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Rivalries renewed as NASA softball crowns champions

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Hayla Boys’ Leon Wilcox scores a run Aug. 8 in a Native American Sports Association (NASA) Softball Tournament men’s division game at Halpatiokee Regional Park in Stuart. Hosted by the Seminole Tribe of Florida Recreation Department, the tournament featured nearly 40 tribal teams and 70 games from Aug. 6-8.

STUART — As players took the field for the final game of the Native American Sports Association (NASA) Softball Tournament, dark clouds hovered nearby, but they proved to be more of a tease than a threat.

Hosted by the Seminole Tribe Recreation Department, the tournament featured nearly 40 tribal teams and 70 games Aug. 6-8 and somehow managed to avoid rain and delays, a rare accomplishment for outdoor summer sports in Florida.

Played in a Martin County facility whose Indian name means “Alligator Water,” the tournament at Halpatiokee Regional Park in Stuart drew seven Seminole teams and dozens of squads from Alabama, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina and Mississippi Tribes.

The Seminole contingent generated a strong performance by winning the coed and women’s divisions and finishing runners-up in the men’s, women’s and women’s legends. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, from Alabama, claimed the men’s and men’s legends titles, and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians captured the women’s legends.

Champions won jackets, runners-up received sweatshirts and the tournament earned praise.

“Everything was run good,” said Trent Flowers, a player on Poarch Creek’s Sneaky Creek team that won the men’s championship. “The games were pretty much on time, very smooth. It was a great Indian tournament.”

Flowers’ team finished undefeated after surviving a slugfest against the Seminoles’ Hayla Boys in the championship. The lead seesawed in nearly every inning.

A grand slam by Emerson Billie and home runs from Randy Wachacha and Garrett Thomas gave Hayla Boys a 12-8 lead through five innings, but a late rally by Sneaky Creek – including a grand slam from Stevie Carpenter – propelled the Sneaky Creek team to a 19-16 win in the latest chapter of a long rivalry.

“We had a pretty good tournament,” said Hayla Boys second baseman Naha Jumper. “I hate getting beat by them Creeks, but we’ve been playing those boys ever since we’ve been in NAYO. We’ve been playing them for 20, 25 years some of us. It’s a rivalry every year.”

The men’s division featured 14 teams.

“It comes down to Choctaw, Seminoles and Poarch Creek every year,” Flowers said. “It’s never blowout wins; it’s always close.”

Brighton Board Rep. Larry Howard was in uniform and served as a first base coach for Hayla Boys, who already look forward to a rematch in 2016.

“This year they just happened to come out on top,” Jumper said. “You’ve got to give them props. They played their game and they got us. We’ll get them next year.”

Hayla Boys, which came out of the losers’ bracket, would have needed two wins against Sneaky Creek to win the title. Instead, Hayla Boys departed with the runner-up trophy and a solid performance that included a memorable win in an elimination game against the Indians from Mississippi.

Down by three runs, Hayla Boys rallied for an 18-17 win in their final at-bat. Billie, Duke McCoy and Charlie Micco delivered RBI hits to knot the game. After Garrett Thomas was intentionally walked to load the bases, Leon Wilcox delivered a game-winning single into left field.

Women’s Legends (40 and older)

Seminole Patchwork belted 15 hits in the championship, but it wasn’t enough to claim the women’s legends title. The top honor went to Mississippi’s Diamond Ladies, which edged Seminole Patchwork 17-13 in the championship of the three-team division.

It was the fourth game for Seminole Patchwork on a warm, sunny day that started with a win in the opener despite playing with just eight players. Between games, the team picked up an additional player – Selina Steele from Poarch Creek – to round out the squad.

In the final, an RBI triple from Seminole Patchwork’s Laverne Thomas and a run-scoring single from Susan Davis knotted the game 2-2 in the first inning.

In the second inning, Seminole Patchwork showed no signs of letting the sun slow them down. A double by Rita McCabe, who had an outstanding game at the plate, and RBI hits from Salina Dorgan, Leslie Osceola and Wendi Riley helped knot the game again at 6-6.

Seminole Patchwork pulled ahead 11-6 in the middle innings thanks to a two-run double from Osceola and RBI singles from Davis and Virginia Billie.

The Diamond Ladies struck back to take a 13-11 lead. Another RBI hit from Dorgan closed the deficit to one run in the sixth, but the Diamond Ladies held on to win the title.

Men’s Legends (40 and older)

The LA Legends won their third straight NASA men’s legends title. The Poarch Creek team knocked off the Mississippi Legends in the final.

LA Legends player and coach Ronnie “Pooky” Jackson said some members of his team have been teammates since the mid-1980s.

“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” he said. “I’ve just kept them together.”

Native Young Guns, a Seminole team, went 0-2 in the four-team division.

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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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