2009 Last Chance Major NIT Part 1
Last Chance Major NIT
Sterling Hts, Michigan
Long Haul is your "Last Chance" Champions and they were on it all weekend long
Conference tournament #21 is also known as "The Last Chance Tournament" and was again played in Sterling Hts Michigan. Teams like Pure Romance, O&S, AJS, and Linedrive came to see if they could pull off a top 4 finish and slide into the field of 16 teams for the Major World Tournament at the end of the year.
The tournament was won by Long Haul/Miken/Phonemasters who went 4-0 and defeated Jean Shoppe 29-14 in the winner's bracket finals. Long Haul was never really challenged late in any of their games and the tournament victory sort of validates their big win at the Dudley earlier in the year.
Resmondo who was sent to the loser's bracket by Jean Shoppe Sunday morning 36-35 came back through the loser's bracket but the Resmondo/Shoppe rematch never happened as both teams left to catch flights and Long Haul remained as the only undefeated team.
This tournament with the rain, fog and 6 fields of play was impossible to cover as a reporter and the quality of video clips and pictures are a little disapointing because nearly all the games were played at night. My apologies.
This last Conference tournament was marred by a line of thunderstorms that poured water on the fields from 6 AM Saturday morning until 5 PM Saturday evening. Many of the teams decided to take flights home on Sunday instead of finishing the tournament and for the weekend there were a total of 10 forfeits.
Friday night featured 13 games over a 2 hour period and then the tournament stopped for the night to showcase its traditional 64 man head to head elimination homerun derby. Unable to follow all 13 games, I chose the Steve's Drywall vs AJS game as the best game at 6:30 PM to watch. Steve's Drywall is a veteran "C" team out of the Toledo, Ohio area and I felt they would play well and give AJS (a conference "B" team out of Florida) all they could handle. Steve's was featuring veteran pitcher Jim Burbrink and first baseman Mark Streeter. AJS came to play however and picked up local talent Billy Barrett to do the pitching for the weekend and he was able to wiggle his way out of a few bases loaded situations to pull out a 23-16 victory.
For the 7:45 PM games I chose to watch PRI vs Elk and Elk. Pure Romance out of Cincinnati needed to finish 4th in this tournament in order to make it to the World Series and they hammered Elk and Elk (a "C" team out of Cleveland, Ohio) early and often. PRI batted around in the first and never looked back to win 26-10. Being from Cleveland myself, I would love to see Elk and Elk put together a nice Conference "B" team to compete in 2010.
In other interesting Friday night action PDC Printing (a local "B" team out of Michigan) handed Magic S&S a 19-13 loss, eliminating Magic's Conference hopes. Detroit's Own which had a huge crowd of fans in attendance won the best game of the night 21-19 in a battle with ATS/Combat out of Phoenix, Arizona.
Following these two sets of games Friday was the homerun derby. The format for this derby was a randomly drawn head to head competition with 64 hitter's battling it out in a bracket tournament. If the two player's going head to head ended in a tie they would have a 2 pitches to hit 1 "hitoff" to determine who advanced. I was able to stay until the first round ended around 11:30 PM. The crowd for this event is always pretty large and the kids are allowed to go out on the field to chase balls and try and catch the homerun's. The atmosphere is top notch. I recommend for future tournaments to use 2 or 3 fields for the first round because the contest takes forever. It is my understanding the homerun derby finished around 2 AM when "The Worlds Greatest Softball Player" Brian Wegman of Dan Smith defeated Kyle "Biggons" Yerkes of Linedrive in the finals. I believe the finals went into a hitoff which lasted 5 rounds!
The fan involvement with letting kids chase the homerun balls at the HR Derby is a great idea
Linedrive's Kyle Yerkes finished runner up in the derby for the second week in a row
Some random hitter's from the HR Derby
The tournament resumed Sunday morning at 8 AM with Shoppe finishing off Bud Light and then upsetting Resmondo 36-35 in a game Shoppe controlled for most of the way.
Sunday morning at the Last Chance. Bud Light takes on Jean Shoppe
The loser's bracket games were all played with a 5 inning or 1 hour time limit (whichever came first).
More on each of the top teams coming up later in the report.
Team Breakdown: There were 15 Conference USSSA teams and 26 teams overall from 10 different States at the Michigan Major:
4 Class "A" Teams,
9 Class "B" Teams,
6 Class "C" Teams,
4 Class "D" Teams,
Liberty Park of America notes: The softball complex was in great shape considering the unbelievable amount of rain and there were no puddles or really any muddy areas on the infields or outfields. Liberty has 11 ball diamonds, all with 300 foot fences! Home run fences were approximately 7 feet high.
The fog rolls in Saturday night
Liberty Park fields Sunday morning
Homerun rules were as follows:
Major vs Major = 16 HR per game per team.
Major vs Non-Major = 7 HR per game per team.
All other games were 8 HR per game per team.
Mercy Rules were 30 after 3, 20 after 4, 15 after 5.
The ball used was the Dudley ZN .40 core which was very hard.
Team by Team Comments:
1st Place Long Haul/Miken/Phonemasters (Conf M, Albertville, MN )
Michigan Record 4-0
Overall Conference Record 35-12
Long Haul win's their 2nd Conference tournament of the season. They were one of the few teams that were able to step on the gas whenever they needed to. They overcame a large early deficit against PRI to win 41-28. Geno Buck was missing as he was serving the last game of his suspension from early in the year. JD Genter continues to play great defense up the middle. Due to a forfeit victory over GTL, Long Haul probably becomes the first team to ever win a Conference tournament while only playing 3 games on the field.
Long Haul's tournament victory inched them closer to Dan Smith and 2nd place in my Conference Rankings.
Long Haul's Ryan "Psycho" Robbins has been on it ever since that onbase streak at the Music City Classic
Long Haul gathers to discuss who gets to take the trophy on the plane
2nd Place Jean Shoppe/Chaneys/Easton/Sports55 (Conf A, McKenzie, TN )
Michigan Record 3-1
Overall Conference Record 43-12
Jean Shoppe won their first 3 games of the tournament giving them a 9 game winning streak in the Conference before dropping in the winner's championship to Long Haul. Shoppe played without SS Jaime Nelson, Catcher Jamie Gordon, and Brad Reckert went down with an injury. Their current roster shows Lossen White on it, so it looks like they have made at least one pickup for the "A" Worlds.
Shoppe's 36-35 victory over Resmondo was the best game of the tournament and eventhough they have to overcome a rash of injuries, everyone seems to be peaking at the right time.
Jean Shoppe left fielder Brad Reckert went down with a leg fracture
Jean Shoppe first baseman Eric Thompson demonstrates how Bobby Hughes used his forearms to run over him
Shoppe finishes off Resmondo for their first win over a Major team this year
Jean Shoppe shortstop John Gallegos did a nice job filling in for the injured Jaime Nelson
Doesn't seem to matter who the player's are each year, the Shoppe management pulls all the right strings
I don't think Hank Garris hurt his .800+ onbase percentage this weekend
3rd Place Resmondo-Specialty Tank-Worth (Conf Major, Winterhaven, Florida )
Michigan Record 3-1
Overall Conference Record 55-8
Resmondo used a tournament high 47 runs to finally put away AJS and then dropped to the loser's bracket when their comeback fell short against Jean Shoppe. During the Shoppe game there was a play at first base where Bobby Hughes was blocked from getting back to the base by Eric Thompson who dropped the ball before contact was made. The contact which sent Thompson hard to the ground was considered a little too rough and Hughes was ejected which started a bench clearing shouting match between the two teams. In my opinion he should not have been ejected. Was there a little extra follow through on the contact?…yes.
Resmondo regrouped to knock off ATS 24-20 in the loser's bracket although the loser's bracket championship and championship were not played as all teams involved left to catch planes.
Resmondo regroups after losing a slugfest with Jean Shoppe
A Jeff Wallace homer pulls Resmondo a little closer in their comeback bid against Shoppe
Resmondo veteran Howie Krause has 7 weeks of elbow rehab ahead of him
Benches clear in the Resmondo/Shoppe game after Bobby Hughes ran over Eric Thompson trying to get back to first base.
4th Place Bud Light/TPS/Linedrive/Sports55 (Conf A, Plymouth, MI )
Michigan Record 4-1
Overall Conference Record 37-21
Bud Light opened with a victory over local PDC 25-14 then lost to Jean Shoppe 30-21 before rattling off a couple wins in the loser's bracket to finish 4th. Bud Light played without Tony Mack who's been playing very well. Looking at Bud's season they are 8-9 vs "A" teams which doesn't bode well for this coming weekends World Tournament. I think Bud Light is a year away from the "A" Championship although it will be fun to see them try to get it done this weekend.
Bud's Jay Wetmore celebrates a homer
Bud Light super utility man Joe Gordon has been a pleasant surprise sporting a .700+ onbase average
Tied 5th Place PRI/MFAB/Insanity (Conf B, Cincinnati, OH )
Michigan Record 3-2
Overall Conference Record 17-12
PRI won their first 3 games in dramatic fashion. After pounding Elk & Elk, they won an extra inning game against O&S and then run ruled Dan Smith 29-12! They followed this with a good start against Long Haul but lost 41-28.
PRI is getting it done on both sides of the ball, scoring 27 runs per game and making some big plays when they have to. Outfielder Brandon Johnson made the catch of the tournament in left on a running leaping stab over his head. PRI played without center fielder Everett Hibbard who was their Cincy tournament MVP. He is out with an injury (shoulder I think).
PRI finishes off O&S in extra innings 31-30. Yes those are stars on their uniforms, not spots on the camera lens
The table gets set, then TJ Thompson who is not known for his offense comes up with the game winning hit over O&S Povs
PRI may have the defense to make a run at the "B" Worlds
Mike Foulk's checks on his pitcher TJ after a linedrive up the middle
Tied 5th Place ATS/Combat/TYJA Sports (Conf B, Phoenix, AZ )
Michigan Record 2-2
Overall Conference Record 17-14
ATS dropped the "fun" game of the tournament 21-19 to hometown Detroits Own. Then they used two forfeit victories and close wins over PDC Printing and Linedrive to post a top 5. ATS could use a few more quality wins on their 2009 resume, however I think the fact they are playing in the "A" Worlds this coming weekend should give them some more good Disney experience that could pay off down the road.
ATS celebrates a key homer in their close win over Linedrive
First baseman Javier Gamboa needs to be an offensive leader for ATS at the "B" Worlds
ATS players come to play