Seventy four teams met June 11-12 under perfect June Colorado skies for the right to call themselves champions in one of Colorado’s oldest continuously run tournaments, the Sweetheart City Classic, as we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the event in Loveland, Colorado.
The tournament was founded by Colorado USSSA Hall of Famer Dick Topping in 1981 and this year with its return to NIT status drew the largest field since softballs hay-day of the early eighties. Mr. Topping served as honorary chairman for Colorado State Director and tournament host Scott Cameron and a great time was had by all reliving the ‘good old days’ and celebrating Colorado long heritage of USSSA play.
Men’s C featured 15 teams and spir¬ited play throughout the day. Conference USSSA member Peak/ L3 Screenprinting/ TLG set the tone early in the top of the bracket as they knocked off Redrum Softball Family 22-14 and followed it up an hour later with another 20 run performance as they handled Xtreme/ Garretson’s/ Worth Sports 24-11.
On the bottom side, Junkies/ ZMVP were matching them step for step as they squeaked by class D power Smoke 11-10 and recently bumped So Dirty 20-13 to advance to the winners bracket final against Peak. Given both teams recent play, Peak had recently won the Longs Peak Cup NIT only two weeks earlier, most expected a Peak victory but the Junkies came out on fire and played solid defense as they were the only team to hold Peak to less than 20 runs in a game with their 27-12 run rule victory.
Peak won a hard fought victory against Colorado Springs rival SCH 20-19 to make it back to the champion¬ship where the Junkies defense all but deserted them as Peak double dipped 20-9 and 27-22 to take the championship. Peak was led on defense by tournament MVP Steve Garcia who kept batters off balance all day on the hill and averaged better than 21 runs a game, an impres¬sive total in C ball.
Twenty five teams met in men’s D and competition was top flight as teams really worked to earn each victory in the bracket. Colorado requires D NIT winners to play up the remainder of the year and so the field was wide open with no clear favorites.
Visiting Cheyenne Softball Club rattled off a couple of early wins before dropping a third round decision to the veteran led Showboats 17-10, a portend of things to come. Meanwhile, the bottom of the bracket was a free-for-all as two teams that don’t play all the much surprised most observers as they met in the quarters where Jamo defeated Team JP Power 20-6.
Sunday morning opened with teams ready to go big or go home as it was basi¬cally single elimination play in the losers bracket. Cheyenne proved more than up to the task as they got on a roll beating a game Team Voltage 24-18 before knocking off western Colorado power Addiction followed by back to back to back wins over JP Power, Colorado Mush and Jamo on their way to the champi¬onship and a rematch with Showboats. Adrenaline carried the Wyoming boys in the first game as they handled Showboats easily 24-14 but the long day caught up with them in the ‘if’ as Showboats rolled 24-4. A veteran team, Showboats was led by MVP Chad Balken and with an average age of 35 the bright lights and big stage of Worlds in Kissimmee aren’t likely to worry them as they make their first trip to Disney.
While a few teams have established themselves in E this year, it was a couple of new comers and relative unknowns that stood atop the 19 team E division when all was said and done. Playing in only their second tournament, Shape Your Life dominated nearly every game they played with high level defense and punch and judy hitting. In fact they only gave up five runs on their way to the ‘hill’ as they beat Who’z Next 14-0, followed it up with a 17-0 victory over Hit Squad and then dominated Detox 24-5. Most observers expected a tough game against Mares Metals who while new to tourna¬ment play, has been playing late into every tournament they’ve entered so far but the Shape Your Life crew proved too strong as they notched another shutout with a 14-0 thumping. Mares proved it’s ‘metal’ making quick work of third place finisher Infamous/ AA Concrete 14-8 to make a return appearance against SYL where everybody fully expected another quick result. A hard fought defensive battle eventually led to the 10-5 Mares victory setting up an ‘if’ game where the Mares sticks proved too much for Shape Your Life as they fell 16-10. Mares was led by newcomer Adrian Trujillo in an MVP performance as they broke through with the win after three consecutive third place finishes to open their season.
Colorado runs an open women’s divi¬sion with an equalizer and the 15 teams meeting in women’s were very evenly matched. Late entry ECI of Olathe, Kansas who made a last minute change in plans when their tournament in Texas was canceled looked flat out scary in early games as they scored 31 in their opening game and followed that up with 26 in the next. They were the talk of the tour¬nament until they ran into early season NIT winner ByU who handled them easily 15-4 to reach the winners bracket final.
Meanwhile the other half of the bracket featured perennial power Pitchers/ H&K Screenprinting playing shorthanded but handling teams none¬theless as they reached the winners bracket final with wins over D teams Mojo in Motion and Just 4 Show. Pitchers blended their veteran leadership with a youth infusion as they beat ByU handily 14-2 to reach the final. ByU proved their spirit as they bested Loveland rival Just 4 Show 15-9 to earn a rematch with Pitchers. The undefeated team held a lead most of the game and was up 21-14 late before a furious ByU comeback led them to a 29-24 victory. The ‘if’ game went as many of them do with it being very late and both teams spent after a long day of playing ball. In the end, ByU led by MVP Gabi Rendon was the better team eaking out a 13-12 victory to claim the final title of the night.
A big thank you to the more than seventy teams that came out and made the event a success, the City of Loveland who had the fields in ‘sweetheart’ shape and to tournament staff; UIC Billy Harper and site directors Janet Dooley and Bill Lomelino. Rocky Mountain USSSA hopes to welcome you back for the 31st annual Sweetheart City Classic 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!