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Smokers, Bombers plan series against top opponent

The Tampa Bay Smokers and Clearwater Bombers will pass up the traditional Fourth of July tournament this year to play Dolan & Murphy of Aurora, Ill., in a six-game fast-pitch softball series at home.

Dolan & Murphy will face both teams as part of a doubleheader today at Bomber Stadium, meeting the Bombers at 7:30 and the Smokers at 9.

On Friday, Dolan & Murphy will play a doubleheader against the Bombers starting at 7:30 p.m., and will play a pair against the Smokers at 7 p.m. Saturday at North Shore Park in St. Petersburg.

The Smokers (45-10) won the International Softball Congress Regional Tournament last week, defeating the Bombers (25-16) in the championship game of the rain-shortened event.

"They are very tough," Smokers general manager Mike Mink said of Dolan & Murphy. "They are definitely a top-20 team but not top-10, like we faced at the North American Challenge in Canada."

The Smokers' two wins against the Bombers in the ISC tournament boosted their mark to 5-0 against their local rivals this year.

"We did a lot of things well," Mink said, "things like bunting, running the bases."

Going into the weekend, Marty Grant leads the Smokers in pitching with a 19-3 record while Jarrad Martin is the leading hitter with a .394 average and former Bomber Robert Brush is tops in home runs with 10.

After this weekend, both the Smokers and the Bombers will hit the road. The Smokers will go to the Pioneer Days Tournament July 7-9 at Salt Lake City, while the Bombers will be at the Cajun Classic at Baton Rouge, La., on the same dates.

Girls fast-pitch tournament: The annual Lady Bombers Tournament will start Friday at the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater. The first game will be at 6:30 p.m., and the tournament continues at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Teams from New Jersey, North Carolina and South Carolina are expected, along with most local clubs.

The Bombers' 16-under team will move up to the 18-under bracket while the regular 18-under squad is in Colorado for a tournament.

Smokers girls to nationals: The Smokers 16-and-under and 12-under fast-pitch teams both qualified for the national tournament after going undefeated in the district tournament at Tallahassee.

The 16-under squad (19-4 overall) went 6-0, with tournament MVP Caley Parker, Amanda Stewart and Barbara Davis each getting two pitching wins. Erin Morse, Gina Dawe and Heidi Price were the hitting leaders.

The Smokers also were undefeated last weekend at Bartow but had to settle for second place with a 2-0 record. Rain forced cancellation of most of the tournament games and the team that allowed the fewest runs was declared the champion.

The 12-under squad went 5-0 in the district tournament, and Stephanie Strickland was voted MVP.

Bombers girls place second: Clearwater Bombers teams finished second last weekend in Amateur Softball Association national qualifying tournaments against some of the top teams in the country.

The under-16 team lost 1-0 to the Parker Eagles of Tennessee in the championship game at Darlington, S.C. Clearwater lost its second game of the tournament, then won five in a row to finish 6-2. Pitchers Amanda Bettker (3-1), Amanda Kendall (2-1) and Keltie Christian (1-0) posted a combined ERA of 1.00 for the tournament. Tracy Hammett led the offense, batting .409 with four doubles, a triple, one homer and 10 RBI. Julie Crabtree hit .350 with one home run and five RBI.

The under-14 Bombers (27-9) went undefeated in their qualifier at Orlando but were awarded second place behind the West Palm Beach Diamond Gals under an ASA tiebreaking system based on run differential. Weather washed out their winners-bracket final. The Bombers were led by Alanna Hazzard (.545) and Jessica Kurella and Tacia Gaines (.500), and on the mound by Nikki Meadows, Amy Birch and Gaines.

The under-16 team will enter another qualifier in Brandon, and the under-14s may still get an at-large bid to the nationals.

Rascals 4th in tournament: The Pinellas Park Rascals 16-under girls team finished fourth last weekend at Sarasota with a 5-2 record despite the rainstorms. The team was eliminated 4-2 by the Sarasota Magic.

Mickey Myers again carried the pitching load in addition to collecting nine hits, while Crissy Parker had six hits and Dawn Loeser five.

The 16-under team finished second at Darlington, S.C., with a 6-2 record, losing twice to champion Chattanooga, Tenn.

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