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Brakettes set to host national championship

The fourth annual Women’s Major Softball National Championship tournament gets under way Thursday at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field and the Short Beach Recreation Complex in Stratford.

The two-time defending champion Stratford Brakettes are one of 11 teams battling for the title.

Pool play games will go on throughout the day at both locations, and five games are on tap following Opening Ceremonies, which are scheduled for DeLuca Field between 5:45-6:15 p.m.

After the parade of teams onto the field, VFW Post 9460 will present the colors and the Coastal Chordsmen will sing the National Anthem.

Mayor John A. Harkins and tournament director Bob Baird will speak briefly and Harkins and Glenn Zuklie, sponsor of the Team Social, will throw out the ceremonial first pitches.

The Brakettes will play the Jersey Fusion in the first of three night games at DeLuca at 6:30 p.m. The 8 p.m. and 9:30 games match winners of earlier pool games at DeLuca.

The Stratford Seahawks and New York Raiders play at 7 p.m. at Short Beach, with the loser of that game facing the loser of the 3 p.m. game between the NYC Havoc and CT at 8:30 p.m.

Seven games are scheduled Friday at DeLuca Field in the winner’s bracket, with the first session starting at 9 a.m. and the evening quadruple header at 4 p.m.

Eleven games are on tap Saturday and four Sunday.

The Brakettes played regular-season doubleheaders Tuesday against the St. Louis Saints and Wednesday against the CT Charmers, both participants in the tournament. Entering those games manager John Stratton’s team stood at 58-3 on the year.

Stratton will rely upon the pitching of Brandice Balschmiter (31-2) and Rachele Fico to lead the Brakettes to another national title.

The two hurlers were 3-0 in last year’s tournament and shared the Joan Joyce Outstanding Pitcher Award.

St. Louis figures to provide the Brakettes with its stiffest challenge.

Veteran manager Ed Martz, now in his 58th year coaching women’s softball teams, brings another talented squad to Stratford.

St. Louis has finished runner-up to the Brakettes in the last two WMS events, losing 4-1 in 2010 and 9-0 last year when the Brakettes recorded six straight shutout wins.

Three Saints were named to the All-America team in 2011, led by pitcher Amanda Zust, outfielder Amanda Clack, and third baseman Ashley Hall, who also won the Diane Schumaher Batting title.

Other award winners last year were Brakettes utility player Kristyn Sandberg, who won the Micki Stratton MVP, and Pat Dufficy Home Run awards, and CT Mirage shortstop Brianna Turgeon, who won the Allyson Rioux Defensive Player Award.

The awards are named after former Brakettes who are in the National ASA Hall of Fame.

Stratton’s lineup features an array of talent, led by first baseman Stephanie Call who has 17 home runs, followed by second baseman Ashley Waters (11 home runs) and center fielder Becca Carden.

That trio, plus shortstop Mandie Fishback, have driven in over 50 runs each.

Veteran right fielder Denise Denis, who is batting for the batting title with her .460 average, is having another strong campaign with 11 doubles, seven triples and nine home runs to go with 42 RBIs.

In addition to the Saints and Charmers, the other teams competing in the WMS event are the New York Raiders, NYC Havoc, Lyons (Pa.) Spirit, Jersey Fusion, Stratford Seahawks, CT Eliminators 23U, CT Eliminators Women and Mirage.

Tournament passes will be on sale at DeLuca Field. Passes are $35 for box seats, $30 for reserved with back rests behind home plate, and $25 for first and third base bleachers. No regular season passes will be honored at the tournament.

All WMS games played at DeLuca Field will be video web cast by going to brakettes.com.

CPTV will televise all Stratford Brakettes tournament games on tape delay.

All youth league players and their coaches will be admitted free throughout the entire tournament. They must wear their team t-shirts.

A complete tournament page with rosters, team photos, results, and schedules is located on the Brakettes Web site.

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