Local teams entered the 28th Dudley Budweiser Classic men’s softball tour¬nament in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota June 18-20 with a high degree of respect for the top players and teams in the country. They also brought along a high level of self-confidence.
The only thing shaking when facing first-round games Friday for three Class C teams that play in the Brooklyn Center C/D league were hands after securing upset victories against the “big boys.”
The defending USSSA World Series champion, ResmondoSpecialty Tank Worth, went undefeated to claim a fifth straight national invitational event this season and improve to 33-4 at the time. Resmondo defeated No. 2-ranked Dan Smith/Menosse/Chaney 35-25 in the title game.
What was not as predictable was the competitive nature of the local Class C squads. The ball got rolling when Blue Line Collision/CR’s/Blondies edged Class A and top-10 rated Aubrey’s from Virginia 30-29.
That stunner was followed by a 12-9 victory by C&A/LJ’s from the BC league over Pipac/TCP/Easton, a Class B team from Iowa. C&A was not done, winning twice more at the 32-team event including 16-15 over EWS/Shirts and Logs, a Class B power from Chicago.
The trifecta of C team upsets Friday came when Elite from BC nipped AJS/ Easton 28-27, a Class B team from Florida that would win the next six games including against three Class A powers to finish fourth at the Dudley.
“Not one of my guys went there thinking we can’t beat these guys,” said Gene Schaum, a coach and player for Blue Line. “It is a chance to see where you rank among the best teams in the country. It makes us work harder to get ready to play. This was our chance to shine and we had hundreds of fans watching us beat Aubrey’s. We don’t live off the budgets other teams have, but we have good players like they do.”
Blue Line had the bases loaded in the last of the seventh and needed one run to win. After two infield outs, Chris Walquist slammed the ball off the fence to drive home the game winner.
Leaders at the Dudley were Darrin Shroyer, Pete Shallenberger, who batted 9 for 9, Rob Anderson, Kevin Cogswell, Pat Egan, Kurt Sand, Scott Snodie and Chris VanJoske. Cogswell had played in the Little League Baseball World Series when younger.
Blue Line next had to face Class A power Albicocco’s/The Scene/Worth, putting up another strong showing before losing 34-29. After falling to AJS, Blue Line was tied with three other teams to earn a spot at the Class C World Series in Florida come September. Blue Line won two games in a playoff Saturday to advance.
C&A/LJ’s involves players from around the metro area. Manager and player Todd Wanka said the team plays in the Brooklyn Center league because it has the best competition around. The squad is the defending league champ.
Wanka said pitching and defense was clicking at the Dudley, holding two Class B teams to 15 runs or fewer. C&A also did well against Northwest Combat, losing 25-20 to the Class A team that placed fifth at the Dudley. The home run limit of eight per team in this game played a factor. C&A hit five solo homers and had seven more that went for outs because of being over the limit.
The team is paced by two players who were on the Class C World Championship team from Minnesota of two years ago (J&H), Brandon Newman and Scott Eischens. Other leaders are Jake Meyers, pitcher Brent Sharon and Mike Winegar.
“It is quite an accomplishment when you can beat teams of that caliber,” said Wanka.
“We were eliminated by Class A power Jean Shoppe/Easton 28-5. We may have been out of gas, but I have never taken a kicking like that.”
Elite is a team put together this year and picked the BC league as one of the best in the state. “It was nice to see us take down some of better teams in the country,” said Brendan Peterson, a player and coach. “We did not come out with the mentality that we were not supposed to win. We felt there is no reason with the talent we have on this team that we can’t win.”
The upset over AJS in the first round was sparked by the teams using its home runs wisely. The first four homers produced 14 runs, including two grand slams and two three-run blasts.
Leaders for Elite at the Dudley included Chad Kostecka and Jamie Thorson, who hit the grand slams, plus Joe Biegler and Jake Freeman. Peterson adds that the difference in facing upper division teams is “there are no weaknesses whatsoever.”
Frank Webb of Resmondo called the three upsets by local teams good for the game in more ways than one. He adds how “Players get a little more enthusiastic for what they want to accomplish.”
Resmondo came from behind in its last three games to defeat Northwest Combat 39-22, GTL/Cartel/Worth 35-32 in the winner’s bracket final and Dan Smith 35-25. The team trailed GTL in the last of the seventh before getting a 3-run home run by tourney most valuable player Greg Connell and a walk-off homer by pitcher Andy Purcell.
“We had several challenges and good games on Saturday, especially the last game of the day,” said Webb about the 35-32 victory over GTL. “We played from behind almost the entire game.”
Connell batted .848, going 28 for 33 in six games with 31 RBIs and seven home runs. Also named All-Tournament from Resmondo was Bobby Hughes (.815), Purcell (.813), Howie Krause (.750), Don DeDonatis (.727), BJ Fulk (.714) and Brian Rainwater (.700).
Resmondo has been helped by the addition of two players who were with Long Haul last year, the defending Dudley tournament champ. One is Michael Rhines from Chicago.
The other is Scott Striebel, a Minnesota native who played for Resmondo for several years before joining Long Haul last year.
Webb said his team circles the Minnesota tournament on the schedule as one of the four main goals each season, the other being to win the Smokey Mountain and World Series titles, plus to capture Conference USSSA. The only one missing last season was the Dudley.
This season, Webb said he does not know who is going to lead the team in hitting until the last day since four and sometimes five players often have about the same batting averages. It helped to have Hughes back after being sidelined with a groin injury.
Dan Smith was cruising with three wins until taken down by GTL 37-36 in the semifinals. The same thing happened a week earlier in Chicago. Dan Smith rebounded to beat Aubrey’s 32-6 and AJS 34-31 to earn a rematch with GTL, this time winning 27-26.
Named All-Tournament from Dan Smith was Rick Baker, the MVP on defense (.690), Denny Crine (.714), Brent McCollum (.594), Jeremy Isenhower (.629), Ryan Thiede (.722) and Geno Buck (.667), who shared the pitching mound with Scot Brown in every game.
Both Brown and Buck happen to be from Minnesota. It was the second tour¬nament back for Brown, who suffered a knee injury at the first tournament that required surgery.
“We gave that one away and had them right where we wanted them in the fourth inning,” said Brown about the 10-ruyn lead over Resmondo in the championship game. “We stopped hitting and stopped catching the ball. We have to work harder is the bottom line. At this level you must come to play every single game and be ready for every pitch and inning. If you don’t you are going to get beat.”
Brown said he and Buck complement each other on the mound since they are on the same page all the time. He adds, “It gives the teams different looks having two pitchers in the same game. It also is going to help us out in the long run.”
GTL, which finished third, is the defending Class A World Champ that added five new players to be even stronger this year. All-tourney selections were Matt Pesso (.786), Chad Munger (.655) and Victor Cordova (.794). One Minnesota player is Anthony Dress.
“Our focus is defense number one,” said coach Jose Sanchez. “We also know how to get base hits off 300 foot fences. That’s how we are built. We play together and with a lot of heart.”
There were some great battles with GTL and Dan Smith at the Dudley. GTL won the first one 37-36 and Dan Smith won the next time 27-26. GTL had won the past four of six games between the two.
“We like competing against the better teams because it will make us better in the end when we play for our A Division world title,” adds Sanchez. “Having experience playing in big games helps us mentally and physically. We have learned to not ever give up.”
AJS won six straight games after the first-round loss, and still had enough energy to put up a fight against Dan Smith before losing 34-31 and place fourth. Named to the All-Tournament team were David Kessler and Scott Zaciewski.
Aubrey’s also rebounded after an early slipup to win five games and finish fifth, tied with Northwest Combat/CJ Financial. Brian Justice posted the top batting average at the Dudley at .875, going 28 for 32.
Other top hitters at the tourney were Tyson Steele of Desert Falls/301 Sports/ Miken (.850), Matt King of Jean Shoppe (.850), Donovan Polraka of GTL (.848), Kathem Martin of Desert Falls (.833), Adam Rockoff of AJS (.821) and Shane Hartfield of Jean Shoppe (.800).
Teams with 3-2 records included Jean Shoppe/Easton/Down2Earth Sports, Albicocco’s/The Scene/Worth, Pipac/TCP/ Easton and C&A/LJ’S/HMK.
Tournament directors were Warren Bellm and Joe Ericksen. Bellm also has been the director for the USSSA World Series.
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