The level of play by the top men’s softball teams in the country fluctuated as much as the weather conditions at the 29th Dudley/Budweiser Classic NIT in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota June 17-19.
Perfect conditions for Friday’s session turned ugly when heavy rains hampered the last game of the night. Saturday was a blend of drizzle, downpours and a wall of fog that pushed the winner’s bracket finals to 8 a.m. Sunday.
For some reason the games were played in a climate of all or nothing. The four teams ranked as Major particularly had their ups and downs, especially when facing each other. One Major team was shut out 32-0 after scoring 48 runs the game prior. The same team also was on the winning side of a 32-0 shutout.
Defending USSSA World Series champion Resmondo/Specialty Tank/Worth was overpowered by GTL Cartel/DeMarini 30-10 in four innings in the bracket finals.
“We kept pushing and putting the pressure on them,” said GTL manager Jose Sanchez about dominating the winner’s bracket final. “That’s how we roll.”
Down but not out, Resmondo blew away Team Combat/Laser Vision/D2E/Supreme 49-17 to earn another crack at GTL in the finals. Resmondo stayed hot and powerful when defeating GTL twice, 45-20 and 52-34 to grab the tourney title.
A 3-run homer by Don DeDonatis III with two outs in the sixth put the game away, enabling Resmondo to stay in the lead in Conference USSSA. GTL had come to the forefront after winning the Chicago tournament the week prior, improving to 34-7.
Resmondo rode the big inning, scoring 25 runs in one inning, plus put up 24 in an inning twice. The top-ranked team outscored their last three opponents 146-61 and scored at least 30 runs in six of the seven games.
Rested for Sunday battles
The fog on Saturday night meant the top two teams did not have to play starting at 11:30 p.m. and could get some rest and be recharged before engaging in the money games.
“If its fair for one it’s fair for the other,” said Frank Webb from Resmondo. “They came ready to play Sunday and jumped on us. We got our feet back on the ground. Most every game we play them is a short game. It is who handles the home runs and jumps out.”
In the first title game it was Resmondo doing the jumping out, scoring 24 first-inning runs. The tactic worked the game prior when scoring 25 runs in the first inning against Team Combat/ Laser Vision/D2E/Supreme.
It appeared to be GTL’s turn to jump start a game when off to a 15-5 start in the final contest. Resmondo kept pace and the teams were tied at 20-all after two innings. Resmondo never let up and outscored GTL 32-14 the rest of the way to defend its Dudley tourney title.
“We were arm wrestling for the home runs to get the upper hand,” adds Webb. “It was like a roller coaster. It happens sometimes when you save your home runs and are waiting for the next guy.”
The last eight games between the two teams have been decided by the run rule, including all three at the Dudley. The teams split the last six games played.
“You hear it said so many times, but this really was a team effort,” said Webb about how Resmondo was playing so “beat up” that all of the outfielders were out of position. Bobby Hughes and Minnesota native Scott Striebel played with hamstring injuries and both still made the All-Tournament team. Striebel had to come out in the title game.
Michael Rhines played well off the bench and infielder Jeremy Isenhower was turned into an outfielder. Greg Connell offered up some key home runs. Webb says Andy Purcell “stepped it up on both sides of the ball. He hit home run after home run at the right spots and pitched great.” Purcell had 11 homers with 30 RBIs and a .837 OBA.
Bryson Baker was named tournament most valuable player with a .871 OBA. Others honored were Purcell, Vince Bisbee, Isenhower and DeDonatis.
GTL was in control
GTL warmed up for the first battle against Resmondo by shut¬ting out a Major team, Combat/Pharmapar, 32-0. The team had just put up 48 runs against a Major team.
“We had a slow start on Friday night against a good little C team,” said Sanchez about a 12-8 win. “Going into the champi¬onship games Chris Larsen only made one out, Anthony Dress made two outs and Geno Buck made three outs.”
Both Dress and Buck are from Minnesota and did not disap¬point family and friends on hand. Buck pitches and Dress is a middle infielder who is part of a defense that “is as good as it gets.”
Matt Pesso played “awesome in the middle as usual” and was voted as tournament MVP on defense. Also named to the All-Tournament team were Dress, Larsen, Sean McDonald, Donovan Pokraka and Joey Formosa.
Sanchez said his team does not have the prototypical catcher, rotating outfielders through the position. The squad is “pretty athletic” through the whole roster.
“Our program model is to recruit the best people and the soft¬ball ability will follow,” says Sanchez. “We recruit good people and we have a very good chemistry on our team. It shows every week.”
GTL and Resmondo were in a dead heat for the top Conference USSSA ranking entering the Dudley tourney.
“I don’t mean to put rankings down, it just means we are doing our job and going deep into every tournament,” adds Sanchez. “Playing as a Major team is new to us. We were a Class A team the past five years. Now we are playing for the third weekend in September rather than the third weekend in August. The crown jewel is the World Series.”
GTL won the A World Series title the past two seasons and made the finals the past three.
Buck pleases hometown crowd
Geno Buck played in his first Dudley tournament eight years ago. He played for a couple local Minnesota teams before recruited to play for Long Haul for a few years. Buck helped the national power based in Minnesota win a Dudley title.
After Long Haul disbanded, Buck joined Dan Smith last season. When Dan Smith’s sponsorship decided to take a break, Buck got the call from GTL, a team moving up to Major.
“Being I was a DeMarini guy last year it worked better to stick with GTL, a team sponsored by DeMarini,” said Buck. “I have a personal contract that says I have to play with a Major team. Plus, they have a great group of guys.”
Buck is a veteran on a young team. He says the players are learning in a hurry that, “No matter what, you keep chipping away until the final out.”
Once again Buck was named to the All-Tournament team at the Dudley, doing it with three different teams. He is a pitcher who can hit the long ball.
“A really good knuckle ball goes a long ways,” said Buck. “The pitch is hard to control, but I throw a knuckle ball no matter if I am behind in the count or not. You try to pitch away from what you think they are trying to do.”
At the plate Buck likes to be patient to look for a pitch he can drive. Even if behind in the count, he says a player has to have confidence when he steps into the box.
Game of the tourney
The game of the tournament was the 48-47 slugfest between Team Combat/Laser Vision and Combat/Pharmapar, two of the four Major teams. Laser Vision jumped out to a 10-0 lead which was answered by Pharmapar with 15 runs and growing.
Pharmapar surged to a 26-run lead in the fourth inning. The 20-run mercy rule was in play when a double play was not converted. That left the door open for Laser Vision to battle back and tie the game at 47.
Pharmapar needed one run to win and looked in control with a leadoff triple in the last of the seventh. Laser Vision loaded the bases and got a force out at home. Next came a strikeout, making it very possible that a run may not score. Luc Chauvette singled home the game-winner to end the drama.
Both teams made major lineup changes coming into this season. Team Combat/Laser Vision added several players from Dan Smith.
Combat/Pharmapar/Transat Holiday also involves a merger of two squads. Most of the players are from Montreal, Canada and the others are from Northwest Combat, including George Phillips.
Coach Stephane Chapdelaine is a former member of the Canadian National baseball team. He said the team asked to be classified as a Major team despite not having one major player on the roster. The idea was for the team to get better by being challenged.
Chapdelaine was pleased with the fourth place finish at the Dudley since the team was missing three middle infielders.
After scoring 48 runs against Laser Vision, Pharmapar was shutout by GTL 32-0. The team bounced back to edge Suncoast 42-40. The run ended with a 37-21 loss to Laser Vision in the rematch.
Mike Taylor led the All-Tournament selections from Combat/ Pharmapar for batting .806. Also honored was Francis Henry, who led with 30 RBIs and Claud Chiason, who batted .750.
Team Combat/Laser Vision recovered from the one-run loss to Pharmapar to capture third place. All-Tournament selections were Brett Helmer, Jeff McGavin, Scott Zaciewski and veteran Rusty Bumgardner, who batted .900.
The team has two players who hail from Minnesota, pitchers Scott Brown and Andy Vitcak.
The four Major teams grabbed the top four places at the Dudley in the 30-team field. Suncoast/Reebok and EWS/SHIRTS and LOGOS/Dr. Graphix/Easton tied for fifth. RFC/Hub’s Pub/ Syndicate and R&M Metals/Troup/TCP/Easton tied for seventh.
Warren Bellm, tournament co-director along with Joel Ericksen , said his vote for the MVP goes to the groundskeepers. The fields took in three inches of rain the week before the event and then rain fell all night Friday and all day Saturday.
“Look at all the work they did with the diamond dry and pumping water both nights to make sure we could play,” said Bellm. “We could not do it without the work of the grounds keepers. The players from several teams personally thanked them.”
The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), headquartered in Osceola County, Florida, USSSA is the World's Largest Multi-sport Athletic Organization. Founded in 1968, USSSA has grown to over 3.7 million participants, competing in 13 nationally sanctioned sports including Baseball, Fastpitch, Slow Pitch, Karate, Basketball, Soccer and more! For more information on USSSA and to register your team visit USSSA.com. Also be sure to visit USSSAToday.com for the latest USSSA News!