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Army men earn silver in softball

NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA, Fla. — The All-Army men’s team could not overcome the All-Air Force and settled for silver at the 2010 Armed Forces Softball Championships Sept. 19-23.

“The Air Force is like the New York Yankees of softball,” All-Army coach Victor Rivera said Wednesday after his team squandered a 9-0 lead during a 19-10 loss to All-Air Force that all but secured the gold for the Airmen. “The Army is more dominant in some other sports like boxing and wrestling, but in softball, for some reason, the Air Force has been the mark of success.”

“It’s just like playing the Yankees, man, it’s the mystique,” echoed seven-time All-Army third baseman Michael Dochwat Jr. of Fort Shafter, Hawaii. “You try to mimic them.”

“They don’t worry,” said Ralph Hodgdon of Fort Benning. “When they get down, they just play.”All-Army entered the tournament with nine “rookies” or first-time Armed Forces competitors. When it came time to face All-Air Force, the All-Army team tensed up.

“When we play the Marines Corps and the Navy, we play relaxed,” Rivera said. “When we play the Air Force, we let the emotions run too high. You want to do so well against them, you squeeze the bat a little tighter and you want to work on defense a little harder.”

Dochwat, who led the tourney with a .704 batting average, and Hodgdon both went 4-for-4 with a home run as All-Army opened the tournament Sunday with a 22-7 rout of All-Marine Corps. Lester Daniels of Fort Gordon, Ga., had two homers, and Kenny Turlington of Fort Meade, Md., Clayton Shaw of Fort Campbell, Ky., Danny Rogers of Camp Walker, Korea, and Christopher Stevens of Okinawa, Japan, all went 3-for-4.

Daniels, who led the tournament with nine home runs, blasted two during All-Army’s 10-6 victory over All-Navy Sunday. Hodgdon and Dochwat both went 2-for-3 and added a homer. All-Air Force batted around and scored eight runs in the sixth inning of their 18-12 victory over All-Army Monday. Daniels went 3-for-3 and stroked his fifth homer of the tourney. Hodgdon was 2-for-3 with a homer.

“We just put too much focus on the Air Force,” Daniels said. “This tourney has been a roller-coaster ride. We definitely have a lot of potential. We just have to put it together consistently.”

Shaw went 2-for-4 with a homer and Dochwat and Enrique Mendieta of Fort Eustis, Texas, both went 2-for-3 as All-Army bounced back for a 14-5 victory over All-Navy Monday. Tuesday, All-Air Force pounded All-Army, 20-5. Hodgdon went 3-for-3 with a homer and Dochwat was 3-for-3 with three singles. Daniels was 1-for-3 with his sixth homer of the tourney, but All-Air Force scored seven runs in the fifth and added five in the seventh for its second win over the Soldiers.

“As a collective group, we just tighten up against Air Force,” Hodgdon said. “We worry about making mistakes instead of just playing and having fun.”

Daniels went 3-for-3 and homered again Tuesday as All-Army rolled to a 25-2 rout of All-Marine Corps.

Dochwat and Mendieta each had two hits, including a homer, and Brandon Sonnenburg of Camp Casey, Korea, Kevin Watkins of Fort Carson, Colo., and Martin Hunt of Fort Meade, Md., added two hits apiece.Still hoping for a little help from their All-Navy and All-Marine friends, the Soldiers fell to All-Air Force for the third time Wednesday. Hodgdon went 3-for-4 with a homer. Daniels was 2-for-4 with two homers, and Dochwat went 2-for-4 with a homer.

“They just hit, and we had two plays we didn’t turn double plays on that we should’ve. It happens. We just didn’t get it done,” said Hodgdon, 40, a veteran of the 1998 and 2008-10 All-Army teams. “When we lost that game to Air Force, that was pretty emotional for me with it being my last year of playing. You want to go out on top.”

Silver medalist All-Army (6-3) finished with a 3-0 victory over All-Navy (2-7) Thursday. All-Marine Corps (3-6) closed the tourney with a 23-22 victory in eight innings over gold medalist All-Air Force (7-2).

“We’ll be back next year to win our gold back,” Daniels said.

Daniels, Dochwat and Hodgdon were named to the All-Tournament Team.