Return of Cherry Days softball a success

By Tamie Meck

A team of Delta County men held off a late-game rally to defeat a Montrose team and win the Cherry Days men's division of the wood bat softball tournament. The win came with a $500 cash prize.

Balls Deep, a team of Paonia, Hotchkiss and Delta high school alumni, was seeded first heading into the day-long, 10-team tournament. They dominated their way through the bracket, defeating the Average Joes, 15-10, to win the tournament's championship game.

The Average Joes are a traveling men's team out of Montrose. The Joes were down by 10 runs in the fourth inning and narrowed BD's lead to five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. The local boys turned up the defense in the seventh for the win.

"They were a tough team," said BD second baseman Nate Wiggins of the Average Joes. "They had jerseys and everything."

Montrose didn't go home without a win. In the co-ed division tournament the following day (the men were required to use wood bats) the Montrose Center for Mental Health dominated the field.

In the championship game they smashed the Hazbeens, another team of Delta County alums, 21-1, in four innings. After accepting its $500 share of the prize money, CMH graciously donated $200 back to the PHS athletics department.

Wiggins, who recently was named head wrestling coach at Paonia, and assistant wrestling and baseball coach Eric Neal organized the tournaments, which mark a return of a past Cherry Days tradition and doubled as a fundraiser for the Paonia High School athletics program.

Wiggins said he remembers playing softball during Cherry Days when he was growing up in Paonia, but said it went away about 10 years ago.

It was a last-minute thought and they managed to put it all together a few days before the Cherry Days weekend. "We just thought it'd be fun to add another event at Cherry Days," said Wiggins. "It wouldn't hurt to raise a little money for the school."

Wiggins estimates that after expenses the athletics department will receive more than $2,000.

Sponsors put up $250 to enter their teams. Neal's company, Lightworks Fiber, sponsored three teams.

Sponsored by Fire Mountain Properties, Balls Deep donated half of its $500 prize money back to PHS athletics, and used the rest to celebrate its win at the Rio Bravo Restaurant in Paonia.

Considering it was very last-minute, "I'm very happy," said Wiggins. "I think it was a success." Most of the teams had a great time, and the word is out.

Now that the first tournament is behind them and they learned a few lessons, "I think it'll be better next year," he added.