by Scott Sacry
The Bitterroot Sparks Fastpitch organization hosted the Bitterroot Brawl on July 8th-10th. It is the first girls’ fastpitch softball tournament the organization has hosted. Stevensville’s Keith Berning, the Bitterroot Sparks Fastpitch president, said, “The event was a great success! It is fun to be involved in an event that brings increased enthusiasm for the sport of Fastpitch softball, and a great by-product is increased business to the local commerce for the weekend.”
The communities of Stevensville and Florence were inundated with girls’ softball teams and their families. Games were played on the Stevensville fields on ALC way, at the field by the Stevensville high school, and at the Florence High School softball field. “We are fortunate to have a place to put on a tournament that has been built up over the years by the SYBSA and the community,” says Berning. “The school district has been very supportive in allowing us to use the fields on the property.”
There were 33 total teams competing in four age divisions, 10U, 12U, 14U, and 16U/18U. Teams came from Polson, Missoula, Frenchtown, St. Ignatius, Cut Bank, Ronan, Helena, Kalispell, Butte, and Belgrade. The games started on Friday, went all day Saturday, and on Sunday tournament play began with a champion crowned in each division.
When asked about the origins of the Bitterroot Brawl, Berning said, “We as a Sparks organization had wanted to put on a tournament for a while now to have something close to home and to create a buzz for fastpitch softball in the Bitterroot Valley. There was a weekend that was available without competing tournaments on the west side of the state so it was a great opportunity to have our tournament.”
The Bitterroot Sparks, which include girls from all over the Bitterroot Valley, had teams in each age division, with two teams in the 16U/18U division. The other Bitterroot Valley team was the Hamilton Hotshots, a 14U team. The Emeralds from Kalispell won the 10U division. In the 12U division, the Sparks took second, losing to Missoula’s MT Avalanche 1-9 in the championship game. In the 14U division, the Polson Lady Pirates won. And in the 16U/18U division, the Sparks “A” team lost in the semifinals to Belgrade, the eventual champion.
“The tournament ended well,” said Berning. “Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves at the tournament and we didn’t have any issues that were not resolved with the help of the tournament staff. It would not have been a success without the help of all the coaches, parents and the support of the community.”