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SOFTBALL: Big Spring tournament a key for playoffs hopes

NEWVILLE >> This is the time of year when softball coaches become very aware of where their teams are in the District 3 power rankings and what they need to do to improve their team's standing.

That will definitely be on the minds of the eight coaches competing in Saturday's fourth annual Bulldog Classic Softball Tournament at Big Spring.

The winner will have three wins and gain plenty of power points, since five of the teams are Class AAAA and the other three are AAA.

"It's a very competitive tournament with a lot of AAAA schools, so there a lot of power points to be had," said Greencastle-Antrim coach Mark DeCarli, whose team won the title last year.

Shippensburg coach Mike Peters said, "Two years ago we came into this tournament with two straight losses and we needed to do well for the rankings. We ended up winning it. This year, we're in a tighter spot and because we're a AAAA school now, and I think we need to win at least two games."

Chambersburg is the third area team in the event, and Trojan co-coach Ted Bittinger said, "It used to be that these tournaments were played just for fun, but since they put in the power rankings all games count, so these end up being three important games."

In Saturday's first round, which starts at 8:45 a.m., Chambersburg (6-5 as of Wednesday) plays Spring Grove (3-8) at Mt. Rock Elementary, Shippensburg (6-4) takes on Muhlenberg (5-8) at Oak Flat Elementary, Greencastle (7-2) faces South Western (6-3) at West Pennnsboro Park and host Big Spring (6-4) plays at its high school field vs. New Oxford (3-7).

The winners play semifinals at 1:30 at the high school and Mt. Rock, and the championship is slated for 3:45 at the high school.

Chambersburg, which had its best finish in this event in 2012 (runner-up), has been able to rack up plenty of hits in its games this season, but sometimes the hits aren't falling at crucial times, and at other times, too many errors have cost the Trojans.

Bittinger said, "We're not getting that big hit with the bases loaded, or a runner at second. We've been one or two hits away from blowing open a couple of games that we lost. Hopefully in these games we can straighten that out."

Shippensburg has lost three of its last four, but those defeats were to G-A, Chambersburg and unbeaten James Buchanan.

"We're still a work in progress," Peters said. "We've played some really solid ball, but not for a seven-inning game. We need to have that consistently and there's no better place to start than the Big Spring tournament."

The Blue Devils enter with the best record, having won three in a row. Greencastle's only losses are to JB and Cumberland Valley, teams with a combined one loss, and it has averaged scoring nearly seven runs per game.

"Coming in as the defending champions, we're hoping to repeat," DeCarli said. "With all the AAAA schools, this is a very competitive tournament."

Big Spring Classic Softball Tournament

When: Saturday, with first round at 8:45 a.m., consolation round at 11:15, semifinals and 7th-place game at 1:30 and championship and games for 5th and 3rd place at 3:45.

Where: Four fields near Newville – Big Spring H.S., Mt. Rock Elementary, Oak Flat Elementary and West Pennsboro Park.

Teams: Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Greencastle-Antrim, South Western, New Oxford, Spring Grove, Muhlenberg and Big Spring.

Admission: One-time fee of $5 for adults; kids 18-under are free.

Media: Follow @ShawnCMichael on Twitter for the championship game.