COOPER CITY — It wouldn’t be a NASA softball tournament without encountering the obstacles of summertime elements.
The Seminole Tribe’s Recreation Department hosted this year’s annual competition that drew about 60 teams in men’s, women’s, co-ed and legends divisions from five Native American tribes.
Most of the games were played four fields at Brian Piccolo Park in Cooper City; a few were held on the Hollywood Reservation.
All the rain, thunder, lightning, mud, puddles and weather delays that accompanied the three-day tournament on the first three days in August didn’t rattle the Seminoles’ Hayla Boyz men’s team.
They were determined to win in their own backyard in a division that featured 14 teams.
The Hayla Boyz, organized by Naha Jumper, outlasted powerful Sneaky Creek from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama to win the men’s championship at Brian Piccolo Park in Cooper City.
It was a long, hot, sweaty and dirty journey, but all worth it for the Hayla Boyz, which featured a blend of veterans, like Jumper whose experience in NASA extends decades, and an influx of younger newcomers.
“I’m very proud of my squad,” Jumper said. “They played their hearts out.”
The addition of a few players under age 20, such as Lucas Osceola and Ozzy Osceola in the outfield and Kenny Descheene at first base, provided a spark at the plate and in the field.
“I love their quickness and speed,” Jumper said.
Hayla Boyz also received solid defense from a number of players, including shortstop Catlen Tommie and second baseman Ray Yzaguirre, who combined to turn multiple double plays.
Championship Saturday was interrupted multiple times by inclement weather. Afternoon games finished in the evening.
“It was whoever could outlast each other. We kept hitting rain and lightning delays. Then there was like a monsoon when we were playing,” Jumper said.
The Hayla Boyz won their first three games against Southern Natives, Arrows and Sneaky Creek to reach the championship undefeated.
Coming out of the losers’ bracket in the double-elimination tournament, Sneaky Creek needed two wins against the Hayla Boyz to claim the title.
Sneaky Creek accomplished the first leg by rallying from a 4-0 deficit to win, 11-7, and force a winner-take-all showdown.
In the final, the score was tied 8-8 until the Hayla Boyz, who weren’t about to settle for the runner-up trophy, erupted for seven runs in the final inning to win, 15-8.
Jumper said his team and Sneaky Creek, who have met in previous NASA championships, have accumulated plenty of respect for each other throughout the years, and this year was no different.
“Before the game we’re buddies. During the game we’re enemies. At the end, we’re still friends,” he said.
Jumper praised Hollywood Recreation manager Joe Collins and all of the STOF Recreation Department for the work they did in tough conditions throughout the tournament.
“They did a good job,” he said.
A few of the older Hayla Boyz did double-duty in the tournament.
They also had a successful run in the men’s legends division on the Mound Pounders team, also organized by Jumper, but came up one win short of a title and finished in second place behind L.A. Legends.
The long days took their toll on the team, which went 2-2.
“We kind of died in the last game. We only had 10 players; some could barely run,” Jumper said.
In the women’s legends division, there was no stopping the Lady Seminoles, who overpowered opponents on their way to winning the championship with an undefeated record.
With just three teams in the division, the Lady Seminoles went 2-0 with both wins coming against C-Nation.