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Walnut will be a Blaze with softball

Walnut will be a Blaze this weekend for the first Blaze Bash ASA Softball Tournament, featuring teams in three age divisions at the Walnut Park District fields. Lining up for the home team will be Taylor Williams (14U), Alyssa James (16 U) and Heidi James (12U). (BCR photo/Kevin Hieronymus)

WALNUT — The Bureau County Blaze will be hosting the Inaugural Blaze Bash ASA softball tournament set to get underway this weekend at the Walnut Park District at Bureau Valley North grade school.

The field includes the age brackets of the 12 and under groups, 14U, and 16U, with games getting started in all three age divisions Friday evening.

The 16U coach and tournament director, Bob James, has many reasons to be excited about this tournament and the hopes of many years to come for the Blaze Bash.

“This is just going to be a great tournament, I think, for everyone involved,” James said. “I really think the fans are going to enjoy the weekend, also, as we have teams from all over coming to play.”

As James has said, without the support of the community, this tournament would not be.

“It takes so much planning and everything to get something going like this tournament,” James said. “It starts with finding teams that want to play. From there we have to get all the umpires scheduled, set up the times and dates for the games, and everyone just has to pull out all the stops for this to work.”

It’s no surprise that the Blaze Bash was able to get up and going as the sport of softball is growing more and more every year in popularity, but James is quick to direct the credit to one man in particular, Jim Sorrentino of Peru.

“Jim is kind of like the grandfather of softball in this area,” James said. “He is definitely like a mentor to me and many others. When you talk about softball in this area, you definitely have to talk about Jim.”

In the 12U group, the Blaze get things started Friday night against the Illinois Valley Bandits at 6 p.m. on Field A, and on the same field, at 7:30, the Blaze 14U team faces Sterling.

Then, on Field B, the Illinois Valley at 6 p.m. facing Sauk Valley, and the Blaze 16U team opening the tournament action against Sterling at 7:30 p.m.

“I really think the 12U group will be extremely competitive,” James said. “Obviously, at that age all the girls are still pretty young, and the games are usually competitive.”

Any softball fan that has ever wondered what it would be like to group all the local talent together for one team can get a glimpse of that with the Blaze 16U team.

St. Bede has a trio of players on the squad in big hitting Jheri Emmerling and one of the top pitchers in Erica Davis along with Samantha Sons. Alyssa James of Princeton joins the group, and Hall’s catcher and leadoff hitter Erin Polte will also play for the Blaze this summer.

“We are pretty excited about all the age groups,” James said. “We have some pretty good players from the area schools, and it should be fun to watch.”

In the 12U group, other teams include the Illinois Valley Bandits 95, Starved Rock and the Coleta Fire. In the 14U bracket, joining the Bureau County Blaze is Sterling, Starved Rock Bandits and the Illinois Valley Power. Then, in the 16U bracket, the Illinois Valley Rebels, Sauk Valley, Sterling and the El Paso-Gridley Blaze join the field as well.

The third- and fourth-place games along with the championship match all take place on Sunday. The 12U and 14U games are at 1:30 and 3 p.m., and the 16U games are both at noon.

The Bureau County Blaze 12U roster includes Heidi James, Tori Dewaele, Katherine Pranka, and Nicole Yaklich (all from Princeton). Sydney Miller, Nellie Turner, and Allysa Perez (Mendota), Brandi Dewaele (Walnut), Megan Foes (Annawan), Brooke Kamphuis (Malden), and Emily Phillips (Thomas). The coaches are Bill Phillips, Keith Kamphuis, and Dan Dewaele.

The 14U roster includes Taylor Williams (Princeton), Sam Shepard (Wyanet), Jasmine Kunkel (Tiskilwa), Jade Kunkel (Tiskilwa), Anna Phillips (Thomas), Ali Bro-kaw (Walnut), Erin Dramin-ski (Kewanee), Emily Conso-dine (Peru), Emily Sons (Dalzell), Hannah Sons (Dalzell), Christine Moriarty (Peru). The coaches are Dave Shepard, Tim Williams and Ron Brokaw.

The 16U roster includes Alyssa James (Princeton), Sam Sons (Dalzell), Cally Kowalski (Spring Valley), Meghan Gibson (Princeton), Paige Wooley (Princeton), Jheri Emmerling (Spring Valley), Erin polte (Spring Valley), Kara Bender (Dalzell), Lauren DuBay (Kewanee), Morina (Wood), Brianne Blumhorst (Men-dota), and Ellen Faletti (LaSalle). Coaches are Bob James, Shawn Sons and Ed Kowalski.

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