1998 USSSA Steele's NIT – Cleveland, Ohio
Note: Jeff Hague on TheOldScout.com mentioned that his Wessel/Hague team had one of the great comeback's of all time against Chase in the 1998 Cleveland NIT. So I dug up Jerome's old report on the tournament. It mentions the 29 run inning and comeback and mentioned so many other great names and names of players that still play today or recently retired that I figured I'd repost the report here.
June 18, 1998 – article by Jerome Earnest – Supreme Softball Vol. 4, No. 9
Lighthouse/Worth went 6-0 to win the 14th annual Steele's Coca-Cola USSSA NIT in Cleveland, Ohio.
Steele's/R&D/Red was runner-up, earning a spot in the USSSA World Series on Sept. 16-20 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Steele's scored five runs on three home runs (by Keith Brockman, Rob Schleede and Jim Devine) to defeat Wessel/Hague/DJ's/SoJern/TPS 24-21 in the game that decided the World Series berth.
Wessel/Hague, a team on a roll through the losers bracket that saw three 50-run-plus games and a 47-run game, had a 14-6 lead going into the bottom of the fourth.
Wessel was knocked into the losers bracket by O&S/TPS 53-47 (almost overcoming a big deficit), then exploded for 29 runs in the bottom of the sixth to trip up Chase/Worth in a 63-62 game. Chase was knocked into the losers bracket in the first round — 37-30 by Pace/TPS when the New York team had an 18-run top of the fifth.
Wessel's other losers bracket wins were by 53-25 over Calvert/Prestige of Michigan, 38-29 over Tiger/ChecKing/Air Transat and 55-31 over Lovill/Easton.
Lovill, which saw Steele's score 10 runs on 7 home runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull out a 25-23 win, ousted Pace 37-33 and O&S 47-28.
O&S was knocked into the losers bracket by Lighthouse 41-20 when the Georgia crew invoked the run rule with 17 runs in the bottom of the fifth. The other winners bracket semifinal saw Steele's beat Tiger, a team that included former Steele's star Jacques Millier, by 29-24.
Lighthouse jumped out to a 17-3 lead in the first inning vs Steele's in the finals of the winners bracket. It was 26-3 after two innings. Final score: 41-38.
Lighthouse beat Steele's again in the title game, this time by 28-8 in four and a half innings.
Lighthouse third baseman and leadoff batter Al Davis was the MVP selection. It was the third time that Davis has earned the MVP in this tournament. He did it with Bell Corp and Shen Valley.
Davis went 23-25, and totaled 9 home runs. Another hot hitter for Lighthouse was Robin Higginbotham. He went 20-22 with the same number of homers. Plus he walked 3 times.
Robbie Ergle batted .818 and young shortstop Jeff Thompson had a good weekend at the plate with a .778 mark.
Steele's pace-setters included Rob Schleede (who robbed two Lighthouse players of home runs) at .750, Derek Jones (former Lighthouse player) at .739, young Ron Fields (a Cleveland product) at .722 and pitcher David Hood at .714.
Jim Devine had 10 homers, Rod Hughes 8 and shortstop Dal Beggs and Hood 7 each.
Wessel/Hague totaled a whopping 144 home runs (in 7 games). Howie Krause, another Cleveland product, had a tourney-leading 20 while going 26-39. He was leading home run hitter the weekend before with 12 in the 39th annual Springfield (Ohio) NIT, a tournament that Wally Boyer, super fan from Pittsburgh missed for the first time in 38 years. He had to undergo triple bypass.
Pitcher Mutzy Matzdorf and slick-fielding shortstop Randy Vollmer, a couple of supposedly weak hitters, each had 7 homers.
Matzdorf had 4, including the game winner leading off the bottom of the 7th, against Chase.
White went 34-41 and Cocco 35-44. Helmer drew 10 walks for an on-base percentage of .787, just two points below his season percentage.