It’s a well-known fact amongst USSSA Directors that as go the Major teams, so goes the success of your Conference USSSA event; and so with much of the big-time softball world focused on a point just south and east of Aurora; Colorado USSSA brought back the Rocky Mountain Shootout in its 27th year and 3rd as a Conference USSSA event.
The event held at the twelve diamond Aurora Sports Park, over two days July 23-24 featured fast and furious action as 65 teams met in three divisions to claim crowns in Men’s Major, Men’s E and Women’s Open. With mild summer time weather, temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s and virtually no humidity , the park is only minutes from Denver International Airport and features easy access to local lodging and dining. In fact, nearly everybody who has the opportunity to visit Colorado and play at the ASP promises they can’t wait to come back!
With the Conference teams traveling week to week and always creating a buzz, they don’t always realize the impact they have on a local commu¬nity’s softball program as every player wants to come out and ‘test’ them¬selves against the best in the nation. “The scheduling conflict the Majors found themselves in the last couple of years is disappointing but the buzz and local support has been overwhelming as we brought Major softball back to the Rocky Mountains” said Colorado State Director and tournament host Scott Cameron. “We’re committed to the event and look forward to welcoming the top teams in the nation back in the future” he added.
The tournament has a long and storied history beginning its life not long after Colorado USSSA was founded in 1980. In fact, many in Colorado who have been around since the beginning contend that this event has hosted as many USSSA Hall of Famers as any event in the nation save the Smokey and Dudley. National Assistant and Colorado State UIC Bill Harper, a Colorado Hall of Famer himself as a player at the A level, remembers when this was a can’t miss event among softballs elite and added, “Howards, Steeles, Ritches, they all visited back in the day. In fact if you were to walk the USSSA Hall of Fame, nearly every player on those walls played in the Shootout in the 80’s and early 90’s when held at its original venue in Colorado Springs. Scott is trying to return it to its original glory and we’re really appreciative of the local and Conference support we’ve received the last three years. It’s exciting to do something special for the local players each year.”
Because the venue has twelve fields available, Conference action didn’t kick off till Saturday morning and it led to a schedule that some teams referred to ‘challenging’. With 36 teams overall, six from CUSSSA, the tourney was once again a top five attended event despite the lack of any Major participants. The favorite going in had to be the events only A team in Dallas based Wood Law/ Mizuno/Famous/Easton but there was a buzz that Sonny’s/ Desert Falls/ Elite playing as a B team at the time and with many players having played locally over the years, was going to be a tough out.
Play kicked off like it always does in these events with many of the local teams getting thoroughly trounced by CUSSSA teams and happy just for the experience…..that is until local C team Renegades knocked off Conference B Team Demarini 22-11 while D team Colorado Mush took T’s 13/ Easton to the last at bat before falling 26-25. Nothing wakes up a ball park like a good (and completely unexpected) upset or two! The upsets were few and far between from that point forward as the Conference teams methodically worked their way thru the bracket.
As a chamber of Conference Colorado July Saturday progressed with tempera¬tures in the low 90’s, it became clear that the buzz around Sonny’s was justi¬fied as they handled Mile High Mayhem 43-4, The Truth/ RPN 24-9, Stars/ Worth 22-5 and local CUSSSA team Peak/ L3 Screenprinting/ TLG 31-24 on their way to the winners bracket final.
Texas Miken had the more difficult road to the final as they faced local teams in their first two games before downing T’s 13/ Easton 38- 23 and Wood Law 32-17 in what had to be considered an upset. As evening fell and crowds gathered with memories of last year’s Resmondo/ GTL showdown, Sonny’s proved dominant taking an easy 31-1 victory.
Sunday morning broke cool and comfort¬able and saw Wood Law having survived Saturday night with a 28-13 victory over Peak facing Texas Miken for the right to challenge Sonny’s in the championship. A back and forth game saw Texas Miken holding off Wood Law for the 38-30 victory and a return engagement with Sonny’s. The game was in doubt for only a few minutes as Sonny’s came out and put it away early with timely hitting and tight defense to earn the championship 31-13.
Led by tournament MVP Tyson Steele and Offensive MVP Charles Cunningham, Sonny’s averaged over 30 runs a game but that wasn’t the whole story. They gave up less than 10 runs a game, a 21 run per game difference….unheard of in a CUSSSA event.
As fields became available Saturday afternoon, 24 E teams started play in a spirited event that saw champion and eventual State Tournament winner Prime Time take home their third title of the year. The E classification has been a real surprise in Colorado in 2011 as a number of quality teams emerged in their first year together. Prime Time has proved to be one of them along with other Worlds bound teams Tiger Blood/ Copper Rail, Infamous/ AA Concrete, Whitewater and a couple of E powers Forget About It and Mares Metals who are unable to make the trip this year.
Prime Time averaged better than 18 per game, hard to do in E with the strict homerun rules and started their run with a 17-5 victory over First 2 Third and followed that up with relatively easy victories over You’re It SBC and Softball Mulisha.
The other side of the bracket was brutal as sometimes happens, with some of the state’s best teams all eliminating each other in an effort to meet Prime Time on the hill. First tournament favorite Forget About It was knocked off by a surprising Extreme Weed Control. Then tournament co-favorite Mares Metals was sent the way of the losers bracket by Middles Open while E power Whitewater was upended by Denver Jammers. E aficionados were wondering what was up with the upsets, the next thing you know cats would be hanging out with dogs!?!
Extreme Weed Control eventually fought their way thru the lower half before falling to a ready to roll Prime Time 28-15 Sunday afternoon. That seemed to take some air out of their sails as they fell to Denver Jammers in a rematch 18-12. Led by tournament MVP Jerry Bryan the championship game was in doubt till late with Prime Time pulled away for the 18-6 victory. Prime Time played solid defense and featured timely hitting all weekend to manage a 10 run differential per game and are peaking at just the right time as they prepare for their first trip to Disney in September.
On behalf of Colorado USSSA, thanks to all participants, spectators, umpires, staff and the City of Aurora for what proved to be an exciting and successful Rocky Mountain Shootout. We look forward to hosting you all again in 2012!
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!