The game is changing, and Resmondo/Specialty Tank is changing right along with it.
The nation’s top-ranked team made it a record four Smoky Mountain Classics in a row July 10 at the annual, three-day Conference USSSA softball festival in Maryville, Tenn.
Resmondo routed the GTL/Cartel, 27-12, in the 43rd annual event’s championship game.
The Winter Haven, Fla., powerhouse put to good use the clas¬sic’s unlimited home runs, using an eight-run sixth inning to end things early on the mercy rule. Resmondo slugger Greg Connell clubbed his way to 11 homers and 20 runs scored over the three days of the tournament in securing most valu¬able player honors.
That said it was more the occasional flash of some spectacular leather than a succession home run bombs that got the champs their four-peat. A winner’s bracket final the night before would prove telling for the Cartel in more ways than one.
The home team, GTL had the winning run at third with two outs in a tie game in its half of the seventh. Resmondo Hall of Fame pitcher Andy Purcell induced a ground ball to short with the next batter, Don DeDonatis III killing the Cartel rally with a quick stab and sure, accurate throw to first.
“That was a big out, a big stop,” Resmondo manager Frank Webb said. “Everybody pitched in on that game.”
Half an inning later, Brian Rainwater, Howard Krause Jr., Jeremy Isenhower and Michael Rhines all went deep for Resmondo, which put four of its five runs in the frame across on two outs. Rines finished the evening a sizzling 4-for-5 at the plate.
“He kept coming up in key spots with two outs and he kept banging,” Webb said.
A ground ball back to Purcell to start the GTL eighth, followed by a pair of pop ups, and Resmondo, with a 28-24, come- from-behind win, got to sleep in Sunday morning while the Cartel was forced to rise early and fight its way to the title game through the loser’s bracket.
“We definitely should have gotten it done last night when we had the oppor¬tunity,” GTL manager Jose Sanchez said. “They just got us. They just beat us. They (Resmondo) got to sleep in late and come in fresh.”
In the later innings Sunday, the champs only grew stronger.
“Our team’s older,” Purcell said. “To stay out of the heat as much as possible is big.”
Resmondo’s big sixth inning in Sunday’s final was one thing. Connell, Purcell and Striebel each homered, with Striebel’s three-run blast to collect Vince Bisbee and Rainwater bringing an end to the proceedings.
“We’ve been together so long we know what to expect,” Connell said. “You just get up there and do your job. It’s not over until the last out. This is the fourth year in a row. They know what it takes to get it done.”
More telling in getting it done this time was Purcell shutting out GTL in both the fifth and sixth innings from the pitching circle in the championship game, working the corners and not giving the Cartel anything good to hit.
“If you just lay the ball in there,” Purcell said, “they just hit it wherever they want.”
The play of Rhines at third, DeDonatis at short and Connell at second repeat¬edly kept hard-hit balls on the infield, the trio often snuffing opposition rallies with crisply turned double plays. Striebel’s running grab in center in the GTL sixth in Sunday’s title game put the second out on the board and noticeably deflated the challengers.
“At this level,” Purcell said, “you can’t give extra outs to anyone because everyone is so good. I like my chances with our defense because we can catch it.”
Home run limits at all other Conference USSSA tournaments have had a telling effect on the sport, DeDonatis said. The limits have brought more station
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!