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Home » Girls' Softball News

All-star prep softball tournament returns this summer

June 26, 2014
Northwest Montana A Conference



 

All-star prep softball tournament returns this summer

Belgradeto play host to revitalized event

•  By AJ Mazzolini

Among the sea of summer all-star games, of final opportunities forMontanahigh school standouts to represent their teams and their state,Belgradeis filling a void this year.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 12112 inBelgradeis hosting and organizing a prep all-star softball tournament for all-state players across all three classifications of play this August. The four-team tourney is to be played atBelgrade’s softball complex on Aug. 9.

Jim Matter Jr., the commander andBelgrade’s VFW post, pitched the idea to the state VFW department last fall as a fundraising opportunity. The state green-lighted it shortly after, said James Matter Sr.,Belgrade’s quartermaster and adjutant who’s helping organize the tournament with his son.

“Jim came up with the idea of a softball tournament and they threw it right back at us,” the elder Matter said. “We went ahead with it.”

Montanapreviously held an all-star event for softball players, though it was quite short lived.Buttehosted the Treasure State Classic Softball Tournament from 2009 to 2011, a series of games for outgoing seniors in the same vein as football’s Montana East-West Shrine Game.

Bringing the games back fills a niche for softball among a slew of summer all-star football games and hoops events, saidFlorencecoach Rob Ralls.

“They do it for football, they playNorth Dakota, and for basketball, they playWyoming,” said Ralls, who has been tabbed to coach one of the four all-star teams. “At least (softball players) have something for after the season now.”

Matter said the state will be broken into four regions to create the four all-star teams – Ralls of the State B-C champion Falcons represents the West. Other coaches include Ed Kriskovich of State AA champion Billings West, Mick Morris of State B-C runner-up Conrad-Choteau and Justin Taylor of State A runner-upBelgrade.

Eli Field, who led Frenchtown to a second straight State A title this spring, turned down his invitation and had prior obligations that weekend.

Matter said he’s received great feedback from coaches and players concerning the tournament’s revival. The Belgrade VFW issued 65 invitations to all-state players, opening the game to all classes of players and not just seniors.

“It seems like they’re real interested, as soon as the coaches found out,” Matter said. “Response there was real good.”

The games are the feature point of a two-day event that begins Aug. 8.

Registration begins Friday before a brief practice session for each team and an opening ceremony with barbeque for families and players. Saturday will see four games played beginning at 10 a.m. The winners of the first two games will then play each other – as will the losers – later in the day.

Spectators can expect a small admission fee of $5, perhaps less for students and children, said Matter, who added he’s still working out the details.

The whole event is dedicated to Nicholas Bloem, Matter pointed out, who was killed inAfghanistanand for whom the Belgrade VFW post is named.

The former all-star tourney inButteplayed out in early June, while this year’s event was moved back a bit partly to avoid clashing with the summer club team season, Matter said.

“The AAU should be done by then. We’re hoping that they’ll be all finished up, not that we hope that they lose early,” Matter clarified with a chuckle.

The weekend also stood out because of the availability of umpires. Two large slow-pitch softball tournaments the weekends prior made umps scarce for much of July. Same went for the tournament’s desired weekend in June.

Matter says he doesn’t expect the VFW to make much money off the event, perhaps contradicting the tournament’s origin in slight, but the benefits outweigh the obstacles.

Plus, it’s great for the girls, he added.

“The girls, they need something like this to show off to the (college) recruiters,” Matter said.

For a full list of this spring’s all-state softball selections and players invited to the all-star tournament, visit MissoulaPreps.com. Rosters will be finalized in mid-July.


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