When Erie Budweiser and the Lakeside Club meet Friday night at 6 p.m. at Promenschenkel Stadium, it will mark the beginning of the 39th Annual First Ward Falcon Club Fastpitch Tournament.
That game will be followed by a game between First Ward Falcon I and Woodstock, ON, at 7:30 while defending champion Owen Sound Under-21 will take on Big John's at 9:15. Meanwhile, Rookies on the Lake will take on the Pickering Bulls at 7 at School No. 7.
"It's the first time in a couple of decades that we have four games on Friday," Tournament coordinator Tim Wdowiasz said.
The 39th Annual First Ward Falcon Club Fastpitch Tournament will be held this weekend in Dunkirk, at Promenschenkel Stadium, School No. 7, Veteran’s Field and Koch’s Field. Games will begin at 6 p.m., on Friday at Promenschenkel Stadium and at 7 p.m., at School No. 7. Games will begin Saturday at 9 a.m. at the four fields while the single-elimination round will begin Sunday at 9 a.m.
Scheduling four games on Friday night is not the only thing that has not happened in about two decades, as the field for this year's event is much larger than years past.
"I believe it was 18 or 19 years ago when we had at least 18 teams," Wdowiasz said.
As one can imagine, a field as large as the one the tournament will see this year, presents certain sets of problems.
"Getting umpires and getting the fields in top shape is a lot of work on the (city of Dunkirk's) part," Wdowiasz said of some of the challenges of having an 18-team field. "And so far, they've come through. I tip my cap to them for the work they've done and help they have given."
In the two years prior to the 2013 tournament, the field included some of the top teams and pitchers in the world, including Australian left-handed hurler Andrew Kirkpatrick, who pitched with the Chicago/New York squad and Argentine righty Lucas Mata, who was in the circle for the PA Power. The last two renditions of the tournament have not matched those levels in terms of quality teams and pitching, but that has yet to keep teams from coming into town.
"Other teams that have been down here in the past have spread the word, especially up north," Wdowiasz said. "We've got eight Canadian teams and they are all looking forward to being here. They've heard it's a great time at the tournament with the atmosphere and playing in front of people. And with the festivities going on at (Promenschenkel Stadium)."
Owen Sound, which consists of players 21 years old and younger, will be a prohibitive favorite to repeat, but they are not the only team people should be watching.
"Erie Budweiser consists heavily of Canadian players," Wdowiasz noted. "The New York Bombers are always a good team and the Westerville Capitals out of Ohio I believe have a couple of players spread out across the midwest and as far away as California, I believe.
"Last year's champion, Owen Sound, they beat Erie Budweiser and Erie Budweiser seems to be pretty stacked up with pitching this year," Wdowiasz continued. "And Big John's out of Buffalo, you can never count that team out and the Nappanee Merchant Express and Toronto Batmen have played in the (International Softball Congress) World Tournament every year for the past five years and they both did very well."
And with the ISC World Tournament about a month away - it is being held in Kitchener, ON, from Aug. 8 through Aug. 16 - it is no surprise that teams preparing for that tournament would select to play in Dunkirk this weekend.
"The teams look at our tournament as a tune-up for the World Tournament," Wdowiasz said. "So it's always good competition here and they're guaranteed three games."
As for his own team, Wdowiasz noted that he will have a familiar face in the circle this weekend.
"We have local favorite Chuck Smith pitching with us," Wdowiasz said of the Rochester area resident who has played in the Falcon Club Tournament on several occasions. "It's possibly his farewell tournament. He's getting up there in age and we don't know how much longer he'll be pitching, so come down and say, 'hi' to Chuck."
Friday, July 18
Erie Budweiser vs. Lakeside Club, 6 p.m.
First Ward Falcons I vs. Woodstock, ON, 7:30 p.m.
Owen Sound U-21 vs. Big John's, 9:15 p.m.
School No. 7
Rookies on the Lake vs. Pickering Bulls, 7 p.m.
Saturday, July 19
NY Bombers vs. Toronto Batmen, 9 a.m.
Westerville Capitals vs. Big John's, 10:45 a.m.
Dempsey & Baxter vs. Erie Budweiser, 12:30 p.m.
Toronto Batmen vs. First Ward Falcons I, 2:15 p.m.
Lakeside Club vs. Miller's Dynasty, 4 p.m.
AJ's Landscaping vs. Jordan Jays, 5:45 p.m.
School No. 7
Dempsey & Baxter vs. Wyevale Tribe, 9 a.m.
Lakeside Club vs. Wyevale Tribe, 10:45 a.m.
NY Bombers vs. Woodstock, 12:30 p.m.
Pickering Bulls vs. Woodstock, 2:15 p.m.
Nappanee Merchant Express vs. Erie Budweiser, 4 p.m.
Dempsey & Baxter vs. Nappanee Merchant Express, 5:45 p.m.
at Dunkirk High School
Miller's Dynasty vs. Nappanee Merchant Express, 9 a.m.
First Ward Falcons I vs. Pickering Bulls, 10:45 a.m.
Toronto Batmen vs. Rookies on the Lake, 12:30 p.m.
Westerville Capitals vs. First Ward Falcons II, 2:15 p.m.
Westerville Capitals vs. Owen Sound U-21, 4 p.m.
Miller's Dynast vs. Wyevale Tribe, 5:45 p.m.
Koch's Field at Point Gratiot
First Ward Falcons II vs. AJ's Landscaping, 9 a.m.
Jordan Jays vs. First Ward Falcons II, 10:45 a.m.
Jordan Jays vs. Owen Sound U-21, 12:30 p.m.
AJ's Landscaping vs. Big John's, 2:15 p.m.
NY Bombers vs. Rookies on the Lake, 4 p.m.
The single-elimination playoffs will begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday.
Also on Friday night, Kiss cover band Mizzbehavin will be playing from 7 until 11 p.m. at Promenschenkel Stadium while there will also be food vendors, including Riconcito Crillo and Tony's Waffles and a concession stand sponsored by the First Ward Falcon Club. On Sunday, at Promenschenkel Stadium, there will be a Texas barbecue that will include chicken with a pulled pork sandwich, barbecue beans and coleslaw. The dinner costs $10.