CAFB team tuning up for ‘World’

Cannon Air Force Base left fielder Staff Sgt. Richard Wickenkamp makes a sliding catch during a game against Da Crew of Carlsbad on Saturday during the New Mexico USSSA men’s Class D state tourney at Guy Leeder Complex. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

After a first-round loss early Saturday morning in the New Mexico USSSA men’s Class D state tournament at Guy Leeder Softball Complex, the Cannon Air Force Base team was looking for a big bounce-back.

It would only take 12 wins to come back and win the double-elimination event, joked Tech. Sgt. Brent Taylor, the team’s pitcher.

More than participating in a state tourney, though, the squad was tuning up for the USSSA Military World Tournament, scheduled for Aug. 19-21 at Panama City, Fla.

The field is made up of teams representing all branches of the tournament.

“Basically, Cannon has been sending a team down there for a few years,” said team member Matt Schley, a staff sergeant at Cannon who is from Cheboygan, Mich. “Any (military) team can go. It’s really the biggest tournament we have every year.”

Schley said he recently came to Cannon from another base, but added that he’s played in the World Tournament before while stationed at other bases.

After its 21-9 first-round loss to Las Cruces DX, Cannon regrouped for a pair of wins to stay alive in the 41-team meet that ends today. Cannon’s next contest was scheduled for 11 p.m. Saturday night.

Taylor said the state tournament is good preparation for the upcoming event in Florida. Cannon will compete with about 30 other teams in the “Varsity B” division, he said.

“I’d say this is tougher,” he said. “This is state — you’ve got the best teams in New Mexico. A lot of these teams have been playing together since they were in high school, and they’ve got that continuity.”

Taylor said the team’s season generally runs from March through October. He noted that the base sponsors the team in about two tournaments a month.

Cannon took first place in the Class D division of the Custom Classic at Guy Leeder earlier this summer.

“The base is very good about supporting us,” Taylor said. “They fund us for two tournaments a month.”

In addition, the squad plays in the Clovis Softball Association’s Wednesday Night League Gold Division.
Taylor, whose home is Gadsden, Ala., said the team is looking forward to the trip.

“It gives us a chance to go and see friends (from) other bases,” he said. “And you get to see different competition.”