Story and photos by Tim Hipps
Installation Management Command Public Affairs
FORT SILL, Okla. — A new pitcher, a rookie slugger and a hard-hitting corps of veterans helped the All-Army men end All-Air Force’s mini-dynasty at the 2012 Armed Forces Softball Championships played Sept. 16-20, here.
All-Army won the tournament by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker with All-Air Force.
All-Marine Corps and All-Navy both went 2-7 in the triple round robin tournament.
Sgt. 1st Class Clayton Shaw, 32, of Fort Campbell, Ky., moved from the outfield to pitch the All-Army team to seven victories. He hit .611 with six homers and 18 RBI, including a three-run walk-off homer that clinched the gold medal with a 26-10 win over the All-Marine Corps on Sept. 19.
All-Army co-captains Sgts. 1st Class Dexter Avery (.719, 13 HR, 28 RBI) of Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and Michael Dochwat (.719, 10 HR, 24 RBI), artillery instructor, 196th Infantry Brigade, U.S. Army-Pacific, Fort Shafter, were reliable as ever, as was veteran infielder Sgt. 1st Class Lee Diaz of Fort Huachuca.
“It’s amazing,” Diaz said of Avery, a 14-time All-Army and 11-time All-Armed Forces performer. “Every year, it seems like he’s hitting them further and further, and he’s getting older and older.”
The older Soldiers, however, needed someone to push them past the Airmen.
“It isn’t the veterans that win gold medals, because they are supposed to do what they are supposed to do,” said Dochwat, 38, a nine-time All-Army performer and three-time Armed Forces gold medalist. “It’s those rookies and one-year guys who set the tone and get you the gold.”
All of the aforementioned All-Army players were named to the All-Armed Forces team that will compete in the 2012 Amateur Softball Association National Championships, set for Sept. 28-30 in Oklahoma City.
The Soldiers won the crown for the first time since 2008, making Avery the first five-time Armed Forces gold medal winner in the history of All-Army Softball.
Diaz has struck gold four times, and Rivera as many times as a manager, feats unmatched by any Soldiers besides Avery, 42, who says his 6-foot-2, 240-pound body can play a couple more seasons of All-Army ball.
Dochwat got All-Army going Sunday by going 4-for-4 with three home runs, and Fuss went 4-for-4 with a homer in the Soldiers’ 16-10 opening victory over All-Air Force.
“If we took the first one, I knew we wouldn’t see each other again until like Game 6, so it allowed us to apply some pressure to them to keep on winning,” Dochwat said. “That was our goal, to ultimately put the pressure on them. We don’t have a good record against them in gold medal games.”
Avery ended All-Army’s 23-8 victory over Air Force with a three-run, walk-off homer on Sept. 19, which put the Soldiers in the driver’s seat.
All-Army also atoned for losing the 2011 Armed Forces championship to All-Air Force, which rallied from 10 runs down with six outs remaining in regulation, and again from three runs down with two outs in the eighth inning, to win 20-19 in last year’s gold medal game.
“To be like a dynasty-type team, you’ve got to have that five or six core veterans that know what it is like,” Diaz said. “We just said we’re not going to feel like we felt last year. This is our year to pay back the Air Force for leaving us on the field with a walk-off home run last year.
“This is by far the best hitting team I’ve been on. We just came together as one. There’s no drama. We averaged 25 runs per game, and we’ve never done that,”said Avery.
“It was special to win it on Army turf,” Dochwat said. “Fort Sill took care of us from the day we got off the plane.”
“Winning the gold is the ultimate prize,” Avery concluded. “But I just love coming back and playing with the guys and seeing all the guys from the other services, too. I think that’s what keeps me coming back.
“Throughout the year, you don’t get to see them and talk to them, so just coming back and doing fellowship with them, that’s my high of coming here,” Avery added. “It’s just a friendship that you make for a lifetime, and you can’t beat that.”