Canadian pitcher will highlight week for local league

Sunday, July 28, 2002

By Marty Mishow

Area fast-pitch softball enthusiasts -- of which there are many of all ages -- are in for a special treat this week.

Darren Zack, a Canadian who is regarded as one of the world's premier pitchers, will ply his trade in Kelso, Mo., Monday and Tuesday during regular play of the SEMO Fast-Pitch Softball League. Zack will take the mound at 7 p.m. both days.

According to Cape Girardeau resident Steve Schott -- also an elite-level fast-pitch performer who is primarily responsible for Zack visiting the area -- people young and old who enjoy the sport would be well advised to come see the impressive hurler at the Kelso City Park. Admission is free, as always during league play.

"He's definitely one of the world's best pitchers," Schott said. "If you're a young girl pitching, or just anybody interested in fast-pitch, it would be good to come out. I doubt there's been a better pitcher to ever take the field in Kelso."

Schott, a 1983 Notre Dame High School graduate who has played for various elite-level teams for almost 20 years, has known Zack for about 10 years. They have played on the same teams for much of the past five years, including this season with a squad out of Victoria, British Columbia, that is ranked No. 2 in the world.

Zack is coming to the area partly to see his friend and partly to get used to the brutal Midwest heat in advance of a national tournament that starts Wednesday in St. Joseph, Mo. Zack and Schott will both play for the Victoria team in that event.

"We're buddies so we're going to hang out together, but he also wants to throw some and get used to the heat," Schott said. "He'll pitch for one of the local league teams both nights. He'll basically throw as far as he wants to go."

Schott, who supplements his regular income building houses by playing elite-level softball in the summer -- top players are routinely paid quite well -- moved back to Cape Girardeau about two years ago after living in Florida. He continues to compete in the SEMO Fast-Pitch League that features six teams and has been around for a long time.

"I enjoy playing for the big teams and it's good money during the summer," Schott, primarily an outfielder, said. "But it's fun to play in the local league with people I've known for a long time."

Schott, a former baseball star at Notre Dame High School, said the local league games in Kelso -- play is generally held on Wednesday nights but will take place Monday and Tuesday this week because of some rainouts and the appearance of Zack -- usually don't attract more than 20 or 30 fans, consisting mostly of the players' family members.

He figures that might change this week with the appearance of Zack, who Schott describes as a gentle giant type, standing about 6-feet-4 and weighing close to 300 pounds.

"Darren can be real intimidating on the mound, but he's a great guy," Schott said.

And somebody who would probably be worth the price of admission to see this week -- especially since the admission is free.

After a disappointing district tournament showing, Cape Girardeau Ford & Sons will have a second chance to finish the season strong when it hosts the American Legion Zone Tournament beginning Thursday at Capaha Field.

Four district champions along with the host team will battle for a spot in the state meet. Zone pairings have not yet been set because some district tournaments were still being decided over the weekend, but game times are known.

Games will be played at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Friday; and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. (championship) Saturday. If needed, a final title contest would be at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian

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