FORT IRWIN, Calif. — The Fort Irwin post softball team fought through adversity, not in the sense of a combat situation, but on a field of clay and grass. The men’s post softball team represented Fort Irwin and the National Training Center at the United States Specialty Sports Association / Global Sports League World Series Qualifier tournament held at Diamond Valley Lake Sports Complex in Hemet, Calif., May 25.
Team Irwin is comprised of Soldier-players from the NTC, including Operations Group, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and 916th Support Brigade. Despite the hectic and increased op-tempo that all of these Soldiers face, they typically sacrifice a portion of their compensatory four-day weekend to represent the installation in softball tournaments throughout Southern California, culminating with December’s Military World’s Tourney in Las Vegas.
“We play in tourneys at least once a month, practice as often as possible given the rotational schedule and do our best to recruit talent year-round,” said Clinton Magnuson, head coach and future Army Retiree.
Team Irwin began the day dropping their first game against No Warning Shots which found the squad down in the loser’s bracket. For anyone who has played in a double-elimination tournament, winding up in the lower bracket means a long, hard road to even having a chance to win the tournament. And that is exactly what Team Irwin faced, with just a one-hour break between games, Irwin would now be required to play game after game with no breather in-between.
Team Irwin would reel off four-straight victories after the setback and face off against a team out of Corona, Calif., STR8PLAY. The two evenly matched teams went back and forth through seven innings of play tied at nine runs apiece. As the game went into extra innings to determine who would advance and who would go home, both teams’ defense continued to shine with great plays being made by both squads.
As inning by inning was closed out with no scoring, rules dictate that a runner is placed at 2nd base with one out to start each inning in an even greater effort to find a winner. After another two scoreless innings, in the top half of the 11th, STR8PLAY struck first and took the lead which meant that Irwin needed to score as well. And that they did, tying the game and sending the game deeper into extra innings. Finally, in the 12th inning, still tied, Team Irwin found itself with the chance to finally put the game away. With two outs, runners on 1st and 2nd base, Capt. Ryan Jernegan delivered the hit that would finally plate the go-ahead run and send Team Irwin onto the next round.
“This team performed great, stayed confident and relaxed all day,” said Magnuson. “They played so hard and with a lot of heart.”
Irwin found itself in the semi-finals, battling their way through the loser’s bracket after a long day of softball. Despite coming up short in their final game and heading to the championship game, their 4th place finish demonstrated their determination and grit when it was time to “win or go home.”
Team Irwin’s next tournament will be another test as several key players depart as the Army’s PCS season approaches, but with the flow of great talent in-bound to Fort Irwin, this team will continue to claw their way towards greatness.
For more information on the Fort Irwin and NTC Post Softball team, please go and support them at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1114359531929456/.