Genoa softball coach Tom Kontak wanted to find a way to honor the late “Papa” Joe McLear, so a local softball tournament to raise money for a scholarship in McLear's name figured to be the best way to do it.
The 2009 Papa Joe Memorial Scholarship Tournament featured eight teams and was held at Genoa High School and at Waterworks Field at Brunner Elementary in Genoa.
"Springfield and St. Ursula were the marquee Division I teams," Kontak said. "We had Clyde in Division II, which went to the state semifinals last year, and we had the best umpires from Northwest Ohio. Everything we did, we tried to do first class. The crowds were great.
"We gained donations from fans on Saturday. Now we can cover the cost of the scholarship. The tournament was all about celebrating the memory of Papa Joe. He loved softball. We were playing on the field he was a big part of putting together. It was a celebration of many people for the love of the game and for young lady student athletes."
The Papa Joe McLear Scholarship is an annual scholarship of $250. Monies raised during the tournament go toward the scholarship bearing McLear's name. McLear, who had a long assocation with Genoa schools, was the Comets' junior varsity softball coach since 1994 until he passed away on Oct. 20, 2007.
"We hope to continue the tournament every year and hopefully have it grow," Kontak said.
Springfield, which is ranked No. 4 in the state, beat Genoa 9-2 in eight innings in the tournament championship game. The rest of the field included Lake, Arcadia, Lakota, Fremont St. Joe, Clyde and St. Ursula Academy.
The Comets defeated Arcadia 11-0 in the first round behind the pitching of junior Sarah Muncey. Clyde defeated Lake 2-1.
In the winner’s bracket semifinals, Genoa nipped St. Ursula 1-0 as Muncey pitched a complete game four-hitter. Genoa had two hits and scored its only run when sophomore Kayla Pickard's suicide squeeze bunt in the fourth inning scored junior Allison Johnson.
In the loser's bracket, Lake shut out St. Joe 7-0 as sophomore Adrienne Lowe allowed just four hits. The Flyers then secured fifth place with a 10-8 victory over Lakota.
Lake beat the Raiders on a two-out single by Rachel Duncan in the top of the seventh, driving in Jayna Kubuske and Mackenzie Whiteman.
"We were down 2-0 and came back with six in the fourth," Lake coach Dave Rymers said. "Lakota scored four in the bottom of the sixth to tie it up at 8." Lauren Densic got the win for the Flyers, pitching six innings and giving up eight hits. Lowe pitched a perfect seventh inning to earn the save.
The tournament was special for Rymers, a 1999 Genoa graduate who knew McLear.
"I played football, basketball and baseball and I had Papa Joe sitting courtside, and he always talked to me about what I was doing well," said Rymers, who was a catcher on the Comets' 1999 state semifinal baseball team. "I tried to make sure the girls knew what the tournament was about and making sure Papa Joe was well represented. The girls looked at it as an opportunity to face some really good teams in a tournament-type atmosphere."
Through 10 games, Lake is 4-6 and 0-1 in the Suburban Lakes League. Freshman third baseman Megan Schnell leads the Flyers with a .469 batting average while Lowe, who also plays second base, is batting .353. Junior first baseman Bri Freeman is batting .333 with one home run and nine RBI, and senior shortstop Lauren Lind is batting .323.
In the tournament title game, undefeated Springfield scored seven runs in the top of the eighth to blow the game open. The Blue Devils advanced to the regional tournament last season.
"In order to be the best, you have to play the best," Kontak said. "We're not going to shy away from playing anybody. Our schedule is as tough as anybody around."
Genoa was 7-4 and 1-1 in the SLL through Tuesday and is led by sophomore center fielder Julie Swartzmiller, who is hitting .387 with eight runs and six RBI. Pickard is hitting .310 with four RBI, and Muncey is 4-2 on the mound with a 2.12 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings.