NWI.com - July 23, 2012 8:00 pm • John Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371

VALPARAISO | If Dennis Rodman were a softball player, he might have blended in with the Crete Crush.

Many members of the Crush 10U team had dyed their hair burnt orange, one of Rodman's favorite colors, in preparation for this week's National Softball Association "B" North World Series.

Even Crete coach Scott Reese, who didn't have much hair to spare, had a painted orange line bisecting his skull.

Reese and Phil Harreld, a Crush parent, inspired their team during the team skills competition Monday at Fairgrounds Park as part of the pre-tournament festivities celebrating the event this week throughout Northwest Indiana.

In a three-legged race against the clock down the first-base line -- only coaches and adults could compete in the optional event -- Reese and Harreld did it in under four seconds, best time of all the brackets.

"I didn't think we could get down there that fast," Reese said.

The Crush players also shined in the competition.

In the throwing event where three assigned players throw from short center field to a target set up in front of the backstop, Ashley Mazur scored a five-pointer -- getting the ball in the target's netted basket -- while several teammates added a few three-pointers -- making contact with the target.

"I've never thrown anyone out at home," said Ashley, an outfielder.

"But she has doubled some runners off their bases after making catches," Crush manager Lindsey Bilinski said.

If the Crush's overall score was good enough to win the competition, the team wouldn't know until final tallies were announced later that night during opening day ceremonies in Downtown Valparaiso. But there was at least one surprise waiting for them.

"She doesn't know it yet, but Hannah has been named Miss USA for her (10U) bracket," Lindsey Bilinski said of her daughter.

"It's something we do to honor a player in each age group for her academic and athletic achievements," co-tournament director Kathie Horton said.

For the Schererville Shockers 8U team, Sarah Segarra was able to hit a five-pointer in the throwing event.

"I didn't think it had a chance," said Sarah, a second basemen. "I got a good bounce."

Like many 8U squads, the Shockers are a first-year team.

"Of course I think we have a chance (to win it all)," Shockers manager Julie Koons said. "We've been doing well in tournaments. Our best placing so far is third place."

The Harris Heat of Granger have also been doing well in tournaments.

"We've won five so far this year, including one of the NSA state tournaments," manager Bill Bollinger said of his 12U team.

The Heat excelled in the skills competition, especially in around-the-horn, which the team completed in 9.5 seconds.

"I didn't miss home plate, it was her," Kelsey Johnson said of her twin sister Riley, who was hit with a five-second penalty.

"It was a bad ruling," Riley said. "We should have gotten another chance."