Fourteen teams from all over PA and NY turned out this past weekend to support the 9th annual event
All of the stars aligned this past weekend for the 9th Annual Danny Branning Memorial Softball Tournament.
This year's edition of the benefit event ran from 7:30 a.m. until dusk Saturday at the Honesdale High School Athletic Complex.
Mother Nature finally cooperated. Games were competitive and friendly right up through the finals ... a battle between teams from Carbondale and Waymart that went right down to the wire.
The tourney attracted an all-time high of 14 teams from all over the region. Most were comprised of local players, but several squads came from as far away as Kingston (NY), Monticello and Hancock.
“Things came together really well this year,” said Diane Branning. “I'm very happy with how everything went. It's nice to see all these people come out to play and remember Danny.”
Alisa Mertine, Danny's sister and indefatigable tournament organizer, was quick to agree.
“We've been working on this for the last six months,” she said with a smile. “But, it's always worth it. It's so great to see the way the community comes out to support us every year.”
Danny Branning was a 16-year-old standout, multi-sport athlete.
The always-affable, ever-smiling, mischievous lad starred in football and baseball. He was an up & coming quarterback on the grid and a tough-as-nails catcher on the diamond.
Danny was a diehard fan of both the NY Yankees and Dallas Cowboys, rooting passionately for his teams all his young life.
“Baseball and football were his life,” Diane said.
“He started playing t-ball in Waymart when he was five-years-old. And, he started playing football in Kingston (NY) when he was about eight.”
Sadly, Danny died in a car accident back in 2004.
Since that horrific day, the entire clan has worked hard to see that something positive arises from this senseless tragedy. This annual softball tournament is just the most visible reminder of that passion.
“I honestly believe that Danny's looking down on us right now and smiling,” Diane said. “He would have absolutely loved this.”
All of the funds raised by the tournament (and all the raffles that go along with it) are deposited in Danny's memorial scholarship fund.
Then, each spring, one HHS senior is picked to receive a $1,000 grant. In addition, the family works toward making sure Danny's memory lives on among current Hornet athletes.
“Danny loved sports,” Diane said. “We've already helped get a new scoreboard for the football team and now we want to do something nice for the baseball team as well.”
On the Field
HomerDome cruised to the championship of last year's Branning Tournament with a perfect 5-0 record.
This time around, the Waymart-based ballclub took a much rougher road to the finals.
The defending champs opened with a win over the Alcoballics in Round One, but then suffered a loss to Cheese Sandwich Factory (the same Hancock team they defeated in last year;s championship game).
This unexpected setback dropped HomeDome into the losers bracket and left no room for error.
From there, the local lads reeled off consecutive wins over L&B Tack, Smoking Guns, Money Shots, Triple S and Signal One.
These five victories catapulted HomerDome back into the finals, where they needed a pair of wins over the Major Leaguers to defend its crown.
With Jim Watson Jr. on the hill, the hometown favorites rolled to an 8-2 triumph in Game One. This set up a winner-take-all proposition in Game Two.
Bob Barna drew the starting nod in the grand finale and his teammates staked him to a quick lead.
Watson, Billy Hall and Kyle Barna each delivered a key basehit in the opening frame and HomerDome looked to be sitting pretty with a 2-0 advantage.
Barna did an excellent job in the circle, but handed the ball off to Watson late in the contest. These two talented twirlers combined on four shutout innings.
However, the Carbondale lads staged one last desperate rally. The Major Leaguers scratched out two runs in the fifth to tie things up at 2-2.
HomerDome retaliated with one more in the top of the sixth, thanks to clutch at-bats by Hall and Barna.
Alas for the fan favorites, the Major Leaguers notched one last run in the bottom of the sixth to seal the deal on a wild 4-3 win.
Score by Innings...
HD (7-2) 2 0 0 0 0 1 - 3
ML (8-1) 0 0 0 0 2 2 - 4