Valuable experience

Published 8:45 pm Thursday, July 22, 2010

Eleven games in four days against travel softball squads from all over the nation certainly meant the Virginia Skyliners got their fill of excellent competition last week at the Cat Osterman Experience in Bellevue, Neb.

There was more to the trip than winning and losing though, even considering the Skyliners played very well and finished with a 6-3-2 record.

The Skyliners, a 16-and-under team made up of players from Suffolk, Franklin and Southampton County, got to play in the second youth tournament at the brand-new, Olympic-level complex that includes everything from the U.S. Girls Softball Hall of Fame to dorms or “team clubhouses” for all visiting teams, for this tournament there were 34 16-and-under teams, to stay in on site.

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“We had the chance to interact with many of the other teams from all around the country,” said Skyliner co-head coach Mike Matthews. “Hopefully the girls have made friends they’ll keep in contact with through e-mail and text messages and all of that.”

“It was well worth all the effort and fundraising it took to get there. It was such a great experience. I’d recommend it to any local teams thinking of going in the future,” Matthews said.

On the field, the Skyliners started slowly, with two losses and a tie on the first day of the tournament. The Skyliners rebounded to go 3-0-1 on Wednesday and Thursday and nearly make it into the Gold, or championship, bracket.

The whole bracket phase of the tournament was played Friday and the Skyliners were nearly out of it right away. Playing the host team from Bellevue, a team the Skyliners defeated during pool play, the Skyliners rallied from a 5-0 deficit in the second inning to win 9-5.

The Skyliners kept going to make it three straight wins before falling in the championship game of the Silver bracket.

“It was pretty much a softball paradise once we started playing,” Matthews said.

The Hall of Fame Fields at the Cat Osterman Experience is still a work in progress. Recent flooding along the nearby Missouri River pushed back some of the construction, said Matthews.

“But they did a tremendous job. There were some plan Bs in effect, but there were still more than enough activities off the field,” Matthews said. “If it’s possible, I intend to bring another team back in two or three years. They have plans to expand the facility to include more, more than even what they have on the Web site.”

The amenities listed on the facility’s site include “mist cooled dugouts”, an outdoor movie theater and water slides.

With a non-stop schedule of practices and tournaments since March, then the week in Nebraska, the Skyliners are taking about a month before returning to action for the busy fall portion of the travel softball circuit.