MANSFIELD – Jeff Hall is considered by many to be the national ambassador for slowpitch softball. The veteran slugger from Gastonia, North Carolina has played for multiple World Championship teams over the past 20 years, and won numerous national home run titles, batting crowns – including the 2008 Conference USSSA On-Base Award with a .798 average – and too many All-World team honors to count. He is the namesake of the WORTH Jeff Hall Mutant, WORTH Jeff Hall Mayhem and WORTH Jeff Hall Titan bats.
But it is his folksy personality and willingness to share his knowledge with others that makes him popular with fans and fellow players alike.
As a member of the WORTH Sports Advisory Staff, “Hallsy” also has a tournament named in his honor as a part of the WORTH-sponsored Lone Star Shootout Championship Series. The 2009 event was held April 25-26 at beautiful Big League Dreams in Mansfield.
Festivities got underway Friday night with the Home Run Derby, thanks to the help of Will Smith and his Texas Sawx teammates. With Hallsy serving as honorary fair/foul umpire, hitters stepped to the plate for two hours to determine who would hit in the head-to-head Elite Eight playoffs. On his last attempt, Tanner Herring from Amory, Mississippi had to win a hit-off just to make the playoffs. Then, in the opening round of the playoffs, Herring had to go 10-for-10 to beat the No. 2-seed who hit 9-of-10 over the fence. Next, Herring won his semi-final match to face Greg Collette in the finals. Collette hit 7-of-10 to apply the pressure. Herring hit seven of his first nine balls out, but needed the 10th to win the grand prize. Herring was up for the challenge, as he blasted the last ball deep into the night to win the first prize which was $400 and a new Jeff Hall Titan bat.
Hall was supposed to hit against the HR Derby winner for the bat, but was wearing a boot cast on his foot as the result of an injury suffered one week earlier at the Hall of Fame Classic. But not wanting to disappoint many fans who came out to see him hit, Hallsy stepped into the batters box WITH THE BOOT STILL ON and proceeded to hit 15-of-15 pitches over the gigantic wall in left field on Sportsmans Park.
Herring and his MS Storm teammates proclaimed that the experience of meeting Hall and winning the HR Derby made the long trip from northeastern Mississippi worthwhile – even if they didn’t win a game in the tournament.
Little did they know what was in store.
In a tough, 20-team bracket that featured teams from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, MS Storm would prove to be the best of the bunch. MC Storm opened with a 26-10 win over The Rock, an Air Force team from Little Rock, Ark. MS Storm went on to defeat GW Legends from Euless (24-9); Texas Bounty from Dallas (26-10), Texas Playboys from Athens (207); and Louisiana’s Finest from Shreveport, La. (25-16) to advance to the championship. Louisiana’s Finest made it back to the finals for a re-match, and even knocked off MS Storm in the first game (20-17). But MS Storm was not to be denied in the “if” game and rallied for a 25-13 win to claim the championship with a 6-1 record.
Louisiana’s Finest settled for second place with a 5-2 record, while Turmoil Softball from Oklahoma City came in third with a 5-2 slate. Texas Ice/Rip Sports was the highest finisher from Texas, as the Waco team came in fourth place. Texas Playboys and Ball Till We Fall from Ft. Worth tied for fifth; Five Star from Tyler and Dawg House from Ruston, La. tied for seventh; and Texas Bounty, Quick Move from Dallas, Old Skool from Ft. Worth and Texas Kings from Dallas tied for ninth.
Herring added the division’s Most Valuable Player award to his HR Derby championship, while Chris Cox of Louisiana’s Finest was named the Gold Glove winner. The rest of the All-Tournament team included Jeff Ward, Michael Downing, Randy Mac and Allen Swedenburg, from MS Storm; Sam Meza, Doug Finley and Chad White, from Louisiana’s Finest; Kelly Pickett, Robert Willie and Stephen McKee, from Turmoil; and Wesley Tepe and Jason Harborth, from Texas Ice.
The Men’s C division featured eight of the top teams from North Texas. Color Station from Ft. Worth (formerly Vivid) went through the bracket undefeated, but not without a scare in the end. Color Station opened with a win over SRS/Broncos (13-1) and followed that with wins over Mafia/House of Pain (28-8) and Savesecond.com (28-10) to reach the championship game.
After losing to Color Station in their second game, Mafia/House of Pain dropped to the elimination bracket and defeated Athletic Warehouse (26-25), Monster Softball (24-17) and Savesecond.com (17-5) to earn a re-match with Color Station. The championship game was close all the way through, with Color Station pulling out a 19-17 victory for the crown.
Jeremy Craft of Color Station was named Most Valuable Player of the division, while Kyle Akins of Mafia/House of Pain was named the Gold Glove winner. Other players named to the All-Tournament team were Brandon Young, Dwane Tockey, Loy Rodriguez and Raul Cardenas, of Color Station; Jason McFarlin and Jason Allen, of Mafia/House of Pain; Eric Zachary and Ray Gurley, of third place finisher Monster; and Brandon Goodwin, Joey Urbanek and Jason Vallejo, of fourth place finisher Savesecond.com.
Another out-of-state team came into North Texas and claimed the championship in the Men’s E Division. Minden Athletic Supply from Minden, La. rolled through the 28-team bracket but not without a strong challenge. MAS posted wins over Texas Punishment from Canton (30-10); Texas Extreme from San Antonio (17-15); Tobis from Winnsboro (20-5); MRT Consulting from Shreveport, La. (18-15) and surprise team High Ridge Church from Ft. Worth (16-15) in an extra-inning thriller to reach the championship game undefeated. Entourage from Waxahachie wasn’t about to let the Louisiana team run through undefeated, and they posted a narrow 21-20 win to force an “if” game. Minden Athletic Supply turned out to be too tough in the end, as they defeated Entourage 31-18 to claim the title with a 6-1 record.
Entourage’s nice run in the elimination bracket helped them take home the second place trophy with a 6-2 mark. Little was known about High Ridge Church before this tournament, which was their first of the season. But the team of young scrappers joined the trophy stand by placing third with a 4-2 record. VooDoo from Dallas finished fourth at 4-2. The rest of the Top 10 featured Dome Shot and MRT Consulting tied for fifth; Texas Punishment and Team Texas-Kioskdeals.com tied for seventh; and Aftermath, Texas Warrirors, Tobis and merchants of Death tied for ninth.
Chris Robley of Minden Athletic Supply was named the Most Valuable Player of the division, and he was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammates Terry McGaha, Chris Cardone, Ben Potter and Steve Matthews. Other members of the All-Tournament team were Luis Trevino, Jr. and Chase Rogers of Entourage; Johnnie Bassham, James Gaston and Jeff Lerkinder, of High Ridge Church; and George Williams and Nate Phillips, of VooDoo.
The Jeff Hall Shootout also featured a six-team Women’s C/D Division, and Cinderella team Texas Queens from Dallas were the surprise winners. Texas Queens won their first game over Unreal/Allday from Oklahoma City, then beat heavily-favored Lady Canes II from Ft. Worth (15-10) before getting pounded by Team Dallas Women (20-10). Texas Queens then dropped to the elimination bracket and defeated Elite Softball from Arlington (19-11) before double-dipping Team Dallas Women (15-14) and (16-15) in a pair of thrillers to win the crown. It should be noted that C teams had to spot D teams five runs per game in this mixed division bracket, but the run-spotting made for some exciting games.
Anita Else of Texas Queens was named MVP of the division, and Tracey Gulley of Team Dallas Women was the Gold Glove winner. Other members of the All-Tournament team were Tamera Whitfield, Leslie Carey and Johnnie Flentry, of Texas Queens; Lakreece Allen, of Team Dallas Women; and Dianne Gampher and Christin Thompson, of Hot Peppers.
by Greg Huchingson
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!