OSCEOLA COUNTY, FLORIDA – The USSSA Men’s Major World Series is the premier event in slow-pitch softball and is showcased at Champions Stadium at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Florida, which is the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves.
This year’s event was held Sept. 23-27 and marked the 10th straight year for the Men’s Major World Series to be held in the palatial stadium at Disney. It is the venue where legends are made in men’s softball. The facilities are first class and fields are kept in great condition. Field dimensions are 335 feet downthe lines, 385 feet in the power alleys, and 400 feet to straight-away centerfield. Disney allows USSSA to cut out dirt sliding surfaces around the bases inside the grassy infield that is built for Major League Baseball games.
After five days of spectacular defensive plays, towering home runs and timely hitting, a pair of WORTH-sponsored teams based in the Sunshine State were left standing for the championship game – Resmondo/Specialty Tank/WORTH from Winter Haven, Fla. and T&R Stucco/WORTH from Polk City, Fla.
Resmondo was expected to be there, as the powerful team entered the World Series with a 58-8 season record and ranked Number 1 in the nation. The Sod Boys were gunning for their fifth World Championship in seven years, and were especially hungry after settling for a disappointing (for them) second place finish in 2008. Resmondo won first place in nine of the 13 Conference USSSA NIT’s they entered during the 2009 regular season, plus went undefeated to win first place at the Conference USSSA Championships held just three weeks prior to the World Series.
T&R Stucco was quite a different story. They were the first Class A team to make it to the championship game of the Major World Series in recent history. T&R Stucco entered the tournament with a 42-16 season record. Sponsor Troy Nance’s team had won first place in two Conference USSSA NIT’s during the regular season – Peach State and Space City – but their were no Major teams entered in either of those tournaments. T&R Stucco was considered by many to be the best Class A team in 2009, although they finished a disappointing third in the Class A World Tournament.
Top-seeded Resmondo won three straight games to get to the championship game. They opened with a 17-9 win over AJS/Easton of Fort Meyers, Florida on the opening night of the tournament. That victory was followed with an impressive 36-4 thrashing of Class A World Tournament champion GTL/Stucco/WORTH of Othello, Washington. In a semi-final matchup on Friday night after the Home Run Derby, Resmondo scored a 27-12 victory over T&R Stucco in a sneak preview of the eventual championship game.
As the Number 5 seed entering the tournament, T&R Stucco had a more difficult path to the finals. Their opening game was against Northwest Combat from Seattle, Washington, a team which had won the Men’s B World Tournament just three days before the start of the Major World Series. It was a see-saw battle that T&R Stucco eventually held on to win, 18-17. In the second round, T&R Stucco beat arch-rival Jean Shoppe/Easton from McKenzie, Tennessee – who was the Number 4 seed entering the tournament – by the exact same 18-17 score. That put T&R Stucco in the winner’s bracket semi-finals, where they lost to Resmondo.
After dropping to the loser’s bracket, T&R Stucco beat Johnny Blaze/Combat of Las Vegas, Nevada by a narrow 15-11 margin. Then, in the finals of the loser’s bracket, T&R Stucco faced defending Major World Champion Dan Smith/Menosse/Benfield/Combat. The game began late Saturday night, but had to be postponed after five and a half innings due to torrential thunderstorms. T&R Stucco was leading 15-13 when the game resumed play Sunday morning, but they had only one turn at-bat left, while Dan Smith had two innings left. T&R Stucco pitcher Oscar Shipley shut out Dan Smith in the bottom of the sixth inning, before his teammates added two insurance runs in the top of the seventh to make the score 17-13. Dan Smith loaded the based with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning and had 2008 World Series MVP Johnny McCraw at the plate representing the tying run. But McGraw lined out to the third-baseman to end the game.
The win had to be especially gratifying for two members of the T&R Stucco coaching staff. Jackie Hayes was the field manager for many of Dan Smith’s top teams over the years, including the 2000 USSSA Major World Series Champion squad. Tim “Tiny” Taylor was an assistant coach on those teams. Now, the trimmed-down Taylor is the man running the show as the manager of T&R Stucco, while Hayes is his lead consultant.
That set the stage That set the stage for the All-WORTH Championship Game. WORTH Representatives Tim Lord and Dennis Turner had to be extremely please to see two of their marquee teams battling for the biggest prize in softball.
T&R Stucco failed to score in the top of the first inning, and Resmondo responded with four runs. T&R got on the board with two runs in the top of the second, but Resmondo exploded for nine runs in the bottom of the frame to take a commanding 13-2 lead. T&R moved closer with four runs in the top of the third, but Resmondo blew the game wide open by putting up a 10-spot in the bottom of the inning to go up 23-6. T&R Stucco managed just one run in the fourth inning, and when they failed to score in the top of the fifth, the game was stopped on the 15-run-rule, 23-7.
A historical event took place during the championship game. With a base hit in the fourth inning, Resmondo’s Todd Martin became the all-time hit leader in USSSA Major World Series history, surpassing the mark of 231 set by Ron Parnell of the old Ritch’s-Superior/TPS teams of the 1990s.
Dan Smith/Menosse/Benfield/Combat settled for third place this year, GTL/Stucco/WORTH came in fourth, and Johnny Blaze/Combat finished fifth. TaylorMade/Mizuno and Jean Shoppe/Easton tied for seventh place, while the rest of the Top 10 included Combat USA/Elite from Seattle, Washington, Suncoast/Reebok from Sarasota, Florida, Blitz/Watanabe/Easton from Cincinnati, Ohio and O&S/Povs/Hoffman/Combat from St. Paul, Minnesota tied for ninth place.
Two players from Resmondo/WORTH were named Co-Most Valuable Players of the tournament – pitcher Andy Purcell and third baseman Dennis Rulli. Purcell went 12-of-14 with three home runs and 14 RBIs while pitching every inning of every game. Rulli went 15 of 16 (his only out came in his last at-bat of the tournament) with a team-leading 13 runs scored and 12 RBIs. Interestingly, both players are from California – Purcell from NorCal and Rulli from SoCal – and both will be inducted into the USSSA Hall of Fame together at the Annual National Convention this November.
Purcell became the first player in the 39-year history of the USSSA Major World Series to be named the Most Valuable Player twice. The first time he won the honor was in 2003 when he also shared it with a teammate, Jeff Wallace.
Brian Rainwater was named the Outstanding Offensive Player of this year’s World Series. Rainwater hit a team-leading seven home runs and was second on the team with 15 RBIs.
Shortstop Timmy Mattox of T&R Stucco was named the Outstanding Defensive Player of the tournament. Mattox was a late-season pickup by the team and was one of the main reasons they achieved the lofty runnerup finish.
Rainwater and Tim Cocco from Jean Shoppe/Easton shared the Home Run Award, as each belted seven. Cocco was also the winner of the Home Run Derby on Friday night, when he beat out B.J. Fulk of Resmondo/WORTH in the finals.
Frank Webb of Resmondo/WORTH was named the manager of the All-World Series Team. Players named to the prestigious squad were: catcher Jeff Wallace, second baseman Greg Connell, middle infielder Bryson Baker, shortstop Don DeDonatis III, outfielders Bobby Hughes and B.J. Fulk, and utility player Todd Martin, of Resmondo/WORTH; pitcher Oscar Shipley, second baseman Mitch Mabe, middle infielder Randall Poplin, shortstop Timmy Mattox, and third baseman Rich Gulash, of T&R Stucco/WORTH; catcher Johnny McGraw, and outfielders Rick Baker and Brian Wegman, of Dan Smith/Menossee/Benfield/Combat; third baseman Sam Lopez, and outfielders Donovan Pokraka and Rick Sedlacek, of GTL/Stucco/WORTH; infielder Chris Larsen and utility player Ed Vega, of Johnny Blaze/Combat; and catcher Tim Cocco, of Jean Shoppe/Easton.
The Tournament Director was Warren Bellm of Minnesota, who also hosts the popular Dudley Classic in his home state. The Umpire-In-Chief was Rick Robertson of Florida. The umpires who worked the Major World Series were Chuck Beckwell of Michigan, Carlos Childress of Florida, Steve Christy of Kansas, Don Lombard of Kansas, Jason Oberlag of Arkansas, Duane Posavetz of Florida, Dan Sullivan of New Hampshire and Tony Walczak of Michigan.
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!