Prep softball: Marquette Spring Swing tournament will sport 22 U.P. teams this weekend

MARQUETTE – With snow still covering Hurley Field in Marquette and most prep girls softball diamonds across the Upper Peninsula, an indoor facility is a must for 2014 teams to begin play this season.

“Thank God for the Superior Dome,” Marquette Senior High School head coach Paul Seibert said.

“Who knows when we’ll get on our own field? Maybe the first week of May if Mother Nature cooperates.”

MSHS, which plays varsity games at Hurley Field in South Marquette, will be one of 22 teams scheduled to participate in the 11th Annual MSHS Spring Swing Dome Softball tournament Friday and Saturday in Marquette.

Other varsity Superiorland squads expected to take part are Negaunee, Ishpeming, Westwood, Newberry, Manistique and Superior Central.

Play will begin at 2 p.m. on Friday and resume at 8 a.m. Saturday.

“The biggest thing we’ll learn this weekend is how our five new starters will play,” Seibert said. “We’ll use this tournament as a spring training-like weekend.

“A lot of teams are in the same boat. None have been able to get out on a field, so a lot of teams will use this tournament to figure out what they have.”

He said his Redettes have been training inside the MSHS gym, but have been limited in what they’ve been able to do.

“The biggest thing is fielding grounders on dirt,” Seibert said. “We can’t simulate outfield play and relays, either.”

The Redettes’ coach will try to scout some of the teams in the tourney his team will play during the coming season.

“We play Gladstone and Escanaba four times every season, so we have a good idea of what they have,” Seibert said.

“But I’ll try to catch a couple of innings of as many other games as I can and talk to different coaches (about their season prospects).”

He said he expects Gladstone, Escanaba, Negaunee, Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie to be the top teams participating in the tournament.

“All the teams are getting better, though,” Seibert added, “like Manistique, Houghton, Ishpeming and Ironwood.

“The key to the game is pitching. If you have a good pitcher, you can stay in any game.”

He said one thing all teams will have to adjust to in the Dome will be bounces.

“Especially on fly balls that land on the artificial turf,” he said. “The ball can bounce 30 feet high, so you have to have your outfielders stay back a little.

“Infielders have to adjust, too. They’ll always get a true hop, but the ball picks up speed on the turf.”

All games will be 90 minutes in length, with the international tie-breaker rule used in the event of a tie where a runner will be placed at second base to start an inning.

There will be two divisions and all teams will play three games each. No tournament team champion will be crowned.

Admission costs $5 for adults and $3 for students.