PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Berkshire Force softball team brings talent, experience and the home field advantage to this week's Babe Ruth Softball 16-and-under World Series.
One year after representing the New England region at the national tournament, the Force is hosting seven days of competition at the Doyle Field Complex -- welcoming some of the best teen softball teams from around the country.
And hoping not to be too welcoming, at least not between the foul lines.
"Basically we're going to try to do better this time," said Lanesborough's Miranda Voller, one of several veterans from last year's tournament in North Carolina.
"We know what to expect now."
Last year, the Force finished in fourth place at the World Series, an event won by that year's host, Wilson County, N.C.
Among the local contingent that went south to follow the Force a year ago is a member of this year's team, Miranda's sister Rachel.
"What you see at the World Series is all the pitchers have different strengths," Rachel said. "Some have screwballs, fastballs, change-ups."
Miranda agreed, but pointed out that the Force routinely seeks out strong opposition.
Earlier this summer, the team was denied a chance to defend its New England title because as the tournament host, it has an automatic bid to the tourney. But instead of resting on its laurels, it went to Lowell, Mass., for two days of top-flight competition.
This week's competition gets under way at 5:30 on Wednesday against the representative from Florida.
The Force are scheduled to continue pool play on Thursday afternoon against Louisiana at 2:30 and on Friday against
Kentucky at 3 and Washington at 8:15.
For some of the Force players -- like Mir Voller, Taconic High's Megan Boyle and Jillian Campbell and Pittsfield's Allie Hunt -- the tournament will be familar.
For all of them, the surroundings will fit like a glove.
"It's been really nice becuase we've had the support from the whole community of Pittsfield," Rachel Voller said.
A successful tournament in front of the hometown fans would be a heck of a way to end things for the Force's veterans.
"This will be the last year I'll be playing," Miranda said. "I know the girls last year, when it was there last season, they were very emotional.
"I'm trying not to think about that right now. But this year I'm definitely going to try my hardest."
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