Wednesday March 29th, 2023

A look back at the 2021 USSSA Challenge Cup Men’s Major tournament report!






2021 USSSA Challenge Cup – Men's Major


Space Coast Complex


Viera, FL


January 21-24


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Winner's bracket finals between Texas – Cole Campbell hitting against NC/GA pitcher Roderick Armour

The 2021 Challenge Cups Men's Major division was played on the baseball field in the back of the complex (Red Marucci) and the main field was the Space Coast Stadium.  20 teams played this year and their rosters were built from States or Regions with adjoining states.  The tournament began with each team playing a 2 game pool play which seeded the teams into a double elimination bracket.  Pool play started at 8 AM Friday morning and ended around 10:30 PM Friday night.  Then the double elimination "play in" games and first round were played overnight Friday into Saturday morning and the final 8 teams played down to the winner's bracket finals starting at 11 AM Saturday.

In the pool play North Carolina, NJ/NY/PA, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas went undefeated and Louisiana/Mississippi and Colorado went 1-0-1 as ties were allowed.  The pool play was also played with a 75 minute time limit and most games only completed 6 innings.  I missed most of the start of the double elimination games as they were played between midnight and 6:30 AM in the morning.  When the sun rose on Saturday morning there were 8 teams standing undefeated in the quarterfinals.  The big name teams of Texas, the combined team of NJ/NY/PA, Kentucky, Florida, and North Carolina were all there as expected.  They were joined by the "no name" team as they were called all weekend Maryland who held California and Maryland to 9 runs each.  Alabama won both their games over Virginia/NC and Louisiana/Miss by one run each to make the final 8.  Jordan Blanchette with a walk off homer in one of them.  And the Iowa/Wisconsin team led by Kevin Bazat and Dan Bean knocked off Nevada to make the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinals began at 11 AM eastern time on Saturday morning and I will be posting a condensed game videoyo for each of the quarterfinal, semifinal, and championship games on my SW48 YouTube channel over the next week or so.  The 1st quarterfinal was New Jersey vs Kentucky which was a rematch of the 2020 Challenge Cup Championship game!  Kentucky jumped out to an early lead as New Jersey gave up 7 unearned runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning.  Then New Jersey down 12-3 scored 11 runs with 2 outs in the top of the 4th and scored 7 mostly on home runs in the top of the 5th to go up 21-13 and won the game 28-13.  There was no time limit in the double elimination games.  The 2nd quarterfinal was Texas (my pick to win) and the upstart Maryland team.  This one was all Texas as Maryland's infield defense had trouble on the turf for some reason and kept giving Texas extra outs.  Texas advanced easily 22-6.  The 3rd quarterfinal was Florida and Alabama.  Alabama hung tough against the highly favored and Major heavy roster of Florida.  Alabama scored 12 runs in the 1st inning.  And it wasn't until the benches cleared after a slide into second that Florida refocused and grabbed the lead after a number of Alabama unforced errors late in the game led to a 13 run inning.  Florida ended up winning 43-29 in what was actually a close game.  In the 4th quarterfinal North Carolina overpowered the Iowa/Wisconsin team 34-22 and the win was never really in jeopardy.

The semifinals began around 5 pm Saturday as the sun went down and they were solid games but Texas went up 12-1 on the strength of an 11 run top of the 2nd inning and never looked back in a 28-19 victory.  North Carolina knocked off the favorite Florida 32-24 in what was a bit of a slugfest with like 30 home runs hit between the two teams.

The winner's bracket finals was then played after the semis were done on Saturday night.  North Carolina 3rd baseman Dylan Smith hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 5th to give them a 36-27 lead.  Texas then scored 4 in the top of the 7th to tie the game at 36-36 but left 2 home runs on the table.  In the bottom of the 7th after Argen Dodds was intentionally walked Rich Racobaldo hit a no doubt walk off homer over the 60 foot high scoreboard in left field to win the game for North Carolina!

The majority of the loser's bracket was either played on the back field Red Marucci or in the stadium over night from midnight to 11 am so I don't have details on those games.  In the top part of the loser's bracket Arizona sent home Virginia/NC and Arkansas before Iowa/Wisconsin dropped down and beat them.  Washington knocked off Hawaii and Alabama before Iowa/Wisconsin beat them at 4 am in the morning and then New Jersey dropped down and sent Iowa/Wisconsin home 16-7 to win the top part of the loser's bracket.  In the bottom half of the loser's bracket Kentucky (last year's champ) beat Louisiana/Miss 29-6 and Maryland 34-2 and then forfeited to Florida at 6:30 AM due to injuries.  In the loser's semifinals Florida grabbed a 12-1 lead and held off one New Jersey run before winning 28-23.  This win actually put them in the championship game because Texas forfeited due to injuries and flights.  

In the championship game North Carolina/GA got off to a slow start but eventually out slugged, out hustled, and out defensed a tired and banged up Florida team to a 32-18 victory and the Challenge Cup Championship!

The tournament was played in very good January weather in Florida.  70's during the day, overcast at times, but very nice.  The umpires and players all deserve great credit for playing at all hours of the night due to the unexpected 164 team turnout across the 7 divisions of men's and women's challenge cup play.

A special thanks to that one or two people every one of the 164 teams had that did the hard work of putting these teams together, getting the uniforms, booking the travel, etc.  You know who you are and THANK YOU!

I am sorry I did not see Arkansas or Hawaii play so I am not sure who was on those teams and am not able to report accurately on them.

Tyler Marshburn hits for NC/GA in the championship game against Florida pitcher Dan Sanchez

North Carolina/GA wins the 2021 Challenge Cup.

The hits column on the scoreboard is the home run tally.

The wind for 3 of the 4 days blew right to left instead of the normal left to right.

For about a half of a day it even blew straight out to center field.

Team Breakdown:
163 Teams Overall in 7 Divisions
113 Men's – 20 Major Teams, 29 'C', 35 'D', 29 'E'
50 Women's – 16 Major, 16 'C', 18 'D'

The Space Coast Stadium complex has 9 adult and 6 youth fields



Key Games

Texas takes down NJ/N/PA 28-19 in the semifinals


North Carolina/GA's Argen Dodds goes over the batters eye in the winner's bracket championship game against TX!

Florida center fielder Nic Santana jammed his wrist trying to rob this extra base hit

Sunday morning when I walked into the stadium it was Florida beating NY/NJ/PA to go to the finals

Texas hitter Ben Dunn bats against Maryland in a 22-6 quarterfinal win


Alabama and Florida benches clear after a slide into second.  Florida won this quarterfinal 43-29

NJ/NY/PA's Filip Washington hits against Kentucky's Bill Pinkham in a quarterfinal rematch of last years championship.  NJ won 28-13.

That close play at the plate even when slowed down frame by frame appears to be a tie.

California pitcher Ryan Mcclanahan stabs a shot up the middle vs Georgia


Mooch pulled out the "karate kid" then was heckled by a lady in the stands

Jason Branch's glove popped over the fence so he went and retrieved it.  Check out the video clips.


Bat bucket testing was at 220 compression




Oldscout pollers had NC to win at only 13%



Long Bombers of the Week

I am giving the long bomber of the week to The USA Patriots Cody Rice who hit this Pro-M over the temp fence and out of the stadium about the 355 or 360 mark in left center field.

I know Greg Connell, Argen Dodds, Jason Matusik and probably others went over the batters eye in center field as well.

Kanaby, Fyffe, Yates, and others had a large volume of home runs.



Challenge Cup Final Standings and Awards


There have been no awards for the Men's Major division entered but I think Tyler Wilson of team NC/GA was probably a good candidate for Offensive MVP



NC/GA's Tyler Marshburn could easily have been tabbed for Defensive MVP with his plays in left field.

Or maybe Brandon Jonas who got some big outs at pitcher against the top teams.



Team by team notes brought to you by:



1st Place – North Carolina

7-0 Record

The North Carolina/GA team had a "murderers row" if you will of offensive talent.  Marshburn formerly of Dan Smith played Left Field.  Freddie Bynum (CCP) was in CF.  Tyler Wilson (Bad Draw) who was mashing the ball was in RF.  Dylan Smith (Xtreme) 3B.  Joe Joe Bennett (Dan Smith) SS.  Rich Racobaldo (Dan Smith) MI.  2B was Greg Connell (Resmondo).  1B was Jason Martel (Bad Draw).  Pitching was Brandon Jonas formerly of Sports Reach and Roderick Armour (Primetime).  And Argen Dodds (Dan Smith) was doing the catching with Jason Magnum (Resmondo).  BJ Fulk was pinch hitting.  Kevin Johnson, Brandon Cashwell, Tiny Taylor, and Toby Williams were managing the team.  They were solid all around and won games with offense mostly, but some timely pitching and defense didn't hurt.  North Carolina averaged 31 runs a game, by far the highest of any team.


3B Dylan Smith, SS Joe Joe Bennett, MI Rich Racobaldo


Brandon Jonas

RF Tyler WIlson celebrates Greg Connell catching a popup!





2nd Place – Florida

7-2 Record


3B Waterman, SS Castillo, MI Reyna


Florida had Yates in LF, Santana in CF, and Collins in RF.  They had Roxby and Waterman at 3rd, Castillo at SS, Reyna MI, 2B Emilson Marquez formerly of Worksteer, 1B Matusik.  Pitching was Dan Sanchez and Andy Purcell and catching was Ryan Harvey while Branch also played outfield.  Collins no showed on Sunday morning and Santana jammed his wrist running into the fence so they were banged up and tired by the time the championship came around.  They averaged just 21 runs a game but only allowed 15 runs a game.  


Florida's Jeremy Yates swung at the 1st pitch 9 consecutive times and had 9 consecutive hits.  Mostly extra bases.


P Andy Purcell and SS Orlando Castillo

2B Emilson Marquez



3rd Place – Texas

5-2 Record


Texas had McBryde in LF, Dunn in CF, and Cole Campbell in RF.  They had Shannon Smith at 3rd, Whaley at SS, a new guy Bryan McCoy at MI, 2B was Tyrell Jenkins who is playing for Sonny's this year, and at 1B Kanaby who was killing it at lead off.  Pitching was the veteran Danny Evans.  Catching was Zane Trammell.  And Nick Santos and Chris Potts came off the bench.  LC Watson is recovering from injury and Everett Williams didn't make the trip.  I really thought this team would win it, just they came up short in the winner's final and then decided to leave on Sunday before the tournament was over.


Erik Kanaby was an extra base hitting machine


The Texas management group included Nimmo, Barnes, Miller, and Watson (recovering from injury)




4th Place – NJ/NY/PA

5-2 Record


NJ had Justin Lutheran and Woodrow Darling in LF.  John Rieman in center, and Neil Haglund in left.  At 3B Dave Johnson, SS Messer, MI Chris Gili, 2B Josh Fyffe, 1B Tom Osenbach, P was Mooch and Verbasco, and C/EH was Greinert and Flip Washington.  A good team with good chemistry and they made a run at it as they did in 2020.

Sonny tells a tall tale


Filip Washington setting the table for Josh Fyffe who hit a couple miles worth of homers


Tom "Joe Joe the Whale" Osenbach


Mike Verbasco played with a broken forearm



Tied 5th Place – Iowa/Wisconsin

4-3 Record

Iowa/Wisconsin had Kahlke, Rettenmeier, Bazat, Bulens, and Dunse across the infield.  Andrews was in center field.  Dan Bean and Alex Hovey did the pitching.  Houseman, Leach, Stefanski, and Cannoy were in there somewhere.  I did not see Travis Clark in the games I watched.  Team was put together by Josh Dobson one of the underrated team builders in the USA.  🙂 



Tied 5th Place – Kentucky

4-3 Record

Kentucky the defending champs had Pinkham at Pitcher, C Mullins, Barnes at SS, Laski at 2B, Angus 1B, Whitlock MI, Matte in LF, Hatley 3B, Lendenski in CF, and Riley, Bradler and others were in the mix.  Definitely a contending team but forfeited Sunday morning due to injuries I heard.


Phil Matte makes a running catch


Pinkham snaps one off and Mitch Lendenski scores




Tied 7th Place – Washington

3-4 Record

Ryan Lekness and Washington did a nice job winning 3 games.  There was a Chris Larsen sighting which was good to see.  They also had Kyle Garrison, Breer, Atchison, Mitchell Johnson, Abreu, Rolando Rodriguez, Kade Christensen, Jeff Flood, and Blake Lively which are all players with upper level experience you might know of.  I don't remember seeing Brungardt or Benigno but they could have been there.



Tied 7th Place – Maryland

3-4 Record

Maryland we joked was the "no name" team because they don't have a lot of big names.  But that didn't stop them from competing.  They had Zach Ross at 1B, Chris Isennock Catcher, I think it was the athletic Jarod Kashner at SS, Pedro "gold glove" Sanchez at MI, and Brian Garner at pitcher.  Zack Smith is listed on the roster but I can't remember him playing the game I watched.  A fun team who will benefit from the experience.





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Some more pictures for you:

Tied for 9th – Colorado (3-2-1) – Colorado had the veteran Losson White pitching, Dustin Wager who ran a couple of teams out of Colorado was playing, and they had Chris Berquist, Hunter Ramirez (Seminoles), Brian Therkildsen (Seminoles) among other Conference experienced players.



Tied for 9th – Alabama (3-3) – Alabama had Hooks in LF, Blanchette in CF, and Lane Young in RF.  They had Andrew Hall 3B, Michael Rainer SS, Ryker Cence MI, Jacob Willingham 2B, and Josh Jones 1B/P.  Tommie Baugh did most of the pitching and Marcus Henderson catching.  A nice team who gave Florida all they could handle in the quarterfinals.


Tommie Baugh pitches a strike between the legs.  Marcus Henderson was hitting creatures!



Tied for 9th – Arizona (3-3) – Arizona was missing a lot of their major players like Nino, Kirkwood, Spaulding, and Nelson.  But they won 3 games anyways.


Josh Moore and Corey Miller



Tied for 9th – Louisiana/Mississippi (2-2-1) – Louisiana had Kyle Pearson, Zane Migues, Donald Plaisance, Ricky Smith, Paul Davis and others.




The VA/NC team went 0-4.  Had Cory Boothe, John Zorich, William Cullen, Renner, and some of the Chick-fil-a guys among others.



Michigan went 0-4.  Had Dorton, Dawe, Payton, Chromy.  Was Graus there?  Not sure.



Georgia had Bolden, Phillip White, Tre Campbell, Curtis Cornett, and Andrew Vitcak among others.  They went 1-3.


Andrew Vitcak and the return of Tre' Campbell!



Nevada went 1-3.  They had Chris Hansen, Jack Richardson, Clint Stricker, and Chad Augustin as far as names we have heard of.



California went 1-3-1.  Dezern, John Brown, Joel Gonzalez, Bryson Baker, Traylor, Broome, Chavez, Nick Price, Mcclanahan, Hollingsworth, Erickson, and Steven Lopez were some of the bigger names.

Brandon Traylor and Brian Dezern



For Ohio Mike Cruea and Nick Boden had Wegman, Kessler, Reckart, Dombrowski, John Williams, Kirsten, Frentzel, Wolf, Farrar, Edwards, Stewart, and Radich.  They went 1-3.



Team Hawaii went 1-4 but this had to be a great experience for these softballers!

The USA Patriot team played exhibition games against the Oregon E Team and the womens Major team.

You can support the USA Patriots at

The bird was finally pictured in its nest

Jim from Jim-mer Stick and his son


Dan Sanchez was drilled in the ankle but stayed in the game and even played the next day.

Taking balls can get you tossed from USSSA events! 


BJ Fulk comes after Reyna with a stool during the championship game…   🙂

Sean Melvin the USSSA Slowpitch director, Tony Harper baseball, Vic Rivera Senior/GSL/USSSA director and the creator of Challenge Cup Strojan Kennison!

These guys plus Dave Maury, Jim Pilla, Clay Dickey, Chuck Shimels and many more plus the umpires all worked 24/7 to bring this great event to completion! 

Steve Milani, Levi Lynch, and Jeff Thompson were the "night shift" crew for the Men's Major.

Slim Rice, Dallas Maag, and Dave Davis were the Day time crew.

Umpires at all levels worked 12 hour shifts on and 12 off for 3 plus days!

They showed the UFC fight on the big screen



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