This column was supposed to discuss Saturday's Amateur Softball Association state slow-pitch softball championship tournament for church teams, which was played at the Carroll County Sports Complex.

Withonly a nine-team field -- six from the Carroll church league and three from Salisbury on the Eastern Shore -- it seemed reasonable to expect that Sunday would find the championship or runner-up trophy sitting in a county rectory.

But when the church tourney ended Saturday evening, Parkway Church of God had finished first, St. Francis De Sales, second, and Salisbury Church of the Nazarene, third.

All are in Salisbury -- Wicomico County.

Not only that, the six Carroll teams played the three Salisbury outfits seven times -- and lost all seven.

There were few home-town heroics to write about.

So, I journeyed to Eldersburg's Oklahoma Park Sunday evening to find some. There, I watched the SouthCarroll Athletic Association softball league's postseason championship tournament finals.

Enduring energy-sapping conditions approximating those of Death Valley, I watched V's Tees and Griffith Auto Parkbattle it out.

The players, of course, had it a lot worse than I.

Heat-induced leg cramps and other muscle miseries abounded despite the players' extensive consumption of salt pills, bananas and otherhome remedies.

At tourney's end, V's Tees had come out on top.

V's Tees is from Reisterstown -- in Baltimore County.

But here, Griffith, a Carroll team, finished second. And there were enough localheroics to write about.

On Sunday afternoon, Griffith emerged from the losers' bracket in that double-elimination tourney to knock offV's, 13-8. That victory forced a second game.

In the evening finale, V's unleashed a 28-hit attack, including five homers and rockets to all corners of the field.

With his team down, 26-11, darkness falling, his players drooping, and V's mercilessly pounding away in the top of the sixth, Griffith manager Cliff Yeager conceded the game.

"I didn't want to get anyone hurt. There was no sense," he said.

Yeager added that trying to overcome V's huge and growing lead wasn't worth risking the health of his players, who will be needed in upcoming tournaments.

The SCAA tourney's closing games were a continuation of a year-long struggle between three evenly matched teams.

And it ended the same way as had the regular season, with first-placeV's followed by Griffith and then the western Carroll-based Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes almost beat V's in the final winners' bracket game Sunday, taking an 18-12 lead into the seventh inning.

But V's rallied for seven runs with two outs to win, 19-18, to knock the Hurricanes into a losers' bracket finale with Griffith.

There, they met further frustration as Griffith rallied from a 12-9 deficit with four runs in the seventh, three on a pinch-hit homer by Yeager, to go ahead, 13-12.

After the Hurricanes tied it in the home half, Griffith first baseman Ollie Hooper launched a two-run shot in the eighth to win it, 15-13.

Now facing V's in the Sunday afternoon finals, Griffith raced to an early 10-0 lead behind homers by Vern Hallis, PeteEmmerich, Marty Emerick and Hooper.

But their opponents rallied for eight runs in the home fourth, with Mike Kraus homering and Steve Browning doubling home three runs before Tony Cort's sixth-inning homer gave Griffith breathing room.

Heading into the "if" game, with each team now having one loss, V's acting manager Mark Scoone wasn't worried.

"I told them that Griffith hadn't swept a double header from us all year, and wasn't going to do it now," Scoone said.

He proved prophetic, as V's shot to a 6-0 first-inning lead on homers by Kraus and John Scoone.

But league MVP Bryan Vacca, who led the SCAA in average, home runs and RBI this year, homered for Griffith in the home first, and Emmerich added a three-run shot to make it 6-5.

Homers by Dan Barnes, Dave Alban, and Kraus made it 12-5, V's Tees inthe second, before Vacca's grand slam narrowed it to 12-9.

But Griffith's bats went fatally cold the next two innings, and V's exploded for 10 runs in the fifth to balloon ahead, 24-9.

Yeager mercifully ended the carnage not long afterward.

"I thought we could beat them when we came back to 6-5 after the first inning. I thought it was our ball game," Yeager said.

But he conceded that going scoreless in the middle innings against a high-scoring outfit like V's doomedany chances of winning.

Yeager quickly put the loss behind him and looked ahead.

"We'll rest up a week and get ready for the state tournament," he said.

But Carroll church teams must wait until next year.

State ASA publicity director Frank Novotny says he wants to have the tourney at the sports complex again in 1992, and with moreteams.

But nobody could explain exactly what happened to the Carroll teams this year.

Possibly the locals weren't mentally preparedto play in a state-level tournament, Novotny said.

Stan Pennington, who plays for Jerusalem Lutheran, which placed fourth behind the three Salisbury teams, said the visitors' pitching was a big factor.

"I was really impressed with it. If their first pitch was a strike,you'd better be swinging, because you'd get nothing but garbage to hit afterward -- and that would also be strikes," he said.

The visiting churches also had larger congregations to draw from, he added.

"I talked to one player whose church has 3,000 families. What's that, 9,000 people?" he asked.

As for his church, near Westminster, "On a good Sunday, we'll have maybe 75 to 80 people in there," he saidwith a chuckle.

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