Tri-Cities softball team get traditional results in Tennessee Senior Games

By Ivan Sanders

   CLARKSVILLE -- When thinking of sports dynasties, teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers and the Tri-Cities Seniors softball team come to mind.
   Who are the Tri-Cities Seniors you ask? They are the team that has just come home from Clarksville with their seventh straight state championship medallion in softball competition in the Tennessee State Senior Games.
   The team captured its seventh seniors medal in dramatic fashion by coming from the loser's bracket to win three straight games on the final day of competition late Saturday.
   Composed of men who are 65 years of age or older, the team has three players from Elizabethton -- Bill Weddle, Bob Carlton and Bill Carter -- seven from Kingsport, two from Greeneville, four from the Chattanooga area and one each from Jonesborough and Johnson City. All these men have played together for quite some time and have an impressive 52-18 record for this season with two tournaments remaining.
   Opening up the tournament with a resounding 21-1 thrashing of the Bank of Jackson, the Tri-Cities team looked ready to defend a title that has been all theirs for the past six years. Behind the hitting of Bill Hamilton, Donnie Doran, Carlton and Bill Jones the Tri-Cities squad was relentless on the Jackson club and won in only three innings of play due to a 20-run mercy rule.
   It was a completely different team on Saturday morning as the Seniors squared off with Zachary's of Hendersonville in a game that began at 7:15 in the morning. Having beat the Hendersonville club handily three weeks earlier may have led to a little oversight on the part of the Tri-Cities team, as they raced out to a 9-1 advantage after four innings of play only to see Zachary put together some clutch hitting and a defensive stand to send Tri-Cities to the loser's bracket by a score of 16-15.
   A rematch was back on tap in their next game as Jackson came calling once again to see if they could wither the Tri-Cities club down, much like the 95-degree plus temperatures were doing to everyone on Saturday afternoon.
   The boys from Jackson came ready to play, but they once again were overshadowed by a barrage of hits off the bats of Tri-Cities. Kenny Eldridge, Carter, Wade Canipe and Harold Love all had excellent at-bats in propelling the squad to a 22-4 win and more importantly a rematch with Zachary that had beat Tri-Cities for the first time in years early Saturday.
   In an heart-pounding game that was like riding a roller coaster, the Carter County connection of Carter, Weddle and Carlton came up big to force a second game by taking a hard fought 15-14 win in the bottom of the seventh inning. Weddle pounced on the ball for two home runs, Carlton added one, and Carter had an outstanding plate performance, closing out the game by driving in Carlton with the winning run in the bottom frame of the seventh inning.
   With the title game at hand, Tri-Cities showed why they sport the record they do by ripping the cover off the ball in taking an easier victory over Zachary by the score of 25-9. Eldridge, Dwayne Thornburg, Doran, Weddle, Carlton, Carter, Love, Ralph Birdwell, Hamilton, Jones, Canipe, Emory White and Thomas Sells all played with an enthusiasm that proved why they are one of the most respected teams around in their age division.
   Thornburg stepped up big defensively at first base while White slugged two homers in the championship game. The real hero of the day was probably Birdwell, who had pitched three straight games in searing heat to give his squad the shot at another championship.
   Manager Cecil Murr obviously had to be pleased with the performance of his club.
   "We just didn't play like we were capable of this morning," stated Murr. "It's just like all the other tournaments we've been in though, we just get stronger and better as we go."
   The win was just another one for the trophy shelf as the team has also brought home titles from Montgomery, Ala., Pensacola, Fla. and Marietta, Ga. They finished second in tournaments played at Myrtle Beach, S.C., North Charleston, and Augusta, Ga.