24th Annual Budweiser Festival is ‘King of Softball’ in Texas with 275 teams

B R Y A N – C O L L E G E STATION – Budweiser is the known as the “King of Beers” and the Budweiser Softball Festival is the “King of Softball Tournaments” in Texas. What started as a small 24-team event in 1986 has grown in one of the largest tournaments in the nation, topping out at a record 275 teams this year.

Festivities got underway Friday night with the always-popular Home Run Derby. Unlike most derbies, this event is a head-tohead, bracketed format featuring 64 hitters battling roundby- round on side-by-side fields at the Bryan Regional Athletic Complex until two hitters step into the box to face each other for the $1,000 grand prize. Former Texas A&M University student and BRAC city league player John William “J-Dub” Bethke, now with the Dirt Monkeys from Houston, was the last man standing to capture the big prize.

The tournament began bright and early Saturday morning and continued all day under perfect weather conditions. The round-the-clock event made it all the way until 5:30 a.m. Sunday, when Mother Nature came calling. Heavy thunderstorms passed through Bryan-College Station, putting a kink in the tournament. After city and tournament officials assessed the damage, games were delayed until early Sunday afternoon. Losing eight hours worth of games on 17 fields could not be made up, even playing one-pitch, so the decision was made to complete the Men’s B, Men’s C, Men’s E, Women Upper, Women Lower and Co-ed divisions, but be forced to ask teams left in the gigantic Men’s D division to come back the following weekend. The move allowed all divisions to be completed on the field of play, rather than through the luck of coin tossing.

The Men’s B Division was played at Veterans Park in College Station, which is the newest and largest (315-foot fences) of the five complexes used for the tournament. Houston-based heavyweights Texas Miken and the Fighting Cocks battled their way to the finals of the winner’s bracket. Texas Miken rolled through Meridian from Houston (5-4), Zamora’s All-Out Sports from Rosenburg (14-4) and Miken Express from Austin (20-7); while the Fighting Cocks, who feature USSSA Major List player Ray Cowart, defeated Top Dog from Beaumont (16-7) and Corbell from Pearland (17-5). In the king seat game, Fighting Cocks snuck past Texas Miken (11-10) in a thriller.

But it was a team that nobody paid much attention to that ended up stealing the headlines. Texas Express is based of Austin, which is the home of their sponsor Q.T. Hicks, but is coached by Craig Anthony from Dallas-Ft. Worth, where many of their players are from. Miken Express opened with wins over Da Bomb from Houston (18-11) and FNS/DPS from San Antonio (18-11), before losing to Texas Miken. But Miken Express dropped to the elimination bracket and defeated Meridian from Houston (15-3), FNS/DPS (9-8) and Texas Miken in a re-match (22-18) to get to the championship, where they doubledipped the Fighting Cocks (20-12) and (23-13) to claim the championship with a 7-1 record.

The jubilant Hicks has been bringing teams to the Budweiser Festival for 15 years, and never won a championship until this year. But the celebration was short-lived, as Hicks entered an Austin hospital just days after the tournament. The Texas softball community is certainly wishing Hicks a speedy recovery.

The Fighting Cocks finished second with a 3-2 record, while Texas Miken came in third at 3-2, and FNS/DPS came in fourth at 3-2. Corbell and Meridian tied for fifth place, while Da Bomb and Zamora’s All-Out tied for seventh.

James Glover of Miken Express was named the Most Valuable Player of the division, while Scott Mitchell of the Fighting Cocks was the Gold Glove winner. Other members of the All-Tournament team were T.J. Tisdale, former Texas Tech and Texas Rangers outfielder Donald Harris, Frank Ramirez and James Maxie, of Miken Express; B.J. Lopez, Israel Rodarte and Thomas Melvin, of Fighting Cocks; Mark Dennis, Kerry Doan and Rodney Fail, of Texas Miken; and Hank Martinez and Tuck Hinton, of FNS.

In the Men’s C bracket, also played at Veterans Park, there were 28 evenlybalanced teams who were happy to have a bracket of their own and not a combined B/C bracket, as has been the case all season long. West Coastal manager Curtis Day had high hopes for his team, which is composed of the nucleus of the 2008 Houston Sports team that advanced all the way to USSSA Worlds. But Day was not very happy when his squad lost their first game to Steel Softball from Corpus Christi (15-7).

To their credit, West Coastal from Houston dropped to the elimination bracket and posted consecutive wins over DU Softball from San Antonio (19-4), East Texas Bad Boys from Longview (17-4), Barely Legal from Round Rock (19-5), Sandoval Trucking from San Benito (14-13), Bud Crew from Dickinson (24-18), Mafia/House of Pain from Dallas (18-9), and Texas Smash from Austin (22-18) to make it all the way back to the championship game. West Coastal then posted backto- back wins over Olmito Heat from the Rio Grande Valley (18-17) and (12-5) to claim the crown with a 9-1 record.

Olmito Heat disappointedly settled for second place with a 5-2 mark. Texas Smash came in third at 3-2, and Mafia/ House of Pain came in fourth also at 3-2. The rest of the Top 10 included Monster Softball from Dallas and Bud Crew tied for fifth; Sandoval Trucking and SA Hitmen/DPS/Worth from San Antonio tied for seventh; and Barely Legal, Lackland Warhawks from San Antonio, Rangers from Victoria and Houston Express tied for ninth.

Jonathan Lenz of West Coastal was named Most Valuable Player of the division, while Jason Torres of Olmito Heat was the Gold Glove winner. Other members of the All-Tournament team were Sergio Martinez, James Chandler, Scott Marquardt and Mike Tepera, of West Coastal; Javier Rojas, Hawk Scott and Tuffy Martinez, of Olmito Heat; Matt Ford, Mark Daiker and Matthew Perry, of Texas Smash; Jason McFarlin, Josh Bratz, of Mafia/House of Pain.

The Men’s E Division was scheduled to be played exclusively at Central Park in College Station. But after the heavy thunderstorms, the division was forced to be completed at BRAC.

The switch didn’t make a difference to the hottest E team in the state, Texas Turbulence from Greenville. Fresh off a victories at the North Texas Shootout, Mansfield N.I.T. and Bruce Snover Memorial, TT kept right on rumbling. Texas Turbulence posted consecutive wins over the Young Gunz from Houston (14-5) Dirtbags from Austin (18-6), Mixed Breed from Greenville (8-2), Rich’s Rejects from Baytown (6-4) and High Voltage from Corpus Christi (11-7) to advance to the championship, which they won over Texas Gunline from Nacogdoches (4-3) to wrap up a perfect 6-0 tournament.

Texas Gunline, which won the North Texas USSSA Winter World earlier this year, finished second at Budfest with at an 8-2 mark. High Voltage came in third at 4-2, while Rich’s Rejects finished fourth at 5-2. The rest of the Top 10 consisted of Tribe from San Antonio and Team Mojo from Little River tied for fifth; Los Clavos from Uvalde and Texas State Punishers from San Marcos tied for seventh; and Mixed Breed, Batesville Bandits, Hellrazers from San Antonio and Buckwild from Houston tied for ninth.

Dustin Pearson of Texas Turbulence was named Most Valuable Player of the division, while Marcus Wright of Texas Gunline was the Gold Glove winner. The rest of the All-Tournament team consisted of Robert Nail, Justin Wade, Jason Trammell and Zane Trammell, of Texas Turbulence; Tyrone Fields, Chase Phillips and Matthew Strode, of Texas Gunline; Rene Ochoa and Javier Cancino, of High Voltage; and Justin Ancelot and Stephen Ortiz, of Rich’s Rejects.

The two women’s divisions were played at Bee Creek Park in College Station, although they were forced to be completed at Veterans Park after Bee Creek was shut down following the thunderstorms.

In the Women’s B/C Division, the Lady Jokers/GKI Travel continued their incredible season by going undefeated to win first place for the fifth time this season. Through the Budweiser Festival, the Lady Jokers carried a perfect 23-0 record on the year. At Budfest, the Lady Jokers defeated Lady Bluejays from San Antonio (17-11), Steel Unknowns also from San Antonio (8-7), and the Lady Brokers from Houston twice (9-2) and (19-13) to claim the crown.

The Lady Brokers settled for second palce at 3-2, Steel Unknowns came in third at 4-2, and Lookouts from Deer Park finished fourth also at 4-2. Lady Top Dog from Beaumont and the X-Girls from Austin tied for fifth place, while Reloaded from Spring and Team Dallas Women tied for seventh.

Robin Kenowith of the Lady Jokers was named Most Valuable Player of the division, while Takiyah Bakari of the Lady Brokers was named Gold Glove winner. The rest of the All-Tournament team consisted of Tasanee Wood, Sandra Sweatt, Jayme Nelson and Melissa Gholston, of the Lady Jokers; Danielle Thomas, Ashley Verver and Demisha Hall, of the Lady Brokers; Yolanda Garcia, Yvonne Sosa and Angela Aguilar , of Steel Unknowns; and Anabell Pinedo and LaShonda Mills of the Lookouts.

True Statement from Houston is another team that has been coming to the Budweiser Festival for many years and never took home the gold medal. For a while, it looked like 2009 would finally be the year for manager Leon Wright’s squad. True Statement posted wins over High Voltage form Corpus Christi (11-1); Set It Off from Austin (15-5); Dirty Deeds from Houston (6-3); Crush from Austin (13-2) and High Frequency from Houston (10-9) to advance to the championship game undefeated.

But the pesky ladies from Team Crush in Austin had different plans. Crush won their first three games, before losing to True Statement in the semi-finals of the winner’s bracket. Crush dropped to the elimination bracket and knocked off GCP2 from LaPorte (5-4); Dirty Deeds (12-8) and High Frequency (22-21) to make it back to the championship game, where they double-dipped True Statement (24-5) and (7-4) to claim the championship with an 8-1 record.

True Statement settled for second place with a 5-2 record, while High Frequency came in third at 3-2 and Dirty Deeds finished fourth at 5-2. Swingman Angels from Houston and GCP2 tied for fifth place; Guess Who from Austin and The Cure from Conroe tied for seventh; and Austin Powers from Austin, TCF from Houston, Lady UT Rocstars from Beaumont and J.F.F. from Houston tied or ninth.

Lisa Gonzales from Crush was named Most Valuable Player of the division, but the team declined to name any other All-Tournament selections. Gaby Rivera was named the Gold Glove winner. The rest of the All-Tournament team consisted of Deborah Taylor, Dalel Willie and Linda Hunter of True Statement; Michell Tyner, Marcy Waters and Terrie Roberts, of High Frequency; and Crystal Travis and Dara Highes, of Dirty Deeds.

The Co-ed Division was played at Haswell and Lyons Parks in Bryan. In a bracket that included most of the top teams in Texas, the Big Nasties from Houston proved to be the cream of the crop. The Big Nasties posted wins over TNS from San Antonio (15-10); Unreal from Oklahoma City (12-11); Powerhouse from Ft. Worth (13-11); Upper Deck from Spring (11-6) and New Texas Drillers from Dallas (22-10) to advance to the championship game, where they defeated the New Texas Drillers again (16-10) to cap off a perfect 6-0 tournament.
The New Texas Drillers came in second with a 5-2 mark, followed by BTH from Dallas also at 5-2. Upper Deck finished fourth at 4-2, followed by SBS of Arlington and TNS from San Antonio tied for fifth; and Dey Know from Killeen and Hacks from San Antonio tied for seventh. The rest of the Top 10 consisted of What Happened From Kyle, Smack Crew from Dallas, Powerhouse from Ft. Worth and Escobar/Ronoco from Arlington, all tied for ninth place.

Curtis Hall of the Big Nasties was named Most Valuable Player of the division, and was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammates Virgnia Belknap, Dean Smith, Jeffrey Smith and Thomas Melvin. The rest of the All-Tournament team consisted of Stephen Graves, Stephanie Simmons and Stephen Richardson, of Upper Deck; and Shawn Burris and Brianne Wojtowicz, of BTH.

Almost half of the mammoth Budwesier Tournament is comprised of the Men’s D Division, which attracted 118 teams this year. The division is based at BRAC, but some games are also played at Veterans and Central Park. Two-thirds of the division was completed on May 2-3, before the rain postponed the completion of the division until May 9. Many of the 60 teams who were still alive could not return for the makeup date on Mother’s day weekend.

When all the dust finally settled, the Westsiderz from San Antonio were standing alone on top of the mountain. The Westsiderz defeated the Woodpeckers from Galveston (29-11), Hardfeathers from Pasadena (19-6) and Brokers from Houston (16-6) on the first weekend. After returning on May 9, the Westsiderz knocked off the Rosenburg Bulls (17-2), CSI from Plano (18-4); and T-Baggers from Houston (15-2) to advance to the winner’s bracket finals. The Westsiderz barely snuck past Texas Threat from Channelview (10-9) in the king seat game. They faced the Houstonarea team again in the championship game, and emerged with a 14-8 win to cap the perfect 8-0 tournament.

Texas Threat settled for second place with a 6-2 record. The LED Bulldogs from Spring came in third with a 7-2 mark. M.I.D. from Austin was the fourth place finisher at 6-2. The Low Lifes II from Spring and T-Baggers from Houston tied for fifth place, while upstarts Cobra Kai from Tomball and the Rosenburg Bulls tied for seventh place. Teams tying for ninth place were Diamond Cutters from Killeen, Craftmasters from Houston, CSI from Plano, and Jokers/GKI/Solis from Ft. Worth.

Richard “Flaco” Salazar of the Westsiderz was named Most Valuable Player of the division, and was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammates Luciano Castaneda, Eric Salazar, Gonzalo Ovalle and Ronald Salazar.

The Gold Glove award went to Joseph Reed of Texas Threat, who was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammates Pat Guajardo, Mike Mendez, Mike Barrera and Junior Molina.
The rest of the All-Tournament team consisted of Kevin Theiss, Kevin Boyd, Ryan Wulfjen and Shane Scott, of LED Bulldogs; Bobby Kincaid, Adam Miller, Marty Lyles and Robby Gonzales, of M.I.D.; Brad Przyborski and Jake Wilkerson, of Low Lifes II; Matthew Vasquez and Jason Deleon, of the T-Baggers; Tim Aguilar and Mike Estrada, of the Rosenburg Bulls; Juan Garcia and Chris Michels, of Cobra Kair; Jason Walker and Paul Burkhalter, of Diamond Cutters; and Jay Duncan and Ernie Arnold, of Craftmasters.

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