2023 Challenge Cup
Ohio’s Mike Williams hits against Florida in the winner’s bracket finals Saturday night!
Challenge Cup Hot Links
(More Videos to come daily for the next two weeks)
Pool Play Recap
Alabama vs CT/NY in pool play Friday!
The 2023 Challenge Cup (State vs State) slow pitch competition continued with week #2 as the Men’s Major, B, and C divisions began on Thursday and Friday as well as the women’s Major, C, and D. The weather was cooler on Thursday and it was “hoodie” weather on Friday at 8 AM when the Men’s Major kicked off with 18 teams playing in the Space Coast stadium and two other baseball fields in the Red Quad all with their 325-365-385-365-325 home run fence dimensions and artificial turf. They used a 16 home run limit, for the 1st time an optional safety bag at 1st base, and the Dudley Stadium ZN ball with 240 bats and compression testing.
The heavy favorite was team Florida who had about as many Major List players on their team as the entire rest of the other 17 teams had combined. The tournament began with a 2 game pool play which ended at 4:30 PM Friday and seeded the teams into a double elimination tournament. The two “play in” games, the “Round of 16” and the “Round of 8” played through to the final 4 teams in the winner’s bracket on Friday night with the loser’s bracket beginning on Saturday morning at 7:30 AM and the final 3 teams coming back on Sunday.
On Friday in the pool play these State “All Star teams” worked out the kinks caused by the offseason. The wind blew out Friday and Saturday towards right center or right field at about 10 mph on the Stadium and Red Marucci fields and blew across the field on Red Easton. There were not a whole lot of surprises in pool play as Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, and Ohio all went 2-0 but there were some close games from the beginning. To touch on a few games, California scored 5 runs in the top of the 6th inning in the stadium to go up by 2 against Louisiana in the 1st game of the day but Louisiana/MS quickly scored 2 to tie the game, and then with runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs Dakota Lowery hit a walk off single up the middle to win it 25-24! Later in bracket play Louisiana beat Oklahoma on a bottom of the 6th 2 run walk off hit by Dexter Jordan. The game ended in the 6th inning due to the time limit in pool play. In a pivotal pool D game Tennessee jumped out to leads of 18-17 and 31-19 after a 14 run 3rd inning over the favorite Florida but a couple of miss-played popups opened the door for a 16 run Florida 6th and Tennessee left the tying run on 2nd to end the game with Florida winning 35-34. Andrew Collins and the original Kyle Pearson reached base safely a combined 9 for 9 in the game and Florida hit 15 of their 16 home runs! Florida also struggled with Arizona in pool play trailing 13-8 going into the top of the 5th where they came out with an 18-13 lead and held on to win by 3 runs 18-15 even though Arizona had the hammer. In the pivotal Pool C 10:40 AM game Kentucky was just a little too much for a very good Virginia team. Kentucky won 33-22 as the top 4 hitters in the order Mitch Lendenski, Josh Riley, Chad Mullins, and Phil Matte went a combined 18-20 with 9 homers, and 5 doubles! And Team Canada West was slinging it all over the Red Marucci field as they knocked off Iowa/South Dakota 31-11. That is all of the updates I had on the Pool Play and below are the final results of each pool.
Standings – Pool A
1 Louisiana/Mississippi 2-0
2 Oklahoma 1-1
3 California 0-2
Standings – Pool B
1 Texas 2-0
2 Canada West 1-1
3 Iowa/South Dakota 0-2
Standings – Pool C
1 Kentucky 2-0
2 Virginia 1-1
3 Colorado 0-2
Standings – Pool D
1 Florida 2-0
2 Tennessee 1-1
3 Arizona 0-2
Standings – Pool E
1 Alabama 2-0
2 Connecticut/New York 1-1
3 New Mexico 0-2
Standings – Pool F
1 Ohio 2-0
2 Indiana 1-1
3 Georgia 0-2
Florida’s Emilson Marquez preserves a 1 run victory with a diving stop against Tennessee.
Colorado vs Georgia play in game Friday to kick off bracket play!
At 4:30 PM Friday or a little after the double elimination bracket which did not have a time limit was set and play began as a surprising 0-2 Georgia team overpowered Colorado 27-12 as the good batch of Stadium ZN balls continued to fly! And Arizona knocked off New Mexico 15-12 on a walk off grand slam by Corey Holmes Jr. to advance into the “Round of 16”.
Texas vs Georgia a heavyweight “Round of 16” battle!
In the “Round of 16” Kentucky scoring in every inning never could finish off Iowa/South Dakota by the run rule but won 24-8 in the stadium as lead off hitter Mitch Lendenski and two hitter Josh Riley each went 5-6 and Josh Riley hit one ball clean over the 50 foot high scoreboard to take the lead in the “Long Bomber of the Week” competition. Kentucky hit 10 home runs total in the win. Team Texas who finished 2nd in the 2022 Challenge Cup answered Team Georgia’s 9 run 4th with an 11 run inning of their own and went on to win 33-24. Filip Washington reached base safely as the lead off hitter 5-6 and two hitter Tyler Ervine was 6-6 with 3 home runs! Louisiana/Mississippi (quick spell that 10 times fast!) knocked off Arizona as Miles McGhee hit a bases loaded pinch hit double to take a 19-6 lead and went on to win 30-18. Kyle Pearson hit a “Long Bomber of the Week” crowd pleasing homer although he showed he was human fouling out twice, and Zane Migues continued to mash going 5-6 with 2 homers and 2 doubles! Back in the Red Quad Ohio and New York/Connecticut were locked in a pitchers dual between Mike Verbasco and Jon Dombrowski as it was 3-3 after 5 complete innings with both teams hitting just 1 home run. Ohio broke out in the top of the 6th scoring 9 runs to go up 12-3 on a Brock Frenztel homer and RBI hits by John Williams and Dombrowski. New York/CT answered with 6 runs of their own as Andrew Mrozek tripled, and Mike and Ryan Snyder had RBI singles. But Ohio added 3 more in the 7th on a John Radich 2 run homer and held on to win 15-10. Meanwhile Tennessee got out to an 18-10 lead on Oklahoma in the 4th inning and went on to win 24-12. Florida led California 8-4 after 3 innings and scored 7 in the top of the 4th to go up 15-4 and 6 more in the top of the 5th to go up 21-5 finishing off California 21-6 by the mercy rule in 5 innings. And Alabama run ruled Indiana 30-7 and Virginia beat Canada West 27-12 in games I was unable to cover.
In the “Round of 8” played late Friday night as the temperatures dipped down below 50 degrees Ohio back on the Red Marucci baseball field leading 15-12 against Kentucky in the top of the 4th got a monster home run from Josh Kirsten, John Radich got a 2 run RBI double and Ohio went on to score 22 runs on 4 HR to go up 37-12 knocking out Bill Pinkham from pitcher, which never happens. Kentucky scored 7 in the bottom of the 4th but Ohio added 11 runs on 4 HR in the top of the 5th to win 48-20, the highest score of the tournament! Florida run ruled Alabama 21-6 back on the Red Easton field at 9:00 PM. Virginia on the strength of 3 Jacob Clifton home runs in the 1st 3 innings led Louisiana/MS 17-9 but LA/MS came back to win 32-30 when LA/MS pitcher Buckshot Plaisance got a two on no out double play to hold Virginia 2 runs short in the bottom of the 7th. Clifton hit 4 HR in the game in the loss for Virginia. LA/MS lead off hitter Jamie Rachal and two hitter Kyle Pearson were on base 5-6 and 4 hitter Cody Roton was 6-6 with 5 extra base hits for LA/MS!
Final 4 Recap
Ohio middle infielder Brad Reckart makes the pick and gets the out himself in the semifinals vs TN.
The “Final 4” of the winner’s bracket played out at 3 PM Saturday beginning with Tennessee and Ohio. Tennessee’s Justin Gregory and Ohio’s Josh Kirsten exchanged home runs in the 1st inning and the teams were tied at 3-3. Tennessee’s Cody Pack hit a 2 run homer to left center field in the 2nd as they scored 6 runs on 2 outs to go up 9-3. In the 3rd inning Ohio middle infielder Brad Reckart made a nice pick and beat the runner to 2nd on a hustling diving play. In the top of the 5th Tennessee lead off hitter Heath Barnes hit a 2 out 2 run homer to put them up 13-12 and in the bottom half of the inning Ohio lead off hitter Mike Williams hit a 2 run double to give them their final lead 14-13 and Ohio went on to win 19-14. Ohio shortstop Kyle Fisher was 3-4 with 2 home runs in the win. In the other semifinal played at 4:30 PM in the stadium Louisiana/MS went into the bottom of the 3rd trailing 9-1 when they got a pair of 2 run home runs from Kyle Pearson and Cody Roton to close the gap. But Florida who scored in every inning freed up and scored 10 runs in the top of the 5th hitting 5 home runs, then scored 10 more in the 6th to win 32-9. Lead off hitter Austyn Dawe was on base 5-5 and last hitter Brian Zirkle was 4-4 with 3 extra base hits.
Winner’s Final Recap
There was miscommunication for Florida and the ball drops leading to 8 unearned runs by Ohio.
The winner’s final began around 6 PM Saturday in the stadium with one of the larger crowds of the tournament. Both Ohio and Florida got off to slow starts with Ohio leading 1-0 after 1 inning and Florida leading 3-1 after 2 innings. In the 3rd inning with 2 outs and no runs across Florida had some miscommunication on a popup that dropped in the infield and Ohio made them pay big time by scoring 8 runs. Florida tried to get back in the game with solo home runs scoring 2’s and 3’s the rest of the way but Ohio added 7 in the 5th and 6 in the 7th to win 24-14. Josh Kirsten was 4-5 in the win for Ohio and they won even though they were out homered 9-4. Jason Matusik had 3 homer’s in the game for Florida and as a team 14 of their 21 outs were flyballs or foul outs.
Loser’s Bracket Recap
Fan favorite New Mexico swept through the loser’s bracket with plays like this!
The loser’s bracket played out on Saturday starting at 8 AM and there were some interesting tidbits. Kenneth Duby from the New Mexico team was called out on a 2 run double where he carried the bat which was stuck to his batting gloves past 1st base. The runs were taken off the board and it was the 3rd out, lol. Georgia 1st baseman Corey Jaramillo was hitting crowd pleasing homer’s to left center field. New Mexico probably the lowest roster point wise in the Major division led by Competitive Edge lefty Ryan Honeycutt put on a show sending home CT/NY 22-15, Iowa/SD 16-11, Alabama 20-19, and Virginia 20-13 to finish tied for 5th. One of the favorites Texas was coming through the loser’s bracket before Louisiana/MS beat them 23-21 Saturday night. Louisiana then jumped out to a 22-1 lead on Tennessee in the 4th place game after midnight Saturday and advanced to Sunday’s loser’s final by a score of 26-5. Leadoff hitter Jamie Rachal was 4-4 with 4 walks in the win?
Texas takes on Louisiana/MS late Saturday night.
Louisiana/MS Edmund Cheatham hits an inside the park homer vs Florida.
On Sunday morning in the loser’s bracket final as the weather continued to get warmer the wind shifted in and Florida continued with their flyball and foul outs as Louisiana/MS grabbed a 3rd inning lead 7-6 with neither team hitting any home runs. When Florida put up a zero in the 3rd and 4th innings Louisiana capitalized as Levin Chaisson the extra hitter hit a 2 out 2 run tripled to go up 11-6 and Jamie Rachal extended the lead to 13-6. In the bottom of the 5th Florida got a bases loaded triple by Jason Matusik and scored 8 runs with 2 outs to go up 14-13, but in the top of the 6th instead of rolling over Louisiana answered the bell getting inside the park home runs from Edmund Cheatham and Kyle Pearson to score 8 and go up 21-14. Florida scored 5 in the 7th but it wasn’t enough and LA/MS advanced to the championship 21-19. Florida hit 2 over the fence homers both by Jeremy Yates and LA/MS had zero. Cheatham for Louisiana was 3-3 with a sacrifice fly.
Ohio takes on LA/MS in the Championship game Sunday morning.
The championship game began around 9:30 AM Sunday morning in perfect softball weather with the wind blowing in towards the 1st base dugout. Ohio’s Josh Kirsten started things again with the big homer, this time in the bottom of the 3rd inning to tie the game at 6-6 with LA/MS. In the bottom of the 4th Ohio got a 2 out hit from pitcher Jon Dombrowski to roll it to the top of the order where Mike Williams, Dave Johnson, and John Radich all singled, Kirsten walked, and Brock Frentzel hit a grand slam home run to put Ohio up 15-6. Ohio added an inside the park 3 run homer by Mike Williams in the 6th and held LA/MS scoreless in the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings to win the Challenge Cup by the run rule 21-6! It was Ohio’s first Major Challenge Cup Championship and each of their first four batters went 3-4 in the win with 3 runs each. They out over the fence homered LA/MS 2-0.
The 4 days of softball across 6 men’s and women’s divisions was a true celebration of the game and pure competition. The weather steadily improved as the weekend went on. The stadium ball was a good batch and the umpires gave a tireless good effort (Thank you!). Thank you to all the teams, players, sponsors, directors, camera crew, and umpires that made this all happen. Look for condensed games and video highlights to come out daily over the next few weeks on ConferenceUSSSA.com and the USSSALive YouTube page!
Ohio’s Brock Frentzel hits a grand slam to sink LA/MS in the championship!
Long Bomber of the Week!
The Long Bomber of the Week had 5 candidates. Kyle Pearson from LA/MS pictured above, John Williams from Ohio pictured below, Josh Riley from KY, and Everett Williams and Tyler Ervine from Texas. I am giving it to Josh Riley because his bomb cleared the scoreboard in the stadium!
2023 Men’s Major Challenge Cup Results and Awards
All Tournament Awards
Challenge Cup Team by Team Notes
1st Place – Ohio
Ohio played “their game” no matter if Florida was hitting homer’s to their singles and they took advantage of all of their opponents errors on their way to a 7-0 record and the championship. The chemistry was good and they seemed to pick each other up when someone was having a bad game. Dombrowski looked like the “pre-injury” Dombrowski on the mound, Mike Williams and John Radich set the table, and Josh Kirsten, Brock Frenztel, and Kyle Fisher hit the timely home runs along with Ike Worlow and of course the LAZERS from David Johnson and the veteran leadership of Brad Reckart and David Kessler and the outstanding rookie play of right fielder Steve Smith. An impressive run by Ohio and manager Tommy Hedrick without the big names from Ohio like John Williams who had to leave early for the birth of his daughter, Brian Wegman who retired, and Buddy Wolf and Steve Edwards did not make the trip.
SS Kyle Fisher, MI Brad Reckart, 2B David Johnson
2nd Place – Louisiana/Mississippi
Louisiana/Mississippi was led by the “Migues Brothers”, Zane Migues, Logan Rogers, and Randy Frederick in the middle infield positions who all kind of look the same out there. The hitting of Kyle Pearson, the pitching of little known Caleb Ladner, and some up and coming players like lead off hitter Jamie Rachal, Competitive Edge’s Cody Roton, ‘A’ World Offensive MVP Levi Cheatwood, ‘B’ World Champ Edmund Cheatham and much more. They were managed by veteran pitcher Donald “Buckshot” Plaisance.
3rd Place – Florida
Florida had the best roster with just about more Major list players than all of the other teams combined. They just made some untimely errors and seemed to be forcing the home run swings when maybe they just weren’t there, not sure. Andy Purcell did not play and only managed the team. Andrew Collins left early for his kids sports. Dan Sanchez did the pitching and Austyn Dawe and Brian Zirkle played for Florida after moving there recently.
Pitcher Dan Sanchez and SS Orlando Castillo
4th Place – Tennessee
Tennessee was 4-3 and got that big win over Texas in the bracket play. They were led by the consistent play all over the field of Tyler Marshburn, shortstop and lead off man Heath Barnes, and the new TN resident Tommy Melton. Ben Gambill did the pitching, Darien Tubbs patrolled center field, and Hunter Lemay came off the bench and became a fan favorite with his timely extra base hits!
Hunter Lemay a new fan favorite.
Darrien Tubbs takes away an Ohio extra base hit.
Tied 5th – Texas
Texas lost some close games. They were one of the favorites with some big time players like Filip Washington, Everett Williams, Tyler Ervine, and CF Ben Dunn.
Tied 5th – New Mexico
New Mexico became a fan favorite as they rolled through the loser’s bracket in the stadium Saturday. They have some Conference presence with Ryan Honeycutt from Competitive Edge, Misael Tavarez who played with Adiktiv last year, Garrett Gapp with RVCG, Joey Aguilar, Kenneth Duby, and Chris Musick with various teams but half the team were sort of unknowns who played with great energy and fight. Also they had the sweet uniforms!
Tied 7th – Kentucky
Kentucky was one of the favorites to win with Josh Riley, Phil Matte, and Chad Mullins powering the offense, Mitch Lendenski patrolling CF, and Bill Pinkham on the bump. They won it a couple years ago but this year just wasn’t their year and the calls didn’t exactly go their way…
Tied 7th – Virginia
Virginia had probably their best team ever for Challenge Cup with the core of the Chick-Fil-A team, Chris Anninos the MVP of the Major, and guys like middle infielder Josh Brown, slugger Cory Boothe, CE outfielder Brandon Jackson, and others but they gave up that big lead to Louisiana/MS late Friday night and never really recovered.
Tied 9th – Canada West
Canada West had 5 players from the Canadian national team that played the Border Battle vs Team USA as well as 5 guys from the Canadian national championship team. Manager Mike Hryenko mentioned that they actually could have played the ‘B’ division but didn’t know that ahead of time and signed up for the Major division. They went 2-3 jumping all over Iowa offensively in their first game, had a nice game against Texas, and beat Arizona in bracket play. Mike said they hit 13 HR in one of their games.
Tied 9th – Georgia
Georgia went an uncharacteristic 2-4 with their mix of Primetime players and Major players like Jason Magnum, Joseph Bennett, Tyler Storey, and Matt Brady.
Tied 9th – Alabama
Alabama went 3-2 and lost a close one to New Mexico in the loser’s bracket. They have a bunch of Conference talent and Major players Daniel Cayton and Kyle Overstreet. Tommie Baugh did the pitching.
Tied 9th – California
California went 1-4 but played a number of close games. They had a few Classic Glass and Str8Play players as well as Ryan Mcclanahan, and the return of Donald Hollingsworth among others with Mateo Pacheco doing the pitching.
Colorado went 0-4. Last years Cinderella didn’t have the magic.
Connecticut/New York went 1-3.
Arizona struggled at 1-4.
Iowa/SD got off to a rough start against Canada and went 0-4.
Oklahoma went 1-3. Team was made up of a lot of the Seminoles players and ex-Seminoles players plus Shannon Smith and Toby Letak.
There were interesting uniform creations at the Challenge Cup, this is Indiana who went 2-3 beating Colorado and Georgia.
Faces in the Crowd / More Pictures
It was a good batch of Dudley Stadium ZN balls!
Teams from the other divisions came to support their major teams in the stadium.
The smoke over the fields was caused by a nearby “controlled burn”.
This wasn’t a major team but I thought the Massachusetts teams had the best uniforms!
Victor announced a dozen games or more! Great work!
Thank you to all of the people that put on this amazing event (I am sorry if I missed someone’s name which I am sure I did)
Jeff Brown (Stadium announcer)