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Softball tourneys a go — with protocols

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Paws Along the River Humane Society officer coordinator Rachel O’Carroll paints a line in the open space at Betts Park.

After 28 and 41 years, the organizers of local softball tournaments know their business.

But, this year, they did a lot of listening in order to meet the unique needs of tournaments in a pandemic.

Over the next few weeks, the 28th Annual Paws Along the River Michael J. Kolos Memorial Softball Tournament and the 41st annual Terry F. Ristau Memorial Industrial Softball Tournament will be held at Betts Park.

They are significant fund-raisers for the Humane Society and the United Fund of Warren County respectively. Organizers didn’t want to give them up, but they knew they could not run the events as they traditionally have. They worked together to establish some rules.

“With COVID-19 and all the various guidelines, safety is the utmost importance,” said John Papalia of Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, the sponsor of the Industrial Tournament. “We assessed what we could and could not do.”

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The Paws Along the River Softball Tournament is set for Betts Park on Saturday.

“With teams coming from all over the place, we’re doing everything we can to follow CDC guidelines,” Paws Along the River Humane Society Executive Director Karen Kolos said.

Gov. Tom Wolf has restricted outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 250 people. A softball tournament with 25 teams of at least 10 people in the same place at the same time would violate that rule.

The Paws Tournament will be held this Saturday.

The Industrial will run Friday, Aug. 21 through Sunday, Aug. 23.

Players will be able to go about their business on the field — masks and distancing are not required, but there will be some changes to maintain social distancing for spectators and for teams during down times.

A “designated tournament area” will be set up and marked encompassing Betts, Brown, and Foley fields.

Participants who are not in games are not permitted in that area.

“You don’t get to enter a field until the other teams are off,” Papalia said.

“I thought it could happen, watching the kids shoot,” said Anderson, who has been the Claybusters’ head coach since 2010. “I figured if they did what they do here at home, there was no issue; we would take it.”

Seized it was more like it.

Consider:

¯ Joey Donato and Nick Lapinski were named to the all-state team.

¯ Donato claimed the Varsity Division individual title and was the recipient of a Browning scholarship after posting a 99-100-199. Ironically, he had never posted such numbers before, even in practice.

“Joey just came out of nowhere,” Anderson said. “Just all of a sudden. He had been shooting with us and kept saying, ‘I’ll never see that 100.’ That day he was shooting (at nationals) it was like, ‘Where did he come from?’ He was a whole different person out on that line.”

¯ Donato was also a member of the first-place Handicap Open squad that also included McKenzie Mitchell, Jaxon Gray, Tate Tasker and Tyler Hasbrouck.

¯ The team of Lapinski, Gray, Reid Scott, Rowdy Finch and Garrett Mitchell captured the Single Varsity title.

¯ And the squad of Lapinski, Hasbrouck, Gray, Finch and Chance Chase came home with the High School Division title.

“It’s amazing what these kids can do,” Anderson said. ” … We had so many personal bests over the week, so many that we couldn’t tell them all. Every kid put their heart right into it.”

Other members of the Claybusters include: Nathan Shirey, Jacob Swartzfager, Caleb Ace, Blake Mitchell, Oakley Terrill, Rebekah Finch, Randy Love, Chris Maker, Abbie Northrop, Shelby Proctor, Derrick Albers, Michael Stanbro, Michael Pierson, Zeke Harkins, DJ Stine, Kael Albers and Wesley Love.

“They’ve been given an opportunity of a lifetime. They just don’t realize it yet,” said Tiona resident and program supporter Sam Carlson at the end of the awards presentation. “That program just took off. … Stand up. C’mon, everybody stand up. Congratulations.”

The team members got out of their chairs to another round of applause.

“I thought it could happen, watching the kids shoot,” said Anderson, who has been the Claybusters’ head coach since 2010. “I figured if they did what they do here at home, there was no issue; we would take it.”

Seized it was more like it.

Consider:

¯ Joey Donato and Nick Lapinski were named to the all-state team.

¯ Donato claimed the Varsity Division individual title and was the recipient of a Browning scholarship after posting a 99-100-199. Ironically, he had never posted such numbers before, even in practice.

“Joey just came out of nowhere,” Anderson said. “Just all of a sudden. He had been shooting with us and kept saying, ‘I’ll never see that 100.’ That day he was shooting (at nationals) it was like, ‘Where did he come from?’ He was a whole different person out on that line.”

¯ Donato was also a member of the first-place Handicap Open squad that also included McKenzie Mitchell, Jaxon Gray, Tate Tasker and Tyler Hasbrouck.

¯ The team of Lapinski, Gray, Reid Scott, Rowdy Finch and Garrett Mitchell captured the Single Varsity title.

¯ And the squad of Lapinski, Hasbrouck, Gray, Finch and Chance Chase came home with the High School Division title.

“It’s amazing what these kids can do,” Anderson said. ” … We had so many personal bests over the week, so many that we couldn’t tell them all. Every kid put their heart right into it.”

Other members of the Claybusters include: Nathan Shirey, Jacob Swartzfager, Caleb Ace, Blake Mitchell, Oakley Terrill, Rebekah Finch, Randy Love, Chris Maker, Abbie Northrop, Shelby Proctor, Derrick Albers, Michael Stanbro, Michael Pierson, Zeke Harkins, DJ Stine, Kael Albers and Wesley Love.

“They’ve been given an opportunity of a lifetime. They just don’t realize it yet,” said Tiona resident and program supporter Sam Carlson at the end of the awards presentation. “That program just took off. … Stand up. C’mon, everybody stand up. Congratulations.”

The team members got out of their chairs to another round of applause.

Players who are in the tournament area while their teams are not playing risk a forfeit.

“Failure to leave the designated tournament area after you finish your game will result in a game forfeit for your team,” Kolos said.

Bleachers will be taped off. Spectators who want to sit must bring their own seating and will be expected to maintain social distancing.

“The typical tents and picnic area… that’s being restricted,” Papalia said.

There will be areas set aside for teams to gather between games. The open space next to Foley will serve that purpose.

“This big area here, we are able to mark off 20-by-20 spots,” Papalia said.

“Each team will have a 20-by-20 area to have their team and their tent,” Kolos said. “They’ll be out of the tournament area.”

“We are recommending masks outside of the tournament area,” she said.

The organizers are asking that teams not intermingle in that area and maintain social distancing.

Concessions will be available at the park, but outside the tournament area.

For the Industrial Tournament, in order to satisfy the maximum allowable limit for outdoor gatherings, organizers have streamlined the divisions this year, returning the event to a true industrial format.

“We made the difficult decision and eliminated the Open Division,” Papalia said.

Teams will be made up of players who work for the companies that enter.

“We’re cutting back to 25 teams,” Papalia said.

With the tournament stretched over three days, staying under the 250 outdoor gathering limit should not be a problem.

The tournament will only utilize Betts Park. Other fields in the community will not be needed this year.

The Paws Tournament had a format change, too.

That tournament will be coed-only; there will not be a men’s division. Teams must play at least two women — down from four for past coed teams. Kolos said she expects that change to increase the number of teams.

“We’d like to get to 16 teams,” she said.

The directors were willing to jump through hoops in order to hold their events under COVID-19 guidelines.

“It’s a long-standing tradition in Warren County,” Papalia said. “We’re grateful to be able to keep that going. It’s brought a lot of charitable dollars to the county.

“We are very thankful that the city is allowing us to do this,” Kolos said. “We’re trying to keep this tradition going. This is a big fund-raiser for the shelter.”

There will be a work bee before the Paws tournament. Anyone interested in volunteering may contact the Humane Society at 726-1961.

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