Hot summer nights bustle with the sounds of mosquitos, the tweet of birds, the lilt of children laughing and the ping and thud of softballs hitting bats and gloves.
While the men’s and youth leagues still draw crowds in Eagle Butte, the women gather their gear and head to Pierre, Rapid City and/or Aberdeen, and sometimes Bismark to play in established leagues in those towns.
According to Bernita Inthewoods, a CRST member who has been playing softball since she was 8 years old, there used to be nine women’s teams in the Eagle Butte Association league, but as interest in the game dwindled, so did the number of teams.
“We could barely field four teams until we were ineligible to be a sanctioned league,” Inthewoods said.
Sanctioned teams play in Amature Softball Association (ASA) umpired leagues under ASA rules and make players eligible for various tournaments across the state, including the SD state championship tournament.
In the Ft. Pierre/Pierre Women’s League, players from Eagle Butte have been allowed to play since the Eagle Butte league closed up shop.
Aproximately 20 to 30 women from the CRST area play softball in ASA sanctioned leagues in Pierre every Wednesday, or in other leagues across the state.
“You go where you have to in order to play…for the love of the game! The competition is good so it’s fun to play, and the league is well organized with official umpires,” said Kimberly Claymore-Knight, who has also been playing softball since she was in junior high.
When Ashley Elk Nation was a kid, she said she used to attend a couple of softball camps each summer, which helped her to build skill and confidence before joining the women’s league.
However, there are no softball camps in Eagle Butte to build interest and groom young women players, and there is a cost — in money and time — to creating a local leauge said Inthewoods.
Players from CRST are represented on three teams in the Pierre league. Two play in the upper, Gold division, and one plays in the lower, Silver division.
Kathleen Eagle Chasing’s Silver team, Thunder, consists of seasoned players and beginning players.
Eagle Chasing has worked to build a young team for several years, soliciting for players to make the 90 mile trip each week to play, and this year, her team has shown a lot of improvement both in skills and committment.
The two Gold teams are a mix of CRST players and Pierre area players.
“We just beat the undefeated team Fine Line Auto this past Wednesday. Ash [Elk Nation]got up to bat with two outs. We had two ladies on base, and we needed them to score for us to win. Ash smashed one over the left center for the win,” said Britt Brewer, who plays with Elk Nation on the Gold team Jaegairs.
Inthwoods and Claymore-Knight play on Bob’s Lounge/Miller Lite/Shane’s Pharmacy, also in the Gold division.
“Our softball friends are often called ‘softball family,’” Claymore-Knight said, a sentiment shared by most of the players.