For the third consecutive year, some of the state's best youth softball teams will flock to Alpena for the Thunderstruck Tournament, which begins today and runs through Sunday.
Though the tournament is still relatively young, it seems to be growing in popularity. Advertisements went out for it late last year and by January, all the tournament slots had been filled up.
"People really like Alpena. A team from Ohio came up last year and they said Alpena is a little gem in Northeast Michigan," Tournament Coordinator Greg Gehrke said. "People who are coming to watch are going to see some good ball. It's fast, intense and exciting."
Over the next three days, games will take place at the Alpena Huron Shores Babe Ruth Complex and the Alpena High School softball fields. Concessions will be available at both sites.
The action will begin today at 2:30 p.m. as the ThunderCats 12U White team plays the Moran Iron Works Vulcans at Reynolds Field. The ThunderCats 16U team will play the Presque Isle Panthers 16U at 2:30 p.m. at the Alpena High School varsity field.
While the tournament has drawn good reviews from downstate teams, this year's edition features a greater number of Northern Michigan squads. Alpena in particular, has four teams competing in the tournament-the ThunderCats 12U Green and White teams, the ThunderCats 14U team, the ThunderCats 16U team and the Alpena Shock.
Alpena teams have fared well in the young history of the tournament, taking four of six titles. The ThunderCats 16U will be looking for it's third straight tournament crown.
Teams will nearby ties like Presque Isle Panthers and Moran Iron Works Vulcans will also compete and northern Michigan cities such as Traverse City, Sault Ste. Marie, West Branch and Tawas will be represented too.
With a high level of competition and a high number of games-67 total games will be played over three days-Gehrke hopes to keep the tournament going for years to come.
"I think it will be (an annual thing). Our program has gotten stronger and as long as we had places to put teams and fields to play on, we'll be in good shape," Gehrke said.
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.