April 5, 2002 – With a crack of the bat, the sixth annual Ruby Rutnik Memorial Softball Tournament kicked off on Friday at St. John's Winston Wells Ballfield. First up was Eudora Kean High School from St. Thomas with St. Croix Educational Complex in the field.
Subsequent games in the round-robin tournament of girls' softball teams will include Antilles and Charlotte Amalie High schools from St. Thomas and Central High and Good Hope schools from St. Croix. In separate competition, men's teams will play late-night games.
The tournament wraps up on Sunday.
The stands were filling up late Friday afternoon as family and friends came out to support their favorites. "I came to see my school win," Eudora Kean student and St. John resident Shervin Callwood said. "This is my school, and I'm here to support them."
The other teams are gunning for Good Hope, who flew home last year with the trophy.
"Our strategy is to get some good batting in," said Kia Chapman, 17, who captains the Eudora Kean team. "We have a good infield and outfield, and we plan to beat Good Hope."
Gathered with her teammates in the shade of the Cruz Bay fire station while they waited for the game to start, Karis "Mosquito" George, 17, said she likes the competition that comes with playing softball. "And I like the excitement," she said.
On the far side of the field, the Educational Complex girls were taking their ease in the dugout — but planning their defense in hopes of going home with the trophy. "We'll block the ball," said team captain Jamie Johnson, 17, who said she has spent a lot of time practicing. Teammate Tabia Pennyfeather, 19, had a different story, however. With graduation coming up, she said, she has needed to put her time in on her books.
The Educational Complex team raised the money to travel to St. John by selling pizza and candy. They took the Fast Ferry to St. Thomas and then the not-so-fast ferry on to St. John. With lodging expenses at the Inn at Tamarind Court to pay, the girls worked hard to make the trip. "It's a good experience for them to travel and compete and to meet girls from other islands," said their coach, David Yurgent.
Up in the stands, the Antilles girls were enjoying a bit of pre-game chatter. "We're going to try and get a lot of hits in — and beat Good Hope," St. Thomas resident Emily Newbold, 18, said.
Ruby Rutnik, who died in 1996 at age 21 in a Washington, D.C., car crash, was a star pitcher at Antilles School. The money raised through the tournament each year has funded college scholarships for St. John girls. The goal now is to raise enough money to create an endowment that will ensure ongoing awards.
While most of the girls playing this weekend are too young to have known Ruby, her mother, artist Janet Cook-Rutnik, said that the tournament keeps her memory alive. Ruby's birthday is April 9, which is why her mother and her father, Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik, pick an April date for the tournament. "The spirit of camaraderie throughout the event is in her memory," her mother said.
While camaraderie may be important, the girls all came to win. "And to have fun," said Annie Bridgewater, 18, a Eudora Kean player from St. John.

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