The final game of last year’s Rotary Club of Kenosha West Softball Tournament ended in controversy.
In the Men’s Division championship round, Blue and the Brothers held a big lead on Square One/Spiderz — a team from out of town — when it protested an illegal bat used by Square One after an apparent three-run home run.
The umpire upheld the protest and called the batter out, which enraged the Square One players. An offer was made just to take the three runs off the board and resume the game, but the Square One players decided to essentially walk off the field, and it was declared a forfeit.
Confusion reigned, and what was supposed to be the tournament’s main event in a charity function ended abruptly, with nobody satisfied.
Well, controversies over illegal bats and unfair balls have been an issue in Kenosha softball tournaments for years, so the Rotary Tournament directors decided to make a change for this year’s tournament, the 47th annual, which begins tonight at Lincoln Park.
Every team in all three divisions — Men’s, Women’s and Coed — will be supplied with the same bats and balls.
“The balls and the bats are all donated,” tournament co-director Christian Venegas said. “... We just want to reduce any of the controversial situations.”
Whether last year’s finish had any impact on the number of teams entering this year’s field is unknown, but Venegas noted that some teams from out of town last year didn’t return this year.
The Men’s Division has 16 teams, the Coed Division has six and the Women’s Division has five. The double-elimination tournament gets underway tonight with six Men’s games. The Women’s and Coed divisions will begin Friday, with the championship rounds in all three divisions slated for Sunday.
“Our numbers could definitely be better,” Venegas said.
“We noticed that there’s some teams that were in from out of town last year that didn’t return. We noticed that there were some teams in local softball leagues that didn’t sign up this year.”
Blue and the Brothers isn’t technically in the field to defend its Men’s title, but Tirabassi — which essentially features the players from that team — is.
In the Women’s field, two-time defending champion Squirrels is back in the mix. In the Coed Division, which will be in its second year of play, defending champion Press Box is not listed in the bracket.
Another new feature for this year is the creation of a Men’s Hometown Classic bracket, which will feature four teams and play Sunday morning.
It will consist of the four Men’s teams who lose their first two games, and they’ll be seeded based on runs allowed. It’s simply a way to get more games for teams eliminated early.
“We just wanted to give those teams an opportunity to play a little bit more softball than they’re traditionally used to,” Venegas said.
Anticipated prize money, according to the Rotary website, is $1,000 (first place), $500 (second place) and $250 (third place) in the Men’s Division; $1,000 (first place), $500 (second place) and $200 (third place) in the Women’s Division; and $500 (first place) and $200 (second place) in the Coed Division.