Columbus set to host state softball tourney

More than 260 softball teams have traveled to Columbus to compete in this weekend’s Indiana USSSA 2017 State Tournament.

USSSA Fastpitch Softball hosts tournaments across the state for 50 weekends a year, but tournament director Tim Foster said this is the most important tournament of the year. The event continues to grow every year and has 44 more teams competing this weekend than a year ago.

“Columbus has been a great place to host this tournament,” Foster said. “Teams have just followed us here. All of the parks are good, and there are plenty of parks here … When we bring this to (Columbus), it’s a big event for everybody. It’s great for the community. It’s a hug economic impact for the city for this weekend.”

The tournament features seven different age groups starting at 8-and-under up to 18-and-under. There are A, B and C sanctions within the different age groups, which creates about 16 different brackets for the weekend.

The double-elimination tournament will begin with the first games at 10 a.m. today and end with the championship games at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Each team will play at least three games, with the majority of them playing two on today.

Eleven Columbus-based teams are competing across the different age groups.

Foster said the tournament is attracting more elite teams to travel to Columbus, which raises the overall talent level of the event. Next year’s tournament will be two weekends long instead of just one because of its popularity. Foster is expecting an estimated 200 competing teams per weekend next year.

Hotels already are sold out for the Great Lakes Nationals that will be conducted July 20 to 23 in Columbus. A total of 188 teams across eight states and Canada will be competing in that tournament.

Foster has been in charge of the USSSA tournament for 23 years, and the 10-12-year-old girls that he witnessed competing when he first started are now bringing their 10-12-year-old daughters to play.

“If you’re a mom, and you played this sport and you have a daughter, she’s going to play the sport, too,” Foster said. “It’s a sport you get used to, and it kind of gets in your blood.”

Ten of the 11 Columbus teams will be playing today. The Red Alert 8U team will not play its first game until 8 a.m. Saturday.

Tournament breakdown

What: Indiana USSSA 2017 State Tournament

When: Today through Sunday

Where: Ceraland, Clifty Park, Dunn Stadium, Edinburgh Sports Complex, Lincoln Park, Southside Elementary

Who: 266 total teams, including Columbus-based entires Indiana Nitro 16U (16-and-under B); Indiana Thunder Strike 03 (14-and-under B); Red Alert (14-and-under C, 12-and-under A, 12-and-under B, 10-and-under C, 8-and-under B); Southern Indiana Impact King (12-and-under B, 11-and-under, 10-and-under B); Demand Command 12U (12-and-under C).

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.