Practice makes perfect for Russian softball team playing in Freeport
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The coach of the Russian girls softball under-17 team, Mikhail Ilukhin, nodded politely as umpires and Team B.A.S.E.C. coach Mike Bungo discussed possible ways to keep the 6:30 p.m. game at Freeport Community Park shorter than the recently completed contest, which stretched almost three hours and ended with a blowout win in favor of the guests.
Maybe a run limit? Or a time limit?
Ilukhin leaned in after a minute or so and offered his thoughts with the limited English he knew.
“Seven innings?” he asked as he held up seven fingers. “Yeah, seven innings.”
Bungo and the umpires shrugged — it was settled; they'd play until the game ended or the sun went down.
Maximum time on the diamond against opponents is what matters most to the Russians, who arrived in the area Monday night and began to compete — in games with no official score — against local teams. The under-17 team spent its afternoon and evening playing two games at Freeport Community Park, while an under-13 team finished two contests at Freeport's high school field.
“Practice, practice, practice,” Ilukhin said of his team's goal for the visit to Freeport and the surrounding area, which will last until July 8. “Fun, fun, fun.”
The teams are part of the Moscow area-based Carrousel sports club, which ranks among the country's best in terms of softball success. They traveled here to see how they would measure up against Americans.
Carrousel's older girls made quite a first impression.
Lefty Tatyana Zhuravleva and righty Nina Zakaznikova, both 16, pitched fastballs in the low 60 mph range, a speed that would make them strong high school varsity hurlers. Their work against the Freeport Thunder, an under-15 team, gave the hosts little reason to cheer until late in the first game, when Karlie Hill, a sophomore starter for Freeport this spring, hit an RBI double to the right-center fence.
“They were honestly better than I expected,” said Hill, who, as a catcher, complimented the Russians for their aggressive baserunning.
Bungo, a Fox Chapel parent whose Team B.A.S.E.C. consists of girls from seven school districts, anticipated the discipline and confidence that defined the Russians' style of play. His team matched up evenly with Carrousel.
“Russia is a country that you've always had to respect, sports-wise,” he said. “They take it seriously.”
Ilukhin, who played baseball in Russia, runs two practices a day Monday through Friday with his team at the boarding school the girls attend west of Moscow.
Softball is the top priority for these girls, almost all of whom have played for five-plus years. They welcome the three-week grind of games that sits ahead — among the few planned diversions is a trip to Kennywood.
The Russians' knowledge of English is limited, but they know “Play ball,” and they're ready to hear it often through the rest of the month.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Rutherford falling apart, too
- Israeli drugmaker Teva makes $40B unsolicited bid for Mylan
- Aerospace sales boost profit at Allegheny Technologies
- UNHCR: Weekend shipwreck deadliest ever in Mediterranean
- Former undercover agent files suit against Kane
- Pittsburgh man taken for wild ride on Route 28
- UPMC is the target of nihilistic envy
- Lincoln Place man accused of hitting Port Authority police officer with SUV bound to court
- Steelers receiver Brown skipping voluntary offseason workouts
- Scoring struggles linger for Penguins 2nd line
- Lawsuit: Pittsburgh Public Schools should have known officer was abusing boys