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SOFTBALL: Grand Forks bringing the competition home

To get better, Grand Forks girls fastpitch softball teams have had to travel to find better competition.

This week, the competition is coming to Grand Forks.

For the first time, the North Dakota Amateur Softball Association’s Junior Olympic girls fastpitch tournament will be held in Grand Forks.

“When we got rolling with fastpitch, we mostly stayed in town for games,” said Charlie Makovsky, president of the board of directors of the Greater Grand Forks Girls Fastpitch Association. “But we saw that we had to see other teams, to see how the game was being played elsewhere.

“We’ve stepped up the competition level we’re playing. And we’ve gotten better as a result.”

Last year, Grand Forks won the age 12-and-under championship at the NDASA’s Junior Olympic tournament, the first such title won by a Grand Forks girls fastpitch team.

“You play good tournaments and you get better,” Makovsky said. “We’ll see good competition in the state tournament. The western teams, like Dickinson and Bismarck, are solid programs. We don’t get a chance to see those teams a lot. And West Fargo is always solid.”

Girls fastpitch is a growing sport.

The NDASA has more than 1,000 girls fastpitch players registered. The state tournament is expected to have 47 teams with more than 600 athletes participating. The number of teams is up from the 39 that played last year in the state tournament, which has 10-under, 12-under, 14-under, 16-under and 18-under age divisions.

“They’ve played the tournament on six diamonds in the past,” Makovsky said. “We’re using 11. It shows the overall growth of the sport. There’s a lot of interest in girls fastpitch.”

The double-elimination tournament begins Saturday at 9 a.m. with games at Apollo Park and Ulland Complex and concludes Sunday with games at Ulland.