There were smiles and laughter just about everywhere you looked Saturday at the HHS Athletic Complex.
Despite temperatures in the 90s and high humidity, the atmosphere was picture perfect for the 8th Annual Danny Branning Memorial Softball Tournament.
Elite teams from as far away as New York turned out Saturday to participate in the event, which is the year's biggest fundraiser for the Danny Branning Memorial Scholarship Fund
In His Memory
Danny Branning was a 16-year-old from Honesdale who just oozed personality.
A dedicated multi-sport athlete, Danny played both football (quarterback) and baseball (catcher) for the Red & Black.
He loved the NY Yankees and Dallas Cowboys ... a fact that he wasn't afraid to remind to anyone he met.
"Danny was always smiling," his mom, Diane Branning, said. "He was a happy kid and I still miss him every single day."
Danny died tragically and far too young as the result of getting into a car with a drunk driver. Since that awful day back in '04, Diane has dedicated her life to making Danny's death mean something.
To that end, members of both the Branning and Wheeling families came together to found a scholar ship fund in his honor.
Each year since '05, they all get together to raise money, which goes directly to the fund. Then, every spring, one deserving senior at Honesdale is chosen to receive a $1,000 grant.
One of the most important aspects of the scholarship application is writing an essay based on the importance of making good choices.
"Danny made a wrong choice and it cost him his life," Diane said. "What I really want kids to realize is that wrong choices can have terrible consequences
Page 2 of 3 - "If writing those essays or coming to this softball tournament helps just one kid make the right choice in that kind of situation, then all this work is worth it."
Last year's edition of the tournament raised nearly $6,000 for the fund.
In addition to the annual student scholarship, the Branning and Wheeling families made a major contribution to the HHS football team last fall
This donation in concert with the family of Tara Pontosky, was used to buy a brand new, state-of-the-art scoreboard.
Next on the agenda is buying a new set of benches for the baseball team.
On the Field
While there were indeed 13 teams in this year's big gest-ever bracket, one stood head & shoulder above all the others.
"Homer Dome" ran wild from start to finish, reeling off five consecutive wins to capture the 2013 crown.
Dave Smith did the lion's share of pitching for the champs, spelled only on occasion by Bob Barna.
"Smitty" took the hill for the championship game, a much-anticipated battle with the interestingly named "Cheese Sandwich Factory.
This squad was comprised largely of players from the Hancock varsity baseball team ... a squad that won sectionals this year and advanced all the way to New York's Class D state final.
CSF had a steep climb even to qualify for the Branning Tourney title tilt. The Hancock lads suffered a setback in their very first game, thus dropping them into the losers bracket.
From there, CSF staved off elimination six straight times before finally punching its ticket to the championship game.
Travis Drake went to the circle for the visitors, but got into trouble almost immediately against the Homer Dome's big bats.
Page 3 of 3 - Kyle Barna was in the middle of a six run first inning uprising, lacing single to right that plated two runners.
Smith helped his own cause with an RBI single of his own as the Homer Dome opened up an 8-0 lead after just two frames.
After that, it was all Gold Glove defense and solid pitching for the victors.
Dante Terenzio made a sensational diving catch in centerfield, while Kyle Barna added a snowcone snag in left to kill off a possible CSF rally.
Hancock did finally push across a run in the top of the fifth, but it was far too little too late as Homer Dome closed out an 8-1 triumph.
Score by Innings...
CSF (6-2) 0 0 0 0 1 0 - 1
HD (5-0) 6 2 0 0 0 x - 8