Sunday, August 3, 2003

Metro softball champs reunited

Watanabe, Sullivan looking for 4 more wins

By Colleen Kane
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The last time Mike Sullivan played on Dave Watanabe's softball team, they were crowned national champions. Today, 10 years later, Sullivan and Watanabe Optical are looking for another title - Cincinnati Metro Softball champions.

They'll have to win four games in the Majors, including a possible rematch with Perkins Roofing, today to do it. Their quest begins at 2 p.m. at Rumpke Park against the winner of the EMR Worth/Springdale Cleaners game.

In 'A': NKy Softball defeated Cooper Sports 14-6 Saturday and will play Sidelines at 12:30 p.m. today.
Champions crowned today: The Majors finals will be at 7 p.m., with an extra game for double elimination at 8:10 p.m., if necessary. The winner of the Perkins/Robke game will play the winner of the losers' bracket playoffs, which begin at 2 p.m. The finals of "C" and "D" American and National also will be held; losers' brackets begin play at 9 a.m.
Up to bat today: Marty's Pub will play Blitz Softball at 3:10 p.m. in the "A" semifinals. The "B" semis will be at 5:30 p.m.
"All tournament we've had 14, 15 guys, so I feel we'll be OK as long as the weather holds up," Watanabe said.

Sullivan, 45, was a third baseman with V.I.P. Limo during its five Metro Championships. He played on Watanabe's 1993 championship team but quit to spend more time with his children.

When he went to pick up contact lenses for his daughter this winter, Watanabe asked him to rejoin his team. Watanabe, which was ranked in the top 10 in the nation by Softball Times in early July, has five out-of-area players who compete in traveling tournaments. The Metro allows only two out-of-area players on a team, so Watanabe needed some fill-ins.

"We need good in-town players ... there's nobody better than Mike Sullivan," Watanabe said.

Sullivan joined Joe Penwell, who played on Watanabe's 1998 and '99 Metro Championship teams, as a part-time player.

"I thought, 'What the heck? I'll give it another try,' " Sullivan said. "My daughters play all these sports, and I think I need to get in shape and start doing something again."

On Saturday night, Sullivan made two key plays in the bottom of the seventh to fuel Watanabe to a 37-31 win over Benge Trucking.

Dave Watanabe is also making a return this year, as sponsor and manager, to the Metro. He took the last two years off and was an assistant coach for Perkins, but former players and his wife persuaded him to field a team this year.

Watanabe lost in a tough opening-round matchup to Perkins. After crashing through the losers' bracket, the team is just one good day from another title - a type of day Watanabe already had in 1998, when it won five straight games on Sunday to win the Metro.

Sullivan thinks his team can do it.

"We feel confident enough that we can get on a roll and score some runs," he said.

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