Tim Foster remembers running his first USSSA state softball tournament in 1994.
The tourney had 27 teams and was conducted in Edinburgh.
This weekend, Foster is putting on the USFA Indiana State Championship in Columbus for the 11th consecutive year. A total of 202 teams are entered from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.
“It’s probably the biggest state tournament in the state for a while,” veteran coach Ed Loweth said. “They have teams from everyplace.”
Loweth coaches the 16-and-under Indiana Nitro team that is predominantly made up of players from the Columbus North and Columbus East high school programs. He is also manager for the 18U Nitro team, which includes players from North, East, Hauser and Brown County.
“We have some really good teams coming,” Foster said. “A lot of the age groups, it’s kind of up in the air who’s going to win.”
Foster’s cousin, Jeremy Foster, coaches the powerhouse Red Alert 01 squad, which has been playing mostly in 12U B divisions. Tim Foster moved it up to the A Division for this tourney.
“There’s some really good teams in that A (Division), so he has his work cut out for him,” Tim Foster said. “But they’re pretty strong. I would say out of all the local teams, they probably have the best shot of winning the state in their division.”
Teams accumulating enough points throughout the year qualify for the USFA World Series in July in Panama City, Florida. This weekend’s winners get half of their entry fee paid.
The tournament begins today and runs through Sunday at Ceraland (8U and 16U A and B Divisions), Dunn Stadium (10U B and C), Lincoln Park (12U A and B), Clifty Park (14U A and 18U A and B) and Edinburgh (14U B). The 10U B and 16U A championship games are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Sunday, while the rest of the title games are set for 5 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s a major challenge to put this on,” Loweth said. “It takes an awful lot of umpires.”
Foster said he had to turn away 54 teams because there weren’t enough fields. He plans to spread the tournament over two weekends next year.
“By doing that, I think the numbers will be a lot larger because high school softball has pushed everything back,” Tim Foster said. “You have the high school state tournament going on this weekend.”
Admission for this weekend’s event is $5 per person per day. Children 6 and younger are free.
“A lot of kids that play in the summer are serious players,” Loweth said. “A lot of college coaches come out and watch them play with hopes of recruiting players that they need. That’s our ultimate goal with the kids — to help their parents save money. It’s a lot like older AAU basketball.”