Greek softball team is a big hit on tour

In College Park, `Hellas' prepare for Athens debut


July 20, 2004|By Daniel Lyght | Daniel Lyght,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Outside the University of Maryland's softball stadium, the light blue and white stripes of the Greek flag flapped actively underneath the red, white and blue of the United States.

Inside the stadium, fans were just as active. Young ones ran across the top of the bleachers yearning for a chance to catch a foul ball. Fans bought Greek team T-shirts and visors and put them on right away.

When Greek first baseman Mari Ginny Georganta lifted the yellow softball over the left-field fence for a home run in the first game, necks wheeled to catch a glimpse, fans cheered and her teammates met her at home plate with high-fives and celebratory handshakes.

In a pre-Olympic tour of the East Coast, the Greek softball team continued its winning and shutout streaks Sunday by sweeping a doubleheader, 3-0 and 4-0, against two Washington-area Amateur Softball Association all-star teams.

Since softball is a new sport in Greece, the team is made up mostly of Americans of Greek heritage, with 16 of the 18 players from the United States. It got an automatic berth as the host country, and this will be the country's first Olympic softball appearance.

Sunday's games provided a chance for players to gain experience and for fans to see unique softball action.

Joe Heastie, a Maryland and George Mason alumnus, made his way from Virginia to get a peek at the softball rarity.

"I just have been having fun," said Heastie, who had a commemorative Greek flag hanging from his back pocket. "I love it. ... I'm just enjoying the sport."

With the Greek team in town, many college and former college players joined the local all-star teams to take their cuts. Kelley Tiesi, a Catholic High graduate who plays for Shippensburg University, pitched the first game against the Olympic squad.

"It's a pretty big honor," Tiesi said. "The conference I play in is pretty sharp as it is. To play against girls like this is good. It gets you some work and it shows you what you have to work on."

College Park was the sixth of seven stops on the team's tour of the East Coast, which was chosen for its dense Greek population. The Hellas - the name all Greek teams will use in Athens - have not been scored on during the tour.

"I knew we had a talented team, so I guess I thought we would be competitive," Greek coach Linda Wells said. "We definitely have talent enough to play with anybody."

Pitcher Sarah Farnworth, who starred at Cal State-Northridge, is a big reason for their success. In the tour debut in New York, Farnworth threw a perfect game. On Sunday, she had seven strikeouts en route to a shutout in the first game and a save in the second.

"She threw pretty good and the fact that she can hit the ball makes [her] a lot better," said opponent Kelly Shipman-Bronowicz, a former University of Maryland star and the 1996 Atlantic Coast Conference softball Rookie of the Year.

The Greek team will play 13 exhibition games in Europe before its Olympic competition begins Aug. 14 vs. China.

"We've done everything we can to prepare. I definitely think these games are helping us to get ready," Wells said. "I'm confident the team's going to give it everything they've got."

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