LEAGUE CITY, TX – There’s an old saying that everything is bigger in Texas, and for Conference USSSA that saying proved to be true this year. The 5th Annual Space City Classic was held June 3-5 at Big League Dreams in League City, Texas (near Houston) and attracted 64 teams making it the largest Conference USSSA tourna¬ment ever held. Space City was also the largest Conference tournament in 2009 and 2010 when it attracted 48 teams each year, but this year saw a 33-percent increase.
The 64 teams hailed from 11 different states and included 10 teams from Conference USSSA. There was one Major team, one Class A, nine Class B, 20 Class C, 17 Class D and 16 Class E.
Defending USSSA World Series champion Resmondo/Specialty Tank/Worth made a triumphant return to the Space City Classic with one of the most dominant perfor¬mances ever in a Conference USSSA event. Resmondo won the first two Space City Classics in 1997 and 1998, before missing the tournament each of the past two years. T&R Stucco won Space City in 2009 and Albicocco/The Scene won it in 2010.
Resmondo was a heavy favorite coming into the 2011 Space City Classic, but nobody was prepared for the level of dominance unleashed on the artificial surface fields at Big League Dreams, which is located only two miles from NASA. In fact, some of the rockets launched from Resmondo bats probably showed up on the radar screens at the Johnson Space Center. In posting a perfect 7-0 record, Resmondo scored 324 runs (46.2 per game) and yielded just 83 (11.8) for an average margin of victory of 34.4 runs. Resmondo posted a team batting average of .912 and their players batted fewer than five innings per game.
Ironically, Resmondo almost suffered a catastrophe in their first game Friday night against RPN/SwingTyme/Syndicate from Crosby, TX. With outfielder B.J. Fulk missing with an injury, and pitcher Andy Purcell attending his daughter’s graduation ceremony, Resmondo had just 11 players for the game. Resmondo held a narrow 14-10 lead after three innings and a vocal Texas crowd was heckling the heavy favorites. Resmondo manager John Rector was heard saying only half-jokingly to a tournament offi¬cial, “I hope you guys have us a police escort out of here.”
Resmondo began to stretch their lead in the middle innings, before Bobby Hughes was ejected from the game for taking his bat back into the dugout after an at-bat instead of leaving it at the team bucket. The only other Resmondo personnel in uniform were Rector and coach Frank Webb, so Rector was inserted into the lineup. In his only at-bat of the game, Rector popped up meekly to the pitcher, much to the amusement of his players. Resmondo went on the win the game, 30-10.
Later that night, Resmondo played another game against the BTX Outsiders from Beaumont – one of the top C teams in Texas. Not wanting to leave anything to chance after the close call earlier, Resmondo came out on a mission and pounded out a 58-6 run-rule victory.
With Purcell in town and in uniform, Resmondo returned for the matinee session Saturday afternoon and posted a 42-5 whipping on local favorite Fidelity Medical from League City, then a 42-12 blasting on Bingo Long’s Sports Center/ Worth from Jackson, Miss. Fidelity is one of the top C teams in Texas and Bingo Long is a top C team from Mississippi.
In the semi-finals of the winner’s bracket Saturday night, Resmondo faced their first Conference USSSA opponent of the tournament. But the result was no different from the previous four games, as Resmondo dealt a 42-12 thrashing to The Scene/A.J.S./Easton from Ft. Meyers, Fla. The Scene is registered as a Class B team this year.
That win was followed immediately by the winner’s bracket finals against the highest classified team in the tourna¬ment other than Resmondo. But the Worth flagship team scored 20 runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back in short-gaming Class A Darkside/TYJA/Easton from New Britain, Connecticut by a 45-23 margin in front of another huge crowd.
The most entertainment of the evening for many came from the USSSA Live broadcasts. Colorful East Texan and former Major List player Ray Cowart was offering lively commentary in his distinct drawl. Play-by-play announcer Bernie Guenther was probably happy that the Internet telecasts were not subject to the scrutiny of the FCC, otherwise there might have been some explaining to do.
Resmondo returned Sunday morning for the championship game, where they were met by a ragged but proud Gold’s Gym team from Dallas. After losing to BWW/Team Baden/Buzini Sports from Mississippi in the quarter-finals of the winner’s bracket, Gold’s Gym went to the loser’s bracket and posted three wins on Saturday night – which lasted until 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning. They returned to the park just a few hours later and redeemed their only defeat with a 15-12 win over BWW/Team Baden/Buzini Sports in a re-match, then pounded Darkside/TYJA/Easton, 18-3, to advance to the championship game.
Not that it would have mattered much, but Perry Hensley’s team was out of gas, and Resmondo cruised to a 54-15 cham-pionship game victory to finish the tour¬nament with a perfect 7-0 record.
“Resmondo’s offense was clicking on all cylinders and the first inning of what seemed like each game they played, they basically batted around the order at least one time,” said softball reporter Dale Weiser, who was covering the tour¬nament for his Softball Center website. “For the most part, Resmondo players did whatever they wanted to offensively and a number of their player’s made only a handful of outs the whole weekend. Resmondo also played without the injured B.J. Fulk (oblique muscle) and Howie Krause came up a little lame with a possible knee problem during one of the games.”
the season, Gold’s Gym finished second with an 8-2 record, including two big wins over Conference teams on Sunday morning.
“Gold’s turned in their best performance of the year and should finally climb into the computer rankings and Conference points list, said Weiser. “They did so with great veteran leadership in A-plus pitcher Perry Hensley, big hitters on the corners with third baseman and leadoff man Preston Spurlin and Offensive MVP first baseman Kelly Hartman, plus left-hand hitting right-fielder Clay Smitherman.”
Weiser added, “These four vets mixed in with the six skilled defensive positions filled by a group of almost unknown younger but solid, up-and-coming Conference talent makes for a team that is now 9-1 against B teams on the season. That is a statistic that will pay off at the B Worlds come September.”
Darkside/TYJA/Easton came in third place at 5-2, just one week after also finishing third in Atlanta.
“Darkside is still without injured pitcher Dirty Sanchez, and played without shortstop Lee Lipshutz, Jon Encarnacion, and slugger Charlie Baumgartner, but I think this is another one of those great chemistry teams that doesn’t need to have all of their players present on a given weekend,” said Weiser.
BWW/Team Baden/Buzini Sports finished fourth, also at 5-2, and drew high praise from the respected Weiser, also known by the Internet handle of “DW.”
“BWW/Team Baden/Buzini Sports is now, in my opinion, the number one C team in the country,” said Weiser. “Yes, I know that is a shocking statement, when you consider what Line Drive out of Michigan and Wiley’s Supreme from Florida have done the last couple weeks. But BWW has quite frankly a very good team, with solid all-around Conference talent at every position. BWW is led by veteran pitcher and three-hole hitter Donald Plaisance, who kept hitters off balance most of the weekend.”
Wesier used BWW/Team Baden/Buzini Sports to elaborate on his online conten¬tion that top C teams today are equiva¬lent to most A teams of the 1990’s.
“Going back to The Old Scout (website) discussion about whether or not today’s C, teams built with similar budgets and the majority of their players from one county or State region are equal to the average A team of the early 1990’s that were built in the same way. Well, BWW would have been right there with the A teams of the early 1990’s,” Weiser contended. “I make this statement for the 2011 C teams that I have seen play in Conference tournaments across the country this year. Most C teams are really stepping up the quality of their rosters from the pitching to the short¬stops and center-fielders and everyone in between. As you can tell I was very impressed (by BWW) and although I am just starting to get to know this team, it looked like they had their full roster for the first time this season and it showed.”
Fence Brokers/Gametime Supply/Worth from Bryant, Ark. and The Scene/A.J.S./ Easton (both B teams) tied for fifth place; Bingo Long’s Sports Center/ Worth and Classic Roofing/Mizuno from Garland, TX (both C teams) tied for seventh place; and Olmito Heat/Rios/CR Bar from Olmito, TX, BaughFord.com from Alabama, The Softball Mafia of Louisiana, and Zamora’s All-Out Sports/ TPS from Rosenburg, TX (all C teams) rounded out the Top 10 by tying for ninth place.
Several non-Conference USSSA teams earned Paid Berths and Travel Money for their respective World Tournaments by being the highest finishing non-Confer¬ence teams in their classification at the Space City. The B berth went to Team KC/Miken from Spring, TX and their manager “Sweet Willie” Whittington who tied for 13th place with a 3-2 record. The C berth and money was shared by Bingo Long’s Sports Center/ Worth and Classic Roofing/Mizuno who tied for seventh place with identical 4-2 records. The D berth and stipend went to Team Ego/Texas Inks from Houston, who tied for 13th place with a 3-2 record. An the E berth and money was shared by CABO from Seabrook, TX and Texas Baseballers from Spring, TX who tied for 25th place with 2-2 marks.
Greg Connell of Resmondo/Worth was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. Connell put on a hitting clinic all weekend long by either bouncing balls off the 30-foot-high outfield walls at Big League Dreams, or clearing them with scorching rockets. For this tournament, like the Toys For Tots which is played at a Big League Dreams facility in Palm Springs, CA, home runs had to completely clear the outfield walls – not just the yellow lines painted on the walls. Connell also used the Field Turf infield surfaces to help him play flawless defense from his second base position.
Burly left-handed slugger Kelly Hartman of Gold’s Gym was named the Outstanding Offensive Player of the tournament, while Resmondo shortstop Don “Junior” DeDonatis III was named the Outstanding Defensive Player. Junior doesn’t need any help fielding a ball in a ragged pasture, so getting a ball past him on the smooth turf surfaces was next to impossible.
Rounding out the All-Tournament team were Scott Striebel, Jeff Wallace, Brian Rainwater, Vince Bisbee, Bobby Hughes and Jeremy Isenhower, of Resmondo/ Worth; Perry Hensley, Preston Spurlin, Clay Smitherman and Jake Mayes, of Gold’s Gym; Lou Mongelli, Billy Moore and Ryan Parfitt, of Darkside/TYJA/ Easton; and Brady Bascle and Kyle Wilks, of BWW/Team Baden/Buzini Sports.
One of the biggest reasons why the Space City Classic gets so many local Class C, D and even E teams willing to step up and play in the Conference USSSA bracket is that their teams also get sepa¬rate tournaments among teams from their own classes to play in once they are eliminated from the main bracket.
In the C Consolation bracket, Ambush from Houma, LA won first place, Team Hemphill from Parl, MS came in second, and Disturbed Softball from Baytown, TX finished third.
In the D Consolation bracket, Twisted Specialty Metal Products from Magnolia, TX was the champion, Ozone: Rebirth/ The Recession from Carencro, LA was the runnerup, and the Woodpeckers from Galveston, TX came in third.
In the E Consolation bracket, Rack Em Up/Modernperformance.com from Houston won first place, the Scrappers from College Station, TX finished second, and Head First from League City, TX came in third.
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!