Nationwide Conference USSSA 2012 Preview

The 2012 Nationwide Conference USSSA season kicks off March 30th with the “Sin City Classic” at the beautiful Big League Dreams Park in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nationwide Conference USSSA is a league of the top 40 men’s slow pitch softball teams from 23 different states. Each team that joins the league plays in a minimum of 6 or more Conference tournaments out of 23 tournaments scheduled across the country. Their top 6 tournament point totals are tallied and the top 16 teams in the point standings battle it out for the Major World Series championship held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports stadium in Kissimmee, Florida September 19-23.

This year’s schedule features the most prestigious tournaments across the country like the Smoky Mountain Classic in Maryville, Tennessee and the Dudley Budweiser tournament in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. The Conference also returns to Maryland and a new location in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Since the leagues inception in 2006, the Conference has grown in both the number of teams and the quality of teams every year.

2012 Nationwide Conference USSSA Schedule of Regular Season Tournaments:

Mar 30-Apr 1 Sin City Classic Las Vegas, NV
April 19-22 USSSA Hall of Fame Dual Event Kissimmee, FL
April 27-29 Worth/Mike Turney Memorial Kansas City, MO
April 27-29 Cactus Classic Phoenix, AZ
May 4-6 12th Annual Texas Legends Euless, TX
May 11-13 Columbus Major Columbus, IN
May 18-20 Music City Classic Nashville, TN
May 25-27 Peach State Shootout Atlanta, GA
June 1-3 Combat Major – Dual Event Kent, WA
June 1-3 Space City Classic Houston, TX
June 8-10 Windy City Invitational Joliet, IL
June 15-17 Dudley Budweiser Brooklyn Center, MN
June 22-24 Northeast Shootout N Brantford, CT
Jun 29-Jul 1 Carolina Shootout Rock Hill, SC
Jun 29-Jul 1 Battle In The West Riverside, CA
July 6-8 33rd Busch/Pepsi Classic Little Rock, AR
July 13-15 44th Smoky Mountain Classic Maryville, TN
July 20-22 13th Cincinnati Men’s Major Cincinnati, OH
July 27-29 Rocky Mountain Shootout Aurora, CO
July 27-29 Worth Maryland USSSA Glen Burnie, MD
Aug 3-5 Worth Last Chance Sterling Hgts, MI

This year’s top pre-season rankings are:

#1 Resmondo/Specialty Tank/Worth – FL
Andy Purcell
Don Dedonatis Jr
Jeremy Isenhower
Greg Connell
Howie Krause
Bobby Hughes
Jimmy Salas
Bubba Mack
Vince Bisbee
Scott Striebel
BJ Fulk
Tim Howard
Sean McDonald

Resmondo returns to defend their #1 ranking and World Series title after going an incredible 70-8 last year. They lose longtime outfielder Brian Rainwater and middle infielder Bryson Baker. They pick up Ronald “Bubba” Mack to play middle infield and former GTL center fielder Tim Howard to replace Rainwater. The core of Resmondo remains reasonable intact with Dedonatis Jr at SS, Andy Purcell at pitcher, and Greg Connell holding down the coveted two spot in the lineup. Resmondo should get tested and pushed to their limit on both 300 foot fields and baseball fields by the #2 ranked team Laservision, making for an interesting season for sure.

#2 Laservision/Annihilation/Supreme/Easton – MA
Brian Rainwater
Rick Baker
Brian Wegman
Dal Beggs
Kevin Kennington
Bryson Baker
Sam Lopez
Ryan Theide
Geno Buck
Jason Kendrick
Brett Helmer
Scott Kirby
JR Nocera
Josh Bartlett
Billy Messina
Dan Fruwirth
Bill Tassinari
Pierre Alfred

Brett Helmer and his main sponsor Pierre Alfred have assembled a team of equal talent to Resmondo. Brett grabbed top up and coming players like shortstop Kevin Kennington, infielder Sam Lopez, and first baseman Ryan Thiede to go with his standard major stars Rick Baker, Brian Wegman, Jason Kendrick, Dal Beggs, and Scott Kirby. Then he “iced the cake” by adding pitcher Geno Buck, outfielder Brian Rainwater, and middle infielder Bryson Baker. This team is stacked deep with talent, experience, and a hunger to win. Now they have to execute, learn their roles, and play team ball a FULL 6 months.

#3 Nordkap/Desert Falls/Easton – UT
Brett McCollum
JD Genter
Mike Bowlin
Anthony Dress
Chad Munger
Joey Formosa
Travis Clark
Brian Zirkle
Josh Olson
Tyson Steele
Rob Olson
Chris Hansen
Donovan Pokraka
Kevin Filby
Managers
Mark Meersman
Rick Olson

Nordkap arrives on the scene of the Major division with a mix of top young major players handpicked from across the rosters of all teams that played last season. The sponsorship group grabbed Kevin Filby, OF Donovan Pokraka, IF Joey Formosa, SS Anthony Dress, and OF Mike Bowlin from last year’s #2 team GTL. Then they grabbed IF Chris Hansen and pitcher Chad Munger from Wood Law. Travis Clark and Brett McCollum from EWS and IF JD Genter, CF Brian Zirkle, and Tyson Steele from the top ‘A’ teams. Nordkap is the big question mark in the Conference. They are loaded with talent and have the pitching to pull some upsets and challenge the two top teams but I feel this team is one or two years away from challenging for the World Series title. I hope I am wrong and this team pulls together and each of them step up their game yet another notch.

#4 Team Combat/Derby Boys/Pacific Headwear – WA
Scott Brown
Jeff McGavin
Johnny McCraw
Mike Dill
Derek Warren
Jeff Graus
Frank Yeilding
Franck Henry
Jeff Gare
Joey Smith
Dale Roe
Casey Rogowski
Brandon Perry
Davis Bilardello
Staff
Don Cooper
Bobby Nifong
Hector Pagan

Team Combat returns with a new look Major classified team. They are mixing in some young up and coming players with their veteran Combat major players Scott Brown, OF Johnny McCraw, SS Jeff McGavin, pitcher Derek Warren and Mike Dill. They have the Canadian contingent – Jeff Gare and Franck Henry, and the younger players like third baseman Frank Yeilding, outfielder Joey Smith, left hand power hitter Casey Rogowski, as well as some new names to the Conference – Brandon Perry and Davis Bilardello. To start the season this will be an A+ to Major- type team that is building for the future of the Major division.

#5 Team 454/Worth – VA
Kevin Bazat
Bill Rhew
Andy Vitcak
Kevin Johnson
Jason Branch
Brent Griffin
Donald Rogers
Mitch Mabe
Phil White
Jeff Hall
Kyle Moyer
Rusty Bumgardner
Matt Bunn
Jesse Harrison
Matt Pesso

Team 454 led by manager Tim Taylor and third baseman/sponsor Bill Rhew return to defend their ‘A’ World championship. They do so with 9 players from last year’s team. They lose outfielder Bubba Mack and center fielder Evan Gallmeier but they pickup former GTL outfielder Jason Branch, and major stars Rusty Bumgardner and Jeff Hall as well as “Mr. Defense” – middle infielder – Matt Pesso. They also added outfielders Matt Bunn and Jesse Harrison. Their infield defense with shortstop Kevin Bazat may be as good as any in the game and if Rusty and Jeff can find their role in the offense then this is your #1 ranked ‘A’ team in the country.

#6 Shoppe/Team TPS/Elite – TN
Dan Sanchez
Cory Boothe
Robert Blackburn
Lee Powers
Tony Mack
Tim Cocco
Eric Thompson
Chente Granados
Billy Moore
Kyle Cowart
Shane Spicer
Chris Moon

Shoppe has assembled a near perfect ‘A’ team with a great defense to get them back to the top of the ‘A’ division they used to rule year in and year out. The offense will be led by table setter Eric Thompson, third baseman Lee Powers and power hitter Tim Cocco. Throw in Robert Blackburn who finally looks healthy for an entire season and this team is stacked. Defensively they added Chente Granados and Tony Mack as well as pitcher Dan Sanchez. If there is one weakness it could be the offensive inconsistency of the bottom few players in the lineup.

#7 R & M Troupe/TCP/Easton – IA
LC Watson
Kyle Yerkes
Reggie Schulte
Scott Zaciewski
Matt Albert
Mike Umschied
Brandon Dillon
Aaron Middendorf
Scott Roen
Ron Fields
Joe Gordon
Keith Anderson
Kevin Kull
Richard Salazar
Steve Whaley

R&M has re-tooled after their impressive second half of 2011 where they nearly won the ‘A’ World in both USSSA and ASA, and won the ‘A’ bracket of the Conference Championships. They add a whole bunch of top ‘A’ talent from Sinister, EWS, and Laser Vision and on paper they have a roster that can compete toe to toe with the top of the ‘A’ division.

#8 Tyja/Suncoast – NY
Mark Weber – sponsor
Lee Trotter – player/sponsor
David Kessler
Jeff Wallace
Dennis Rulli
Neil Haglund
Terry Rosenbalm
James Curtis
Luis Reyna
Dustin Roberts
TJ Thompson
Lee Lipshutz
Ryan Harvey
Vic Cordova
Rich Gulash
Kevin Gillot

The 2011 Suncoast and TYJA sponsors merge and put together yet another all-star team. The top players from each team are joined by TYJA reps Jeff Wallace and Dennis Rulli. We definitely have to wait and see how this mix gels. The talent is definitely there to make a run but you have ‘B’ players moving up, major players moving down, and sponsor/managers merging.

#9 Taylormade/TM Sport/Mizuno – VA
Brian Floyd
Chris Calcutt
Brandon Jonas
Chyenne Brooks
Brent Haywood
Brian Logan
Jeremy Yates
Stacy Bolton
Brandon Jonas
Chad McLamb
Chris Kirian
Branden Blake
Jeremy Egan
Mike Rhines
Nick Floyd
Travis Taylor – Sponsor

Taylormade lost Robert Blackburn and SS Kevin Kennington as well as their west coast duo of Johnny Bailey and Eli Aguilar. But this team re-tools again with some quality pickups like infielder Chris Kirian, former Resmondo player Mike Rhines, and the return of outfielder Chad McLamb. This team finished 2nd at the Major World Series last year after finishing the regular season in 20th place in the points. Look for them to have a better regular season than last year and look for the young players to all take it up a notch.

#10 Sonny’s – Louisville Slugger – WY
Alexis Ramirez
Brian Faria
Charles Cunningham
Chris Greinert
Danny Lopez
Jeremy Davis
Jonathan Lenz
Kevin Ballard
Manny Liriano
Michael Noonan
Nick Robertson
Sammy Christensen
Westy Guill

Sonny’s will need to rebound from a lackluster 2nd half of 2011. They had a couple more sticks in Chris Greinert, Jonathan Lenz and speedy outfielder Nick Robertson, but lost the Granados brothers from the team that finished 5th in the computer rankings a year ago. A western heavy schedule could give them a shot at some good tournament finishes and some confidence heading into ‘A’ Worlds.

#11 Ca Sports/Miken/Creative Stucco/MOJO – TN
Brian Justice
Ryan Robbins
Brian Blount
Nate Holcomb
Brian Farrar
Landon Helm
Ronnie Lytle
Jason Hatley
Matty Crawford
Scotty King
Jason Baxter
Tommy Bain
Drew Pinckley
James Shoopman
Josh Riley
Jay Ross
Doug Reed

Ca Sports joins the Conference as an good ‘A’ team. A veteran bunch led by major players Ryan Robbins and Brian Justice. A middle infield of Brian Blount, Josh Riley, and Matt Crawford is solid. The question mark here will be USSSA pitching and the fact they will be the lowest ‘A’ seed at most tournaments until they score some points since they were not in the Conference last year.

#12 Blitz/Weller/Watanabe/K&G/Easton – OH
Mike Rogers
Jon Jamison
Brad Tabler
Frank Gruber
Nick Masur
Richie Jones
Jimmy Carter
Jason Roesch
Chris Ashley
Dan Bean
Brad Reckart
Shane Hatfield
Jayson Scott

Blitz steps up to the ‘A’ division after a ‘B’ World title in 2011. They bring back a large core of the players that won that title, plus they add veteran Major and Major Watch List players Dan Bean, Brad Reckart, and Shane Hatfield. The entire team except for Bean is from the Cincinnati, Ohio area. This team has the potential for having great chemistry and should be a tough team to beat in the midwest tournaments. If they can get off to a quick start they have a chance to finish in the top 10 in the rankings…that is a big “IF”.

#13 Team DeMarini – CA
Chris Larsen
Seth Stephens
Brendt Newbill
Ed Vega
Billy Susdorf
Mitchell Johnson
Jeffrey Flood
Dale Brungardt
Bryce Oliviera
Adam Elliot
Kaeo Rubin
Pat Paschal
Jeremy Guillory
Manager: Aaron Ingram
Coach/player: Jeremy Guillory

Team DeMarini is a new Conference ‘A’ team with plenty of offense and I’m guessing a west coast schedule that could allow them to rack up points similar to what Sonny’s did a year ago and make the top 10. Led by veteran sluggers Chris Larsen, Seth Stephens, new Long Haul Bomber Ed Vega, and pitcher Brendt Newbill, this team could contend at any tournament where the top major teams don’t show. They have a core of young and talented outfielders in Adam Elliot (#7 on the Major prospect list), Kaeo Rubin, and Bryce Oliviera. They also have Pat Paschal who showed some great offense at the Major World Series last year. The rest of the players I am not familiar with and thus the #13 ranking. This team is mixing some good Major players with some good ‘B’ and ‘A’ players and it will be interesting to see if the ‘B’ guys can raise their game and if the Major guys can be patient and carry the team when they do not.

#14 West Coast Doerflinger/Easton – WA
Aaron Martinez
Steven Lopez
Rego Nieto
Junior Robledo
Julio Salazar
Cal Ford
Robert Sena
John Bailey
Eli Aguilar
Mario Granados
Brian Munson
Jason Grissom
John Gallegos

West Coast is my pick for top ranked ‘B’ team in the Conference. With a ton of ‘A’ experience in OF Eli Aguilar and IF Johnny Bailey from Taylormade, and veterans like IF Julio Salazar, SS Rafael Robledo, pitcher Robert Sena, and some others like Mario Granados, Johnny Gallegos and Cal Ford this team is set for a run. Then throw in the defense of some young players like MI Aaron Martinez, 3B Rego Nieto, and outfielder Brian Munson and you have yourself a stacked team that will more than likely finish ahead of some of the ‘A’ teams. Oh yes, almost forgot the leadoff hitting of Steven Lopez. Wow, nice team.

#15 Fencebrokers/GameTimeSupply/Worth – AR
Chris Walker
Zach Keene
Scott Morrison
Mike Lowrey
Greg Hartwick
Brad Wallace
Brent Gigerich
Tim Bowser
Nick Aldridge
Manny Reynolds
Pat Burton
Chris Cope
Rob Stewart
Jason Anderson
Jason Bridges
Joey Powell
Mike Wilson

FBI is back in a big way as they pick up Greg Hartwick, Tim Bowser, and Pat Burton among others. This team is set for a ‘B’ World run. Look for them to compete well at the events where there are no major teams and slip into the World Series.

#16 Line Drive Sportz/SSS – MI
#17 The Scene/Easton – FL/NY
#18 Down2Earth/SBC/Worth – GA
#19 Miken Dream/DirtySportswear/3N2/ATWL – FL
#20 Columbus Pipe/DSS Bats/Easton Bats/Easton – OH
#21 HEADHUNTER CHRONICLES/CANCOOKER/SHSSPORTS.COM/LETHAL – GA
#22 “4 THE FALLEN” – AZ
#23 SBS/Combat – WA
#24 BaughFord.com/Logo Express/Advantage Sports/Buzini Sports/Worth – FL
#25 Red’s Astros/TPS/Sports Den – IN
#26 Magic/S&S/TYJA/Easton – NH
#27 Prime Time/Easton – GA
#28 Buzinisports.com/BWW/Worth – MS
#29 P&P 333/Suburban/Larry’s Tire/CMT/AllOut/Combat Sports – MI
#32 TPS/Sports Center – MS
#33 Miken Mafia/ASP Nation – TX
#34 Westshore Pizza/Team TPS – FL
#35 Pure Romance/Easton – OH
#34 Monster/Combat – WA
#35 Sagnasty/Worth/Prototype – TX
#36 Major League Dynasty/D2E/Worth – GA
#37 O.C. Swats / Easton – CA
#38 B&B/Sears/N&N Financial – NC
#39 TG United – MI
#40 Wheelhouse/GametimeSupply – WI

You can follow the 2012 Conference season with USSSAToday magazine, SoftballCenter.com, and ConferenceUSSSA.com – Tournament reports, broadcasts, pictures, and video clips.

Writer: Dale Weisler

About USSSA:

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!