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Pennekamp Parents Persist and Prevail at Softball Tourney

Jun 05, 2023 03:12PM ● By Mb News Staff
The atmosphere at the once-a-year Parents' Softball Classic is always upbeat, friendly and fun.

Sunday was no exception, as more than 130 parent players were joined by hundreds more family members, and even a few dogs, for a day in the sun with music, snack bar treats and a daylong barbecue featuring Manhattan Meats gourmet burgers. Kids were seen everywhere, from the stands cheering for their school teams, to doing cartwheels out on the open field areas, to chasing down fly balls from the games.

City Council members David Lesser and Joe Franklin made appearances at this popular community event, as did school board member Bruce Greenberg.

Mira Costa high school junior Ewan McPhee, who is varsity team manager for Costa's baseball squad and plays trumpet in the Jazz 1 ensemble, wind symphony band and marching band, treated the crowd to a jazzy rendition of the national anthem, drawing roars of approval. 

And then there was the competition.

Tourney Is Friendly, Final Hard-Fought 

Parents group up to represent local schools in this competitive, but convivial, tournament. Each parent plays with the school of their youngest child in the district. All five local elementaries supplied teams, including two squads from Pacific and one large team from Grand View, along with American Martyrs, MBMS and Mira Costa. Another team known as the "Founders" features several players who have been part of the tournament since its first days. 

This year, for the first time, Hermosa Beach also supplied a team. With 11 full squads, the event had its largest number of registrations ever, and raised more than $26,000 for the MBX Foundation and the Mira Costa girls' softball booster program – also a record.


Parents from Pennekamp elementary brought the trophy home after knocking at the door in two prior tournaments. The school's win was its 5th in the tournament, which dates back to 2006, tying Pennekamp with Meadows – whose team recently won 5 tournaments in a row (2015-19) – for the most tournament victories.

There was one team always in Pennekamp's way recently: Pacific's top squad (nicknamed "Mario" this year), which had won two consecutive tournaments themselves.  

In 2022, Pacific defeated Pennekamp in the final. This year, the two met in pool play in a high-stakes afternoon game that might have knocked the loser out of contention for the playoff round. The competition was fierce, and the game went to extra innings in that "rematch" of last year's final, with Pacific winning 4-3. 

Ultimately, both teams did qualify for the playoffs, with "Pacific - Mario" defeating American Martyrs by a score of 6-1, and Pennekamp dispatching the second Pacific team ("Luigi") by the same 6-1 score, setting up a true rematch of last year's final. 

The game proved worthy of all the buildup, with dramatic back-and-forth action.

Pennekamp drew first blood, scoring two in the 3rd, but Pacific threatened in the bottom of the inning. Pennekamp's defense held. 

But Pacific broke through, big-time, with 5 runs (the maximum per inning) in the bottom of the 4th, then strangled Pennekamp's attempts to come back. Pacific added an insurance run to make it 6-2 after 5 innings. 

A third straight trophy was almost in hand for the Panthers, who needed only three more outs. Instead, they watched Pennekamp spray the ball to all fields, just missing defenders and bringing runners around to tie the score, mostly with two out. Pennekamp then took a 7-6 lead on a rare error by Pacific, setting up a critical bottom half. 

While a sizable crowd of Dragon partisans cheered for Pennekamp – "PK All the Way!" – Pacific showed what it takes to be a tournament champ, scoring in the bottom of the 6th and final inning to tie it up. 

Extra innings began, and Pennekamp roared to life, scoring three in the top of the 7th, perhaps breaking Pacific in the process. 

The final was 10-7, giving this Pennekamp team its first tournament championship, and the school its first since 2012. 

Volunteers Make It All Go

The annual Parents' Softball Classic is the biggest fund-raiser of the year benefiting the Mira Costa softball program. All donations go through the MBX Foundation, which recently celebrated 20 years assisting booster clubs and other organizations tied to local schools.

Sunday's event included food and snack donations by Manhattan Meats, Puritan Bakery and Manhattan Beach Little League. Sponsors were Edge Real Estate AgencyMB Confidential and MB News.

The tournament operates with the volunteer labor of softball boosters and many of the team's players. 

Conrad Nussbaum, representing the boosters, thanked the crowd Sunday, saying that last year's tournament raised enough money to completely redo the seemingly forgotten locker rooms used by the softball team on the Costa campus, as well as helping with other infrastructure improvements at the field. This year's haul is expected to help with redoing bathrooms that are also used by little league when the softball field is turned over to their games, and by user of the nearby tennis courts.  

Dave Fratello, local real estate broker with Edge and publisher of MB News, serves as director of the tournament, with 2023 being his 7th year in that role after taking over for tournament founder Ross Kay. 

"People tell me this is their favorite day of the year," Fratello said. "It's one of mine, too. It's an honor to put in the work to keep the spirit of this tournament alive and to get more and more people involved. Once you've been here, you can't wait to come back. It's a great feeling to share."

Health Scare, Quick Response

The annual softball tournament has its share of pulled hamstrings and calves, twisted ankles and other "weekend warrior" injuries. But there was concern about something more serious for a few minutes this year. At the conclusion of a late afternoon game, one Meadows player collapsed without warning upon returning to the dugout.

As event staff rushed over, players from 3 teams collected to offer assistance and administer aid while 911 was called. Sirens could be heard almost instantly as the player showed that he was conscious, and the Manhattan Beach Fire Department and EMTs were on site in less than three minutes. 

Medics ran tests and soon cleared the player to watch the rest of the action from the stands before returning home with family under his own power. The player received polite applause from everyone nearby as he emerged from the dugout, and later offered his thanks to everyone for their quick reactions and help.

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