Pioneer Days staple: 1980s, ‘90s teams vie for Negaunee alumni softball quarterfinal spot

Dana Rivord of the classes of 1994-95-96 bats during a game at the Negaunee High School Alumni Softball Tournament on Tuesday evening at LaCombe Field in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

NEGAUNEE — The Negaunee High School Alumni Softball Tournament has become a staple of Pioneer Days over the years with this year being no exception.

The 22nd edition of the tournament features 38 teams from various graduation years as well as a high school staff team.

After Tuesday night, the tournament was narrowed to seven of the final eight teams with one game left to be played this evening for the final quarterfinal spot.

Tournament organizer Kyle Wills, who’s been heading the tournament for four years, said this year’s edition has been one of the most successful since he took over.

“This year has been my best year yet,” he said. “It’s gone a lot smoother than in the past. There’s been a lot less forfeits and we try to make it less and less every year by combining some teams.

Randy Johnson of the classes of 1983-84 swings during a game against the classes of 1994-95-96 during the Negaunee Alumni Softball Tournament on Tuesday evening at LaCombe Field in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

“It’s been fun for me this year. I’m finally getting the hang of it after a couple of years and people are having more and more fun each year…. It’s great to have people back in town every year.”

Round of 16 play began on Monday with four more games played Tuesday.

The first game of the evening featured the combined classes of 1983 and ’84 going up against the classes of 1994, ’95 and ’96.

The 83-84 squad jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two innings, while 94-95-96 answered in the top of the third with two runs of its own. 83-84 added a run in the bottom half of the inning before 94-95-96 tacked on another in the top of the fourth to trail 4-3.

The score remained that way for several innings as 83-84 had a chance to close out the game in the top of the sixth. Instead, 94-95-96 scored a run with a drive down the leftfield line to tie the game 4-4 and force another inning.

83-84 wasn’t going to surrender easily, however, and didn’t take long getting the lead back for good.

83-84 led the inning off with a single with a runner advancing to second on an outfield error. After that runner advanced to third, Mark Wainio hit him home on a base hit to leftfield for the walkoff winner.

Wainio said notching the game-winning hit felt good, but seeing and playing with his former classmates as well as other old friends felt even better.

“It’s fantastic and I had a good time,” he said. “It’s good to see people and stuff like that, and that’s what it’s all about.”

83-84 faces the classes of 1973, ’74 and ’75 in its quarterfinal after defeating 1991 on Monday.

The other Tuesday night games saw 2014 defeat 2009, 1990 defeat the 1982 and 2011 top 2004.

Quarterfinal action kicks off tonight with two games with the other two games on Thursday. The class of 2005 takes on 2006 at 8 p.m. today, followed by 83-84 against 73-74-75 at 9 p.m.

The Thursday quarterfinal contests feature 2014 taking on 2011 at 6 p.m. 1990 faces the winner of the final Round of 16 contest between 1997 and 1999, which will be played at 7 p.m. today and their quarterfinal involving that winner at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Semifinals and finals will be held Friday beginning at 6 p.m. with the championship scheduled for 8:30 p.m.

All games take place at LaCombe Field.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.