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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Double Play

Evansville again steps up to bat for a regional NCAA Division II softball tournament

The eight-field, state-of-the-art Deaconess Sports Park is considered so inviting and impressive that it will host the fourth annual Independence Bank Blue Bridge Battle softball tournament Feb. 23-25 for the second successive year.

Never mind that the tourney is the brainchild of Kentucky Wesleyan College, located 39 miles away in Owensboro, Kentucky. The city’s Jack C. Fisher Park hosted the tournament for its first two years.

Deaconess Sports Park, located north of Evansville on Heckel Road alongside Goebel Sports Park, is stocked with amenities and shaded spectator seating.

“Kentucky Wesleyan contacted us about hosting this event, and we’re pleased we can accommodate them,” says Kate Reibel, director of marketing and development for Explore Evansville, which owns the sports park.

Regarded as one of the premier NCAA Division II softball tournaments in the region, the Blue Bridge Battle will host 23 teams from eight states, representing the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, Great Lakes Valley Conference, Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Mountain East Conference, Gulf South Conference, and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Growing from 13 teams in 2023, this expansion made Deaconess Sports Park the ideal venue for a tournament of this size, Kentucky Wesleyan head softball coach Miles Mallette said in a written statement.

“More available fields allowed them to accept more teams,” says Reibel, who adds that Deaconess Sports Park would be thrilled to host the event again. “Given the sporadic weather in February, the games are played during the warmest hours of the day (10 a.m. until 6 p.m.) to provide maximum flexibility in the event of adverse weather.”

The Blue Bridge Battle, which generated more than $53,000 in direct business sales last year, will serve as Deaconess Sports Park’s season opener. With the growth in the number of teams, the 2024 Blue Bridge Battle is forecasted to more than double to $124,000 in direct business sales, Reibel says. Deaconess Sports Park will host approximately 36 events until mid-November.

The artificial turf installed in the infields in 2022 help reduce rainouts and extend the season, she says.

“With the addition of these infields, we can almost guarantee play with a few exceptions, like thunderstorms,” Reibel says.

When You Go
Independence Bank Blue Bridge Battle
10 a.m. Feb. 23-25, 2024
Deaconess Sports Park, 4300 Heckel Road
Admission: $8 for single-day passes and $20 for three-day passes. Group rates are available for parties of 10 or more.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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