The annual Firecracker Slowpitch Softball Tournament was back at Pyke Field over the weekend with a total of eight teams competing.
“It is more than I’ve had since I started running the tournament, and more than we’ve had since I started playing in it even,” said Del Norte Recreation Department Assistant Coordinator Justin Yslas. “The last couple years we have had five teams I believe. I don’t even know when the last time we have had eight teams. I would say it has been at least five years, if not longer.”
Many of the local teams and players were back in the one-pitch competition, but the Firecracker also drew more teams from out of town than in recent years. In addition to Del Norte County, teams came to Crescent City from Grants Pass, Medford, Redding and Chico. Ysals said some of the local teams supplemented their rosters with some out-of-town players, and some of the out of town teams included some local guys on the roster as well.
Yslas guessed that more than half of the players competing were from out of the area.
“It was nice to have so many people come and stay in the campgrounds, hotels and wherever else that they stayed,” he said. “It got some people over to the coast, and getting to visit our area for the weekend. The amount of participation was awesome. Everybody seemed to have a great time and it sounds like they are coming back.”
Yslas said he did a little bit more legwork to spread the word about the tournament this year, which seems to have paid off.
“This year I was able to advertise it on Facebook and post it on other websites and stuff,” Yslas said. “The other part of it is, I was really trying to promote it to the teams coming out of the east, to come over to the coast and get out of the heat.”
Another part of the increased participation seems to be word of mouth.
“The teams that have been coming keep coming back,” Yslas said. “I think they are enjoying it and they are letting other people know.”
One such team — Let’s Bang/MEI — came into the tournament as the two-time defending champion, but ended up taking third place this year.
Despite all the visiting teams at the Firecracker, first place went to an all local team as Coast Les Paul Rez Boys pulled out the championship on Sunday.
Coast grabbed the No. 1 seed in the tournament after sweeping its pool play at the start of the day on Saturday. After picking up a win in the first round, they were knocked to the bottom of the double elimination bracket by Slammin’ Salmon from Redding.
Coast bounced back to win three straight games in the bottom bracket, including eliminating Les Bang/MEI for the first time in three years during the semifinal round. That set up a rematch against the still-undefeated Slammin’ Salmon.
Coast held off a late rally by Slammin’ Salmon for a 15-13 victory in the first championship game, giving each team one-loss apiece and setting up a winner-take-all championship contest. Once again Coast jumped out to a big early lead, reaching 6-0 on a home run by Gannon Cyphers in the second inning, and reaching as high as an eight-run lead in the fifth inning. Although Slammin’ Salmon once again made a late push that put the final result in doubt, Coast managed to secure the championship with a 17-15 victory.
Yslas said that he hopes the Firecracker Tournament can continue to grow in the coming years. One possible avenue for expansion would be to add a women’s division to go along with the men. Yslas said he was hoping to possibly add some women’s teams this year but wasn’t able to attract enough participation after a late start to promoting a women’s division.
“Next year, if we can get the participation, it would be nice to have a men’s division and a women’s division at the Firecracker,” he said.
The Del Norte Recreation Department’s next slowpitch softball tournament will be the Battle at the Border, which Yslas said will take place in mid-August. The Battle at the Border will include both a men’s division and a coed division.
Pyke Field will be busy until then though, as the Recreation Department’s slowpitch softball leagues are set to kick off play starting on Monday.
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com .