PITTSFIELD -- The Berkshire Force are in the Babe Ruth Softball 16-Under World Series. As the host team, the Force has an automatic bid.
The Force won't, however, have the chance to enter the tournament as New England regional champion.
Babe Ruth Softball informed the Force on Monday that they won't be included in the regional tournament later this month as per Babe Ruth rules, as the organization would like to include as many teams as possible.
"The biggest fear is that, if the Force plays in the New England regionals, that they would displace another team," Western Mass. state commissioner and Babe Ruth World Series task force member Jim Stimpson said Monday. "We had to back away from doing the regionals. It was kind of a surprise at first. It made all the sense in the world after they explained it."
Stimpson has also served as a Force coach, but will not coach the team this summer due to his state and task force duties.
Babe Ruth National Commissioner Rob Connor, in Pittsfield on Monday, told The Eagle that his goal is for the 16-under World Series to have a full 20-team field. Two of those slots have already been filled, as the Force are in as tournament host and Massachusetts state tournament host Plymouth is also in automatically.
Eight regional champions will earn bids to the tournament, and at-large invitations will also be given out by Babe Ruth Softball. New England will, then, have at least three teams in the field at the Doyle Complex for the July 29-Aug. 5 World Series.
The fact that they're already in the Series, though, doesn't seem to have satisfied some Force team members. One, outfielder and co-captain Jill Campbell, was blunt in her reaction.
"We would have sent too many teams home," she said. "That's why we can't play in regionals. Hopefully they underestimate us, so that we come from behind and crush them."
Force coach Jim Clary admitted he wanted his team to play in the tournament, but said he and his staff are looking for a tournament that will replace the July 16-20 New England tournament in Rochester, N.H.
Clary said the goal has always been for the Force to repeat as New England champion, and enter the World Series with that on their resume rather than simply being in the field as the tournament host. So he will use it as motivation for his players, especially if they should meet a New England team in the World Series.
Clary's message, he said, will be something along these lines: "None of these girls wanted to play us. Let's show them why they didn't want to play us."
Having coached a number of Force teams that earned World Series bids by winning New England tournaments, Stimpson understands the desire to be in the regional tournament field. He was there in 2008 when Pittsfield first hosted the World Series, too.
"I knew we had a great chance of winning again," he said. "I understand the disappointment, but I also understand, as a national task force member and state commissioner, the politics behind it. They're trying to make the best tournament possible ... and make sure everybody gets an equal shot."
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