact, that he produced a bottle of scotch and a stack of plastic cups while standing at home plate so that the Navy and Army teams could toast one another.

“We have the shared experience of serving our country,” Burgett said. “We put it all on the line today. Here’s to the champions — Navy — and runner-up Army.”

The tournament for divisions 1, 2 and 3 opened play Sunday at Everglades Softball Complex. Before play began, the teams heard a message about being a veteran from Merle Rodkey, of Spruce Creek, who served in the Navy during World War II.

The Air Force 1 and Army 3 teams emerged as the top teams in the winners’ bracket. Air Force 1 defeated Navy, 19-16, in a second-round game, and Army 3 downed Air Force 2, 18-10. Marines and Army 4 won in the consolation bracket. The championship game between Air Force 1 and Army 3 is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Sunday, after the consolation championship, at Everglades.