Softball stars getting ready to rumble on the river|[6/16/06]

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 16, 2006

The annual Rumble on the River fast-pitch softball tournament has gotten so popular, tournament director Rhea Fuller had to turn some teams away.

The tournament begins tonight and will run through Sunday at Bazinsky and Halls Ferry parks.

&#8220We probably could’ve gotten 10 or 12 more teams if we’d had space. It has really grown from having only 24 teams last year,” Fuller said.

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&#8220It’s grown every year and I think folks have realized that we put on a good tournament,” added Mississippi Sluggers coach Howard Park. The Sluggers are one of three local teams in the 34-team field.

The Rumble on the River is divided into four age divisions and one 18-and-under senior level, which will play two games on Saturday. Play will be spread among six fields.

&#8220What helps us is having a centrally located area and we’re a pretty easy drive from the Jackson area and the (Mississippi) Delta,” Park said. &#8220When we started this tournament, we had 21 teams the first year. Then we got rained out but came back with 14 a week later. We had 24 two years ago and 24 last year. To get 34 this time shows the growth. And Rhea actually had to turn down teams.”

The younger bracket 10-under and 12-under divisions have eight teams. The 14-under division has nine, including the Sluggers and the Vicksburg Blazers. The two local teams meet in pool play at 7 tonight at Bazinsky’s West Field. Each team will have two pool games before being seeded for a double-elimination tournament that begins Saturday afternoon.

&#8220Your pool games are kind of like practice, but they’re good to play,” Park said.

The Sluggers are comprised of players from Vicksburg High, Warren Central, St. Aloysius and Porters Chapel. The ROR is one of three tournaments the Sluggers are scheduled to play this summer.

&#8220We played in the Madison Memorial Weekend Tournament and we’ll go to Clinton next week,” Park said.

In the 14-under draw, MRYC Motion, a Madison-based team, and the Mississippi Blast from Clinton would be the expected favorites, Park said.

&#8220The Blast is a really dominant team and we played the Motion at their tournament. We’ve got a team with a lot of players back from the team last year which finished second in the state tournament. We’ve got a lot of pitching,” Park said.

The Sluggers’ roster includes All-Warren County pitcher Kristi Shelby and infielder Claiborne Bryant of Vicksburg High, catcher Mandy Fuller from Warren Central and PCA’s Andi Hearn.

The Blazers played in last year’s ROR as a 12-year-old team but are moving up to play in the 14-under division this summer.

The Diamond Dolls, Vicksburg’s 18-under team, will play Richland in a two-game set on Saturday, beginning at 4 p.m. That team features William Carey College player Brittany Fuller and Mississippi College signee Lauren Johnson.

&#8220Overall we’re expecting to play 90 game this weekend,” Park said. &#8220It’s a lot of work but we have to thank Jeff Boyett’s grounds crew for keeping the fields in great shape.”