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Middle School Parents Seize Softball Trophy

Jun 03, 2024 04:25PM ● By Mb News Staff
The annual Parents' Softball Classic draws healthy crowds and several teams representing schools across Manhattan Beach. While the games are often close, the tournament championship is almost always won by an elementary school team. 

The latest tourney, on Sunday, would prove to be an exception. 

Parents representing the Manhattan Beach Middle School won 3 of 4 games in pool play, won a marathon semifinal playoff and advanced to the final. There, MBMS took down a Pacific elementary team that had won two tournaments back-to-back, in 2021 and 2022, and which also had made the final last year.

Over 18 years of the Parents' Softball Classic, this was only the second tournament championship for the middle school (the last coming in 2013). Mira Costa sends a team each year, but has never taken a trophy. 

First Women's Team; Mayor Commends Founder

Sunday's tournament was among the biggest ever, with 140 players on 11 teams, and grandstands that stayed full all day. Kids and dogs roamed and played in unused areas of the Marine Sports Complex, where all three diamonds were in service for the tournament. The snack bar, featuring hot dogs, burgers and special Manhattan Meats bacon burgers, was abuzz from late morning till the last out. 

The event raised around $23,000 for the MBX Foundation, which will pass much of the funding along to support the Mira Costa girls' softball team. The team's boosters – who supply the volunteers needed to operate the event – have used recent funding from the tournament to improve facilities that are jointly used by the team and the community, on the team's diamond on Meadows Ave. near the tennis courts. 

A new feature of this year's tournament was the entry by the Softball Mamas, an all-women's team that drew a crowd and earned cheers and praise throughout the day from fans and fellow players. The Mamas didn't win any games, but they showed off their skills and came out of the day with a warm appreciation for being a part of this community celebration of sport and sportsmanship. After all, the goal for most teams is just to have a fun day.

Mayor Joe Franklin appeared midday to throw out a ceremonial "first pitch" to tournament founder Ross Kay. Before the pitch, Mayor Franklin also presented Kay with a special city commendation for creating the tournament back in 2006. Kay continues to play in the annual set of games, now representing a 50-and-60-something squad known as the Founders, who fought hard to a 1-2-1 record on Sunday. 

Leading into the ceremony with Mayor Franklin, there was another "first pitch" sequence featuring the "next generation" of local softballers, featuring young players from the Beach Softball program. 

The national anthem was memorably sung a capella by Charley Hayes, a freshman player on Mira Costa's JV softball team, earning applause from 100 players on the field and many friends and family in the stands.

The tournament director since 2016-17 has been Dave Fratello, local real estate broker with Edge Real Estate Agency and publisher of MB News, both sponsors of the event.

How the Games Played Out

The 11 teams in the tournament each played 4 games in the qualifying round, separated into pools of 5 and 6 teams. In general, players represent the schools of their youngest children in the Manhattan Beach school system. Teams represented Robinson, Grand View, Pacific (2 teams, nicknamed "Rocky" and "Creed"), Meadows, Pennekamp, the Middle School, Mira Costa and American Martyrs. There were also the Founders team (with kids mostly aged out of local schools) and the Softball Mamas (representing several schools and grade levels). 

Returning champs Pennekamp (4-0) played tight, nearly perfect softball, including 1-run wins against the Founders and Mira Costa, with larger margins against a Pacific squad and Meadows. PK gave up only 8 runs in pool play, winning the "blue" division (5 teams). 

Pacific's "Rocky" squad (3-0-1) aimed for perfection, too, but played Robinson to a 2-2 tie. "Rocky" allowed just 6 runs in its first 4 games, winning the "pink" division (6 teams).  

Meadows (2-1-1) emerged from the "blue" pool in 2nd place on the strength of wins against Pacific's "Creed" group and Mira Costa, while dropping one to PK and tying the Founders.

In a tournament that rewards defense, MBMS found a way to right its ship after losing 5-3 to American Martyrs in its first game, and surviving a tight game against Grand View 7-6. In games versus Robinson and the all-women's team known as the Softball Mamas, MBMS allowed no runs (1-0, 11-0). By giving up only 11 runs total, MBMS earned 2nd place in the "pink" division despite having the same record as Martyrs, which gave up 22 runs. (The first tie breaker has always been the fewest runs scored against a team.)

In one playoff, Pacific "Rocky" fought a back-and-forth battle against Meadows – the school whose 5 tournament victories were all consecutive (2015-19). Ultimately, Pacific walked off with a 6-5 victory, and settled in to watch the other playoff game wrap up. 

Pennekamp vs. MBMS would not settle quickly, however. The teams played to a tie after 6 innings, then played 7 more, with some extra innings scoreless and some where each team matched the other. Finally, in the 13th, MBMS scored 4 runs, only to see Pennekamp score 3 in the bottom before giving up its final out. The champs would not be back in the final. 

Was MBMS tired? It didn't show, as they scored 2 quick runs against Pacific, then added to make their lead 4-0 heading into the bottom of the 6th. 

Just last year, this same Pacific squad had entered the 6th inning leading Pennekamp by 4 runs, only to surrender 5 and lose, 7-6.

Avenging last year's loss must have been in the Panthers' minds as they began scoring, and got as close as 4-3 with 2 out. However, it was not meant to be, as the elders won out this time, sending the Waves home with the school's second-ever championship – and just a few aches and pains.

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