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Air Force Men Win Softball Title Behind 159-Run Slugfest

By Chris McGee
Special to American Forces Press Service

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Sept. 2, 1999 – An old sports adage says offense entertains but defense wins games.

The Air Force men's softball team employed both Aug. 25-27 at Foster Stadium here to claim their third consecutive Armed Forces Men's Softball Championship title.

Competing against the Army, Marine and Navy men's teams in a three-day, three-games-per-day format, the Air Force won seven of nine games to finish with the best record. The Marine Corps placed with a 5-4 record, while the Army and Navy both finished 3-6.

In winning the title, the Air Force relied on consistent defense and an offensive punch that included a .540 team batting average, 159 runs scored and 45 home runs belted.

"We've had the long ball going," said Air Force head coach Jack Hayes. "Our team is based on defense along with the long ball. The defense was really good all week."

Extra hitter Mike Friedman and shortstop Rod Darhower led the Air Force offense. Friedman batted .692, bashed 11 homers and drove in 28 runs. Darhower hit .676 with five homers and 18 RBIs.

The Marines finished with a .505 batting average and scored 123 runs in the tournament. The team put on a power-hitting clinic in its opening game, beating Army 41-31.

"It was nice to jump out early," Marine Corps coach Mike Turney said. "We keep hitting and don't give up."

Outfielder Thomas Carlo led the Marine Corps with a .710 batting average.

The Army led all teams in home runs, 53, and finished second with a .533 team batting average and 136 runs scored. Despite those impressive offensive numbers, the 3-6 Army record indicated the importance of strong defense, according to Army third baseman Elmer Mason.

"You have to score runs," he said. "It's an offensive game, but you still have to make the routine defensive plays to keep from giving up needless runs to the other team."

Outfielder Matthew Hill led the Army with a .742 batting average and six home runs. Mason hit .667 with six home runs and 20 RBIs.

The Navy recorded a team batting average of .497 with 31 home runs and 110 runs scored. Navy head coach Teo Cuellar complimented the tournament organizers and participants.

"This is a class act," he said. "Everyone here played hard and showed good sportsmanship."

The Air Force placed five players on the all-tournament team, including Darhower, Friedman, pitcher Robert King, catcher Jason Parker and outfielder Dale Black.

Mason and Hill represented the Army on the all-tournament team, while Carlo and outfielder Gary Chaney represented the Marines. Navy first baseman Rolland Alcoran and second baseman Brian Neal rounded out the all-tournament team.

Men's All-Tournament Team:

1B: Rolland Alcoran, USN

2B: Brian Neal, USN

3B: Elmer Mason, USA

SS: Rob Darhower, USAF

OF: Thomas Carlo, USMC

OF: Matthew Hill, USA

OF: Dale Back, USAF

OF: Gary Chaney, USMC

EH: Mike Friedman, USAF

C: Jason Parker, USAF

P: Robert King, USAF

Armed Forces Team: King, Alcoran, Mason, Carlo, Back, Chaney; Ryan Bordenkecher, Eddie Sanchezand and Troy Bouyea, all USN; Cherylton McRae and Brett Loechler, both USMC; Matthew Guth and John Watts, both USA; and Byron Randolph, USAF. Coaches are Michael Turney and Nathan Hales, both USMC.

[Chris McGee works in the Air Armament Center Public Affairs Office at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.]

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