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Furies accept helping hand

For a team out of the steel mill blue collar town of Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, the Furies' visit to Rock Hill this week has been a whole new experience.

The majority of the team is from within a 10-mile radius of Lower Burrell, about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, head coach Scott Fisher said.

"For some of the girl, this is their first vacation in years," Fisher said.

The Furies, a 14-and-under team, are a second-year squad. The team was sponsored in the tournament by Joe Gigler of MetroTech Chemicals in Charlotte, N.C. In fact, the team would not have made it to the NSA World Series without the sponsorship.

"This has been a great experience for the girls," assistant coach Bronco Brnardic said. "We weren't able to go last year because we didn't have the money."

The players has been enjoying themselves by going to Carowinds and touring the developed softball fields that Cherry Park has to offer. But on the field, it has been a different story.

Through Wednesday, the Furies were winless.

"We realized that you can't make mistakes and still be in the game," Fisher said. "In Pennsylvania, we could get away with that. But down here, it won't work."

But overall, Brnardic said that his team's experience is priceless.

"Look at the fields down here, they are gorgeous!" exclaimed Brnardic. "I can see why softball is so popular."

• TWELVE HEARTS, ONE BEAT: The 14-and-under West Jersey Witches have more than their peculiar name catching the attention of opponents.

Foes have to find a way to hit their pitching. The Witches won their first two games 1-0. Even with the victories, the team is looking to improve on the offensive end.

"We are looking to increase our offense," said assistant coach Dave Soles. "But our pitching is good enough to keep us in enough games."

Donning their bold all black and yellow uniforms on Wednesday, the Witches look to be a team in a zone going into their showdown with the Indiana Hoosier. They are 59-14 for the year, and they have done it through teamwork.

"Playing as a team is what got us here," Soles said. "Not any one of them will do anything by themselves."

The Witches focus on themselves, rather than advanced scouting reports on the opposing team.

"We go about our own business and go from there," said Soles. "There are a lot of good teams out there, but we like our chances just as much as anybody's."

• CONCESSION UPDATE: The top sellers at Cherry Park during the NSA tournament are french fries and hot dogs, said concession manager Sid Shillinglaw.

That's not much of a change from years past, Shillinglaw said. The biggest surprise has been the surge in bottled water sales. Water has outsold Powerade, a change from past years.

"Normally it is usually 50-50," Shillinglaw said. "I have already had to place another order for bottled water, but I have plenty of Powerades left."

• DETROIT MAKES PRESENCE FELT: Detroit Compuware is 3-0, with an attitude as understated as the name.

Compuware is a computer business based out of Detroit that sponsors the team and its plain-looking orange uniforms. Coming from Detroit, blue collar attitude is preferred more than flash.

"We are a team of over achievers, with a ton of girls playing as hard as they can," said head coach Scott Combs. "They listen to us, and succeed through repetition and hard work."

That hard-nosed moxie has helped the team in pressure situations, said assistant coach Carl Novich.

"We've had a ton of one or two-run games over the season," Novich said. "We've lost some, and won some, and learn from it."

As far as their chances for winning the tournament, Combs was straightforward.

"We have to lose two more games from here on, so until we lose, we have as good a chance as anybody," he said.

• PARADE OF TEAMS: As part of the Pin Swap on Tuesday night at Knights Stadium, a new event was introduced.

It was called the "Parade of Teams'' and was put together by the Pin Swap committee.

"Teams came down the hill in right field and walked down the first-base line,'' said Brown Simpson, coordinator of the event. "They stopped, then walked in from of the dugout and down the third-base line.

"We had judges from the Charlotte Knights. They graded the girls on banner design, spirit and custume/uniform. Some teams went all out in the costume/uniform category.''

In the 8-and-under age division, the winner was the Weddington Outlaws. The Lady Braves from North Carolina were second.

The 007's from Louisiana won the 10-and-under division. Virginia's Yorktown Revolution was second.

The 12-and-under winner was the White Sox Training Academy from Illinois. The Louden Storm from Virginia was second.

The Hudson Heat Fire from New Hampshire was the 14-and-under winner, with the Furies from Pennsylvania finishing second.

Virginia's Redbirds won the 16-and-under division. The Marauders from St. Louis, Mo., were second.