LEAGUE CITY, TX – Ever since pitcher Andy Purcell, the most dominant player in Conference USSSA, suffered a broken hand in the second half of the USSSA Hall of Fame Dual Classic in Florida, three-time defending World Champion Resmondo/Specialty Tank/Worth has been less than invincible.
After winning the first half of the Dual event, Resmondo went 3-2 and tied for 7th place in the tournament where Purcell was injured. The following weekend in Kansas City, LaserVision rocked Resmondo for 50 runs in the winner’s bracket final en route to a 50-19 victory, and Resmondo settled for second place when the tournament was shortened by rain on Sunday. The very next weekend in Dallas, Resmondo suffered a 10-7 first round loss to Team All-Out/DaBomb, a non-Conference B team from Houston. After winning a couple of games in the loser’s bracket, Resmondo was eliminated by Team 454 to tie for 7th place again. Things got closer to normal for the Sod Boys at the Music City in Nashville, as they finally won first place again but not before suffering a 24-4 loss to LaserVision in the first championship game.
It should be noted that the struggles since losing Purcell should not be placed entirely at the feet of replacement pitcher L.C. Watson from Texas. A lack of offensive production was more to blame than Watson’s pitching skills. In a 10-7 loss when both teams are allowed 12 home runs on 300-foot fields, the 10 isn’t the problem – it’s the seven. In fact, Watson was named the Co-Defensive MVP at Nashville.
But it was no coincidence that the return of “Drew” – short for Andrew, as in Purcell – brought about Resmondo’s most dominating performance of the season at the 6th Annual Space City Classic, held June 1-3 at Big League Dreams in League City, TX.
Space City has been the largest Conference USSSA tournament each of the past three years, attracting 48 teams in both 2009 and 2010, and 64 teams in 2011. It will likely be the largest again this year, as it attracted 50 teams from seven states. The tournament was capped at 50 so that all games could be played at the six-field Big League Dreams complex, which features Field Turf infields. Anything over 50 teams would require using an alternate complex for some games.
The tournament used the Dudley Classic M+ balls, which are a higher core but lower compression than the Dudley ZN balls. The Classics help reduce home runs, which is needed on smaller fence distances at Big League Dreams. In addi¬tion, all Conference events played at Big League Dreams parks use “Wall Ball” which means home runs must clear the entire wall – some of which are 40 feet high – otherwise the ball is live and in play when is bounces off the wall.
Resmondo opened the tournament Friday night with a 39-9 romp over Budweiser/Frank’s/Gooseneck from College Station, TX. The returned for a Saturday matinee double-header and knocked off Old School from Spring (37-7) and Texas Miken Softball Club from Pearland (46-25) in a game Texas Miken actually led after three innings. Texas Miken had defeated Team All-Out/ DaBomb (23-8) one game earlier to prevent Resmondo getting a re-match against All-Out/DaBomb. It was Texas Miken’s sixth win in seven games against Team All-Out/DaBomb this season.
In the semi-finals of the winner’s bracket, Resmondo defeated Fence Brokers/Gametime/Worth from Little Rock, Arkansas in a game that was actu¬ally closer than the 43-28 final score would indicate. In the other half of the winner’s bracket, Buzinisports.com/ BWW/Worth from Jackson, Mississippi beat Headhunter/Cancooker from Fayetteville, Georgia (28-13).
That set up a King Seat matchup between Resmondo, the grizzled veterans of the Major Circuit, and Buzinis, one of the top up-and-coming young teams in the nation. Buzini kept the game close for a few innings, before Resmondo broke away for a 35-20 win.
The loss sent Buzinisports to the loser’s bracket where the never-say-die Miken Mafia/ASPNation.com team from Rowlett, TX was making more waves than those found a nearby Galveston Island. After winning their first two games of the tournament, Miken Mafia/ ASP was sent to the loser’s bracket by Headhunter in the quarter-finals. Then, in back-to-back-to-back games begin¬ning at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Miken Mafia/ ASP posted consecutive wins over Team All-Out/DaBomb (37-36), Strike Force from Baton Rouge, LA (28-26), and Fence Brokers (36-35) in a game that did not end until after 2:00 a.m. Sunday. Then, Miken Mafia/ASP was back at the park less than six hours later, where the defeated Headhunter/Cancooker in a re-match (31-29). That made four straight hard-fought victories by a total of six runs facing elimination against tough competition.
Miken Mafia/ASPNation.com was not finished battling. In a seven-inning slug¬fest in the finals of the loser’s bracket, Manager Tim Barnes’ squad from North Texas took Buzinisports.com/BWW/ Worth to the wire before suffering a 37-36 loss to settle for third place, by far their best Conference showing of the season.
That set up a re-match between Resmondo and Buzini for the champi¬onship under the hot Texas sun at high noon on Sunday. Despite the draining duel with Miken Mafia/ASP, Buzini had plenty left in the tank to throw at Resmondo. The title bout went back- and-forth with several lead changes, until Resmondo had a big inning in the bottom of the sixth. Buzini came up in the top of the seventh needing 10 runs to catch Resmondo. But a spec¬tacular over-the-fence catch by Timmy Howard and a double-play started by Don “Junior” DeDonatis III ended the rally before it could ever get started, as Resmondo walked away with a 43-33 championship win.
In addition to pitching five of the six victories with a brace on his recently rehabilitated left hand, Purcell led Resmondo with a .970 on-base percentage, which included four home runs and 18 RBIs, and was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
Justin Stuart of Buzinisports.com was named the Outstanding Offensive Player, while Howard and DeDonatis were named the Co-Outstanding Defensive Players. Howard had a strong showing at the plate as well, with a .781 on-base percentage and seven home runs with 24 RBIs. DeDonatis ignited the Resmondo offense from the leadoff position.
Six other Resmondo players were named to the All-Tournament team, including Jeff Hall, Greg Connell, Jimmy Salas, Ronald “Bubba” Mack, Jeremy Isenhower and Sean “Milky” McDonald. After not playing in the Conference the past two years, Hall is rounding into Hall of Fame form since joining Resmondo in May. He hit the walk-off home run in the championship game of the Music City, and in the Space City he compiled a .786 on-base percentage with eight home runs and 24 RBIs. Connell and Mack tied for the team-lead in home runs with 11 apiece, while Isenhower belted 10. Connell had an .818 OBP and Mack’s was .818, while Isenhower was .875. McDonald reached base in all 13 of his plate appearances for a perfect 1.000 average in just three games, while Salas had a .885 OBP and nine home runs.
Resmondo played the tournament without the services of B.J. Fulk and Howie Krause, who were both out with injuries, although Krause was in attendance and coached third base all weekend.
Buzinisports.com/BWW/Worth settled for second place with their 5-2 record, which was their best showing in five Conference USSSA tournaments this year.
“All I can say is I am proud to be a part of this team that continues to improve and continues to gel,” said sponsor/ manager TJay Busin. “We got great leadership from Donald Plaisance, Clint Harris, Kelly Hartman and Justin Stuart. Standout rookies and excellent defense are keeping my boys on the minds of all the big teams.”
In addition to Stuart’s award, Buzini players named to the All-Tournament team were Chris Smith, Brady Bascle, Clint Harris and Donald Plaisance.
Miken Mafia/ASPNation.com was just 4-8 in four Conference USSSA events coming into Space City, before going 6-2 to capture third place. If the scrappy squad continues to improve, they could be a top contender in the post-season for the C Division. ASP players named to the All-Tournament team were Stuart Snell, Bobby Mitchell and recent pickup Chris Lopez who did an excellent job pitching for his new team.
Fourth place went to Headhunter/ Cancooker/Shssports.com from Fayetteville, Georgia with a 4-2 record. Like the second and third place teams, the fourth place showing was Headhunter’s best Conference finish of the season. The team was 7-8 coming into Space City, but left Houston 11-10 in Conference play. Headhunter players named to the All-Tournament team were Wesley Parker and Chad Folsom.
With 50 teams in the bracket, there were several other teams who deserve recognition. The Texas Regulators from Garland, TX and Fence Brokers tied for 5th place; Strike Force and Texas Miken tied for 7th; and TPS/Sports Center from Jackson, MS, Arkansas Mayhem from Arkadephia, AR, Sandlot from Pensacola, FL and Team All-Out/DaBomb tied for 9th.