Thursday May 13th, 2021

2021 USSSA Cactus Classic – Phoenix Major tournament report!



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2021 Nationwide Conference USSSA


Cactus Classic


Glendale, AZ


April 23-25

Pictures by Kari Westcott

SoftballCenter Cactus Classic picture album link


2021 Cactus Classic bracket and results link


2021 Cactus Classic Major stats link once available


2021 Cactus Classic archived games link



Victory Lane Sports Park in Glendale, Arizona

Report by Eric McCarthy – 4/26/2021

Conference USSSA headed out west this past weekend to sunny Arizona for the 2021 Cactus Classic Major.  The event was brought back in 2020 to replace the Sin City Major, which had to be cancelled amid Covid-19 restrictions and kept on the schedule for 2021.  There were a total of 27 teams on hand (4-A, 12-B, 10-C, 1-A Military), featuring four Conference A teams and three Conference B teams.  The late games in the winners bracket and final games on Sunday were all held on 305 ft fields.  Hot conditions and swirling winds certainly made it tough to generate offense at times depending on the field.  I was playing in the event and missed some of the earlier round action, so we will hit on a few games that I did see before diving into the final four of championship Sunday.

I would first like to take a second to acknowledge the beautiful Christan Dowling ceremony.  It was very emotional to see in person what she meant to everyone in attendance.  The amount of people that she touched and affected is incredible as all kinds of people were in tears.  Grown men, old women, little children, and everything in between.  Hopefully, something similar can be done at the Major World Series, or another widely attended event so that more people can be involved in honoring our friend.

The best hitting sponsor in softball Joel Gonzalez and his Bay Area Legends Conference 'A' team found themselves being tested in the first round by AZ 'B' team Rowley White RV.  The two teams were pretty close through four innings, but Bay Area was able to pull ahead by 12 in the 5th, Rowley battled back to within six, but Legends proved to be too much with Brandon Traylor hitting a walk off grand slam to mercy rule Rowley in the 6th inning.  In a game that I missed, Conference 'A' team Classic Glass was also pushed to the limit early by UT 'B' team Lazer Sports, but ultimately ended in a walk off victory for Classic Glass by a score of 21-17 when Sal Formosa homered. 

Also taking place on Friday night was the upset of the tournament as AZ 'C' team NVH was able to beat Conference 'B' team L&S Glass by a score of 15-13.  The dramatics really picked up in the top of the 7th when L&S was leading 13-8 and NVH pitcher Danny Cazares held them to a 0 spot, setting his team up by needing 6 runs to win the game.  After a 3 run home run with no outs in the bottom of the 7th, you could tell they really started to believe in themselves.  To set the stage for the final swing, NVH was down by 1 run, guys on 1st and 2nd with two outs, when Fernando Medina hit a towering 3 run homerun on a 3-1 count to seal the victory for his team.  These guys are fairly stout for a 'C' team and should compete for a ring in Florida this year.

Now onto the winners bracket semifinal games, first up was a battle of Conference 'A' teams with MAJ taking on the Bay Area Legends.  After two innings, home team MAJ was up 21-2, being led with two home runs from Cameron Cox including a big time grand slam, and a Billy Waltrip three run homer.  Bay Area would keep themselves in it though, and after benches cleared momentarily they were only chasing three runs going into the 7th inning.  A clutch two run single by Brandt Eaton tied the game for Bay Area going into the bottom, but MAJ's Kade Christensen hit a two run blast and handed Bay Area the loss by a score of 27-25.

Next up was another exciting game between Classic Glass and the Cheap Suites Conference 'B' team.  The score was tied at 14 going into the bottom of three when Cheap Suites jumped out to a 29-14 lead.  Classic Glass would come roaring back though and would take the lead by seven after four innings.  By this time in the evening the temperatures had cooled down and the ball was flying.  After a solo home run in the top of the 7th, Classic was leading 43-40.  Brian Atchison, who replaced veteran pitcher Shawn Jones earlier, held Cheap Suites scoreless in the final inning and gained the relief victory. 

The winners bracket final started off hot as MAJ put up 9 in the top of the 1st, but after a 16 run bottom of the 2nd Classic Glass found themselves leading 23-13.  MAJ could never quite catch up in this one and match Classic Glass' pace.  Classic would go on to mercy them in this one by a score of 33-18.

On Sunday morning Bay Area made quick work of Cheap Suites by winning 38-4, the stage was set for another battle with MAJ.  The Legends put up an impressive 17 runs in the top of the first and did not use many home runs.  My Auto Jack stayed together though and battled back to make the score 21-18 heading into the top of five.  Brandon Traylor hit a bases clearing triple in a 7 run top of the 6th for Bay Area, but MAJ's Steve Smith would hit a three run homer during MAJ's nine run bottom half.  It was 33-31 going into the seventh, and after a solo home run Bay Areas lead was only three going into the final at bats.  Billy Waltrip hit the team to a 35-34 victory with a grand slam that was barely missed by the Bay Area center fielder.  Nate Newman got the start for Bay Area in this one and did great pitching, and I was also really impressed with MAJ's Chris Benigno throughout the tournament.  He is a "play the game" guy who takes professional at bats. 

The finals were now set, MAJ needing two wins and Classic Glass needing just one.  Classic Glass went 1-2-3 to start the first game but would come back with a 12 spot in the top of two and took a 12-4 lead.  Jose Flores kept battling on the mound for MAJ though, and in the top of the fourth after one run came across, Classic was able to load the bases only to line out and ground into a double play, leaving much needed runs on the bags.  This game stayed fairly close throughout, with both teams having multiple good innings.  Heading into the seventh MAJ carried a three run lead off a Chad Erickson homerun in the prior half inning, 34-31.  Classic Glass was really working the right side of the field all game, but the rally fell short with MAJ taking the 34-33 win.  Atchison got the start here for Classic Glass after his relief performance the night before and the fact Shawn Jones had to leave to make a flight home and Brian did another excellent job.  His knuckleball looked tough and had good movement in the wind.  Benigno, Erickson, Waltrip, and Smith were a combined 19-24 at the top of the lineup for MAJ, with Smith driving in 11 runs.

Known as the dreaded if game, MAJ took the field as the home team once again.  Classic Glass put up seven right away with help from a Ryan Ramirez three run home run, and then held MAJ scoreless in the bottom half of the 1st.  Down 12-0 going into the bottom of two, MAJ would get back 11 of the runs, four of them coming on another Steve Smith grand slam.  Despite great games though by Smith and Billy Waltrip, Classic Glass was just too consistent in this one.  They continued to use the whole field well.  Ryan Ramirez would end up driving in 12 runs, Mark Wik added to his already hot season by going 8-8, along with Ben Falcone and Sal Formosa combining to go 12-16 in the top two spots.  Classic Glass are your tournament champions with a final score of 48-38.

A few final thoughts I have on the weekend before we wrap this up. This is some of the best softball I have seen in a long time.  The 240 bats are without a doubt a step in the right direction.  Making it harder to score keeps the games close, and it seems to help bring more parity.  Lower class teams are competing with and on many occasions beating their higher class opponents.  We also ran ahead of schedule almost all weekend due to the shorter game times.

Thank you to Strojan Kennison and the entire USSSA staff that was on hand, the event went beyond smooth.  Dre Bogan also deserves a very special thank you, this man stood on a ladder for three straight days while keeping score and announcing to make the home viewing experience better.  Thank you to Kari Westcott for the great photos and finally, thank you to DW for letting me play reporter this weekend.  



Championship Game Box Score



Team Breakdown:

27 Teams Overall
7 Conference teams
4 'A'
12 'B'
11 'C'








Old Scout pollers had Bay Area to win





MAJ outfielder Billy Waltrip hits a walk off homer to beat Bay Area Legends in the loser's final.



Cactus Classic Major Final Standings and Awards



Team by team notes brought to you by:



1st Place – Classic Glass/Easton

Conf 'A' from CA  5-1 Record




2nd Place – MAJ/Knell/Dirty Sports/DTS/DOMN8

Conf 'A' from AZ  5-2 Record




3rd Place – Bay Area Legends/Easton

Conf 'A' from CA  4-2 Record





4th Place – Cheap Suits/Republic Realy/Express

Conf 'B' from CA  3-2 Record




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