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Softball sees major explosion

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Mike Faas

The Alleman girl's softball team took sectional honors last summer. Reaching for the trophy are Jennifer Duyvejonck, Jennifer Ochs, Stacey Burgmeier and Sarah Ebner. High school girls' softball has become big business in the Quad-Cities. In the early 1980s, there were just two big teams in summer ASA ball. Now there are five groups, with eight teams in each group.

Over the past 1 1/2 decades, Kelly Gorgal has been a part of the Quad-Cities girls softball explosion, first as a player and now as a coach.

``I can remember when I was 12 years old, in 1982, there were only two big teams (in summer ASA ball), the Stars and the Sonics,'' said Ms. Gorgal, now assistant coach for Moline High School's softball team.

``Now there are five big groups, with eight teams in every group, totaling 35 to 40 teams.''

With the talent that has blossomed in Quad-Cities ASA, expansion certainly was necessary. It has just gotten stronger with numbers.

It also has organizations, farm systems if you will. The Heartland group has a team at each level, from 10-and-under to 18-under. The Mizuno Shockers have three teams. As the Quad-City Sting show, teams can bloom without any ``farm system'' attachment.

Appearances in national ASA tournaments has become a Quad-Cities' birthright.

So, too, has success in Illinois high school tournaments, both in Class A and AA.

The cause of the Q-C softball success?

It certainly has a tie to all the young pitchers the late Dale Matlick of Reynolds, a men's fastpitch star in his heyday, took under his wing.

Moline head softball coach Robin McConnell says the effects of Mr. Matlick and the fastpitch history haven't been lost on today's game.

``There were some great men's fastpitch teams here (in the '60s) and I can remember going to Stephen's Park in Moline and watching the Sexton Ford Redbirds women's teams in the early '70s,'' Ms. McConnell said.

As the attention paid to the sport grew, so, too, did the lure.

``It's now the hype of getting scholarships,'' Ms. Gorgal said. ``It's all of the parents pushing and pushing their kids earlier and earlier.''

So far, the sport has accommodated the booming growth Ms. Gorgal probably never imagined in her teen years.

-- By Marc Nessler (February 2, 1998)

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