Two prime additions were a definite plus for an Albertville-based men’s softball team as Long Haul/Miken/Phonemasters won six straight games to claim the title at the 27th Dudley/ Budweiser Classic Men’s Major National Invitational Softball Tournament in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
The No. 3-ranked team in Conference USSSA had to beat the top two squads in dramatic fashion to top the 36-team field that included 22 squads from the national conference.
Winning the title was nothing new for Long Haul coach Gary Jost and infielder JD Genter. Last season, both were key parts for defending Dudley and USSSA Men’s Major World Series champion Dan Smith-Menosse-Benfield-Combat.
Jost, who lives in Minnesota, was recruited by Long Haul sponsor John Daniels, who also secured the services of Genter, last year’s Dudley MVP. The middle infielder was named tourney MVP again, helping to defeat his former team in the finals 26-11. For the tourney, Genter batted 20 for 25 with six walks for a .839 batting average.
Long Haul opened with a 37-7 win over Titan Apparel before defeating WCS 25-8, GTL 30-29, Dan Smith 48-35 and No. 1 Resmondo-Specialty Tank-Worth 34-32. The 26-11 victory against Dan Smith sealed the tourney sweep.
Resmondo had won five straight conference tourney titles this season. The team seemed in control against Long Haul in the winner’s bracket final by taking a 12-run lead into the last inning.
Long Haul mounted a gallant comeback by scoring 14 runs in the top of the seventh to lead by two, not enough to create a comfort zone. In the bottom half, Resmondo went down one-two-three when Long Haul made two stellar defensive plays, one leading to a double play.
Dan Smith followed with a loser’s bracket game that ended at 2:30 a.m. Saturday. The team returned for a 7 a.m. game Sunday, resulting in a 33-28 win over T&R Stucco, followed by a 34-30 victory over Resmondo in a clash of the nation’s top two teams. Dan Smith did not have much left in the tank against Long Haul in the title game.
“We had a couple of great games on Saturday, I can tell you that,” said Jost about the wins over Dan Smith and Resmondo. “It was nice to get an extra couple of hours sleep. We were either fortunate or very good.”
Jost left the team that had won it all because he wanted to get back with his friends in Minnesota. Daniels helped get Jost going in big time softball and is one of his best friends. Jost adds, “When John asked me to do this, it was hard to say no to him. Plus, I could coach with Teddy Larson, another longtime friend.”
After losing the first game at the World Series last year, Jost led Dan Smith to the title, the first time it was done that way. Now coaching against the team, Jost said he knows where the players like to hit it, but “they are so talented they can hit it anywhere they want.”
Long Haul entered the Dudley Classic with a few players slowed by injury. Outfielder Matt King was injured in a car accident on his way to Minnesota from Michigan.
Other Long Haul players honored as All-Tournament were Ryan Robbins, Jeff Hall, Brent McCollum, Jeremy Isenhower, J.C. Phelps, Robert Blackburn and Geno Buck.
Blackburn went 25 for 29 at the plate to average .867. Phelps led with 13 home runs and 29 RBIs when batting .786. McCollum drove in 26 runs with 11 homers. Brooklyn Park native Scott Streibel batted .607.
Jeff McGavin from Dan Smith was named MVP on defense. He joined teammates Rick Baker, Scott Brown from Minnesota, Rusty Bumgardner and Brian Wegman as All Tournament.
Resmondo players honored were Dennis Rulli, Don DeDonatis and Greg Connell, all batting over .800. Jason Branch and Oscar Shipley from fourth-place T&R Stucco were also named All-Tournament.
Genter, switched from Dan Smith to Long Haul because of his new bat sponsor, TPS/ Louisville Slugger. He was able to stay with coach Jost.
“It takes lots of hard work to play at this level,” said Genter, who is one of the smaller players on the team. “The game is more about being an athlete now.. It is not about how many home runs you hit anymore, but about who catches it, espe-cially with the new homerun limits. You got to get on base so the home runs count.”
Frank Webb from Resmondo said his players hit it hard, which is the object of the game. “It is not that we played poorly, but it is difficult to play at the level we had been playing week in and week out,” adds Webb. “We didn’t play that poorly, but losing will give us motivation to want to come back and get back on it.”
Pat Deslander from Dan Smith said his team did not answer the bell against Long Haul and could not keep on the pressure by using the home runs wisely. The coach was proud and pleased the way his team battled back to reach the final despite getting very little sleep.
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!