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Northern visitors impressed with Meridian area facilities

By Staff
MAKES CONTACT n Keri Schwering of the Greensburg, Ind., Lightning makes contact with the ball in her team's 26-5 win over Apponaug of Warwick, R.I. Thursday in the first day of the 2001 ASA Girls 16 &Under National Tournament being played at the Northeast Park. Photo by Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
Aug. 3, 2001
Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees.
While locals often drive by the softball facility at Northeast Park without giving it a second thought, visitors to the complex for the 2001 ASA Girls 16-Under National slow-pitch tournament came away impressed with both the facility and the friendliness of the area.
"This is a very nice facility. The town has reason to be proud of it," said Carolyn Schoettmer of Greensburg, Ind., who has two daughters who play for the Greensburg Lightning.
Prior to heading south, Lightning came in second in a 19-under tournament and won another tournament in Indiana.
"For part of the girls, it's their third trip to a national tourney, part of the girls it's their second trip, and there's four that's their first year," Schoettmer said.
Three of the Lightning girls are just 13 years old.
Greensburg is located midway between Cincinnati and Indianapolis and, with a few stops, is a 10-hour drive from Meridian.
"This weather really is not bad," Schoettmer said. "Two years ago in Alabama, the temperature was above 100 and the heat index was 110-120, so this is nice."
Greensburg is best known for a tree that grows in a tower at the courthouse and has been doing so for nearly 150 years.
"It's kind of a small town," Schoettmer said. "They figure birds dropped a seed in the tower and it grew."
The Southwest Fillies are here from Philadelphia the big city in Pennsylvania, not the nearby small city in Neshoba County.
"In Philly, we're used to the heat, but our problem is we can't play softball all year round like you guys can do down here in Meridian," said Jason Mango, one of the coaches for the Southwest Fillies. "We can only play from the end of March through the summer. We have other sports that collaborate and we have weather.
"The girls won the Philly Metro Department tournament two years in a row. This is our first (national) tournament we've ever been in. It'll be an experience for everyone here."
Two teams made the long trip from Rhode Island.
"It's a big deal for them to come down here to a complex like this and see teams like this playing," said Bob Pendergast, president of the Apponaug girls' league in Warwick, R.I. "Mostly up in the northeast now it's fast-pitch. The Cranston Gals here are also from Rhode Island.
"It's exciting for them. They want to come down and play hard and do well. To play these kind of teams, sometimes it's difficult, but they didn't expect to be here. They did real well in the states (tournament) and had less than a week to get money together to come down here.
"We also have two other teams from our league that are in national tournaments. Our 14s are in Indiana and our 12s are in Kentucky at the same time. The three teams banded together and raised all the money to come.
"They're having a good time and enjoying themselves seeing a part of the country they may never come back and see again. They're enjoying the hospitality and seeing the sights. Everyone has been really courteous and nice."
Teams from 12 states are participating in the 26-team tournament which began with pool play on Thursday and will run through Saturday night.
Many of the teams from far away had to take it upon themselves to raise money to come to Meridian. It becomes even tougher when all of the girls aren't from the same school or even the same town.
"We had to raise money which was the hard part because a lot of people don't like giving money to girls," Mango said. "We raised enough where we had a 15-seat van for the girls. They all got to know each other a little better. And we rented another car for some of our coaches and a couple of people with the equipment.
"Our kids all went to the same Catholic grade school, but they go to four different high schools. They've played together with (head coach) Bob Hodges for the last five years in the summer."
Schoettmer said the Indiana girls went out and raised $300 apiece to come here. Some also had to get excused from their high school volleyball team to make the trip.
"Indiana schools don't have slow-pitch, so they have to play in the summer for fun," Schoettmer said.
It took a whole lot of cash for the Apponaug girls to fly in from Rhode Island.
"The kids went out and worked their back ends off to get several thousand dollars up so we could do it and here we are," said Apponaug coach Joe Boisvert. "It's been a very hard road for every one of them. I think they've done a heck-of-a job."
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at mstamper@themeridianstar.com or call him at 693-1551, ext. 3234.

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