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Thunderstruck tourney returns for 12th year

News File Photo Alpena ThunderCats pitcher Lilly Lewis throws during Alpena’s annual Thunderstruck Tournament in this 2019 News file photo.

ALPENA — More than a decade ago, tournament organizers in Alpena created the Thunderstruck Tournament, hoping to draw teams to Northeast Michigan for a weekend of competitive softball.

Twenty teams across three divisions competed in the first tournament — held in 2011 — but the number of teams and the tournament’s popularity has continued to grow.

Now it’s a highlight of many travel teams’ summer schedules and there’s competitive play across multiple divisions.

“I’m not sure, but I think we started off with 16 teams and lots of the teams didn’t travel from far away,” Alpena Thundercats President Rob Edmonds said. “Now it’s really grown. Softball itself has exploded. There’s a lot of teams and a lot of opportunities for girls to play.”

The 12th annual tournament begins today with 35 teams competing in three divisions. Six teams will compete in the 12U division, 10 teams will compete in the 14U division and 19 teams will compete in the 16U/high school division.

Games will be played at several locations in Alpena including McRae Park, the Alpena Huron Shores Complex on U.S.-23 North and at Alpena High School on the JV and varsity high school fields.

Games begin this afternoon, continue all day on Saturday and wrap up Sunday with the championship games on Sunday afternoon and Sunday night.

Admission is free at all fields.

Through the years, Edmonds has been impressed with the increased tournament turnout. He pointed to this year’s high school division, which has two divisions and 19 total teams.

During their time in Alpena, Edmonds said teams have praised both the Alpena area and the local facilities.

“We have a lot of teams that are returning teams. They like the Alpena area and all the things we have to do, but they also like our fields,” Edmonds said. “The Youth and Rec committee has helped with improvements to our fields and they’re definitely better than 90% of the fields we play on (during summer games).”

Several local teams are competing this weekend, including teams from the Thundercats and Presque Isle Panthers softball programs.

Edmonds expects another fun-filled weekend, noting that many players already play for their respective high school teams, which makes these summer tournament games more competitive.

“The high school division is the one that’s really exploded. One of the draws (of the tournament) is the level of competition,” he said. “You’re talking about teams where the players play JV and varsity and they’re building friendships with players from other teams.”

Full schedules, competing teams, game results and brackets can be found online at tinyurl.com/ThunderSoftball.

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