Helmville Fastpitch swings by another year


Jean Pocha

Helmville player Oliver Grupenhoff hit a home run over the fence during semi-final play.

The 44th Annual Father Mac Fastpitch Softball Invitational event brought teams from around the state to Helmville, Montana for the weekend of June 3-4.

Each year the non-league softball tourney brings teams together for a weekend of fun and fast pitches in memory of a Helmville priest who would come up to play umpire after church services.

"He loved the game and after his untimely death (in 1980) the Father Mac Invitational was created," said Dave Mannix, retired Helmville pitcher..

The Father Mac Invitational does not count toward league standing, and is an additional game hosted by the Helmville Baseball Team.

"It's one of the funnest times of the year," said Nathan Lyons of Helmville.

Helmville won against the Pine Beetles of Missoula 6-2 on Saturday morning but placed third overall after an impromptu game with Lincoln when the fourth-place team left early. The victory was short-lived as they were beaten by the Silver Dollars, also of Missoula, 6-1 in the semi-finals.

Despite the tight competition of the weekend, players stayed grounded in the fun spirit of the event. Opposing players would bump fists between innings and at first base, displaying sportsmanship and camaraderie

Spectators and teammates filled the air with encouragement, yelling "You got it baby," "Let's go," "You're ready now" or"Get legs" no matter who was at bat.

Jean Pocha

Back left to right: The first place winning Deer Lodge team Mike Meagher, Will Benjamin, Chris (moose) Brown, Danny Oberweiser, Dan Fultz, Mike Cease, Joey Hallenberg. Front left to right: Hayden Benjamin, Cade Benjamin, Trent Thomas. Not pictured Johnny Mac.

This year the tourney was won by Deer Lodge who clinched the final game after a tense seventh inning 19-19 tie with the Silver Dollars. Bases were loaded when a hit over the fence emptied the diamond and gave a three-point lead to Deer Lodge.

After the championship game a dedication was given to Mike McCormick who was instrumental in the early days of baseball in Helmville and the Father Mac Invitational.

"Mike played second base. He always showed up and gave it his all," said Mannix. "He had an Irish feisty spirit and believed that his heckling made a difference in the outcome of the game."

A plaque was recently affixed in his honor to a large memorial stone at the Wilson Field in Helmville.

"Mike's legacy lives on through his sons Bill, league commissioner, and Kenny, the umpire," said Don Sullivan of Helmville.

"Mike was wonderful to play with. Besides his family and ranch, his love for the game and community were evident."


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