BATTER UP!

Stars attack with water guns and cream pies - and play some softball, too!

Story by Bob Paxman -- Photos by Morrison/Wulffraat

Armed with Super Soaker water blasters and shaving-cream pies, country stars scored more laughs than runs at the 11th Annual City Of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge, one of the official lead-in events to Fan Fair. And Vince Gill, Chely Wright, Billy Ray Cyrus, Brad Paisley, Sara Evans, Montgomery Gentry and Terri Clark made sure that fans enjoyed plenty of both.

The big game pitted two teams of celebrities - playing on behalf of competing Nashville radio stations WSM and WSIX - in a five-inning contest.

After newcomers Marshall Dyllon sang the national anthem, Andy Griggs stepped up to the plate for WSM and promptly popped out on the opening pitch. But Vince followed with the game's first hit, comically trotting to first base with bat still in hand.

South Sixty Five's Lance Leslie took aim at left field and smacked the first home run - with a little help from Troy Gentry, who let Lance's hit roll through his legs and all the way to the wall.

"Who else can pitch?" yelled The Wilkinsons' Steve Wilkinson from his team's dugout.

"Who else can play the outfield?" joked Troy's Montgomery Gentry partner, Eddie Montgomery.

The hilarity continued as Phil Vassar "stole" first base by moving it into right field as Billy Ray lined a single to center. Trick Pony's Ira Dean climbed on top of the dugout and led the crowd in a chant of "Dee-fense! Dee-fense!"

After two innings, any thoughts of taking the game seriously went completely by the boards. It was time to let the dousings begin.

David Kersh fired the first water-gun salvo at Lila McCann. A mock bench-clearing brawl quickly ensued. Gary Allan and Montgomery Gentry proceeded to hoist Trick Pony's Heidi Newfield by the waist and drench her unmercifully. Bent on revenge, Heidi's bandmate Keith Burns chased Phil Vassar to first base, then all the way up into the stands.

Meanwhile, Troy made up for his fielding error as he scored a perfect strike - with a cream pie - right to the face of newcomer Coley McCabe. But Troy got several pies right back from Trick Pony's Heidi and "Austin" singer Blake Shelton.

First-time player Jamie O'Neal made her bid for Rookie of the Year honors. The native of Australia was hesitant to go to bat, claiming "I don't know how!" But she actually made contact with a pitch. Billy Dean helped Jamie a bit by somehow   failing to make a throw from third base on her weak grounder.

Other diamond gems were turned in by Chris Cagle, who smacked two home runs, and Sara Evans, who caught a pair of fly balls.

The slugfest went down to the final inning, with the WSM squad prevailing 17-16. But the true winner was the City Of Hope, which scored more than $200,000 for the organization's cancer research centers.

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