BRYAN, TEXAS – A trio of teams were crowned as the best in Texas at the “Battle for the Rings” on Aug. 22 at the Bryan Regional Athletic Complex.
The WORTH Lone Star Shootout State Championship Series is the premier adult slow-pitch softball event in the Lone Star State. Qualifiers begin in January and continue through June. Teams which qualify are invited to the prestigious Shootout State Finals. This year, for the first time ever, there were two State Finals – the North Texas State Finals were held at Big League Dreams in Mansfield, Texas (near Fort Worth) and the South Texas State Finals were held at Big League Dreams in League City, Texas (near Houston).
The first place teams from each division at those two State Finals were invited to Bryan for the “Battle for the Rings” to see which teams would win the coveted Lone Star Shootout State Champion Rings. The format was a best two-out-of-three game series in each division. Bryan was selected as the site, as it is almost exactly halfway between Mansfield and League City.
On paper, the best matchup of the three appeared to be in the Men’s D division. KG’s Sports Grill/Natty D’s from Ft. Worth represented North Texas, while Texas Threat repped the South. Not only did each team win their respective Lone Star Shootout State Finals, each also won their own respective USSSA State Tournament as well. Their ballyhooed “Battle for the Rings” matchup did not disappoint.
The opening game featured crafty pitching and great defense on both sides. There was no score through the first four innings, before Ronnie Borah singled with two outs and eventually scored the game’s first run for KG’s in the fifth inning. KG’s added another run in the sixth and held on for a 2-1 victory in the opening game.
KG’s looked like they might complete the two-game sweep, as they led 7-6 after four innings in Game 2. But KG’s did not score in the top of the fifth and Texas Threat responded with three runs to take a 9-7 lead. KG’s went scoreless again in the top of the sixth, and Texas Threat tacked on three more runs to open a 12-7 lead. KG’s managed two runs in the seventh, as Texas Threat evened the series with a 12-9 victory.
The third and final game went all Texas Threat’s way. The Houston team exploded for five runs in the top of the first inning and that was all they needed. KG’s appeared worn out in the 100-plus-degree Texas heat and they managed just one run the entire game, as Texas Threat claimed the rings with a 9-1 rubber match win.
“I’ve been playing softball a long time, and this day is what I have always dreamed of,” said Texas Threat manager Jesse Gonzalez. “It has been a great season for us and this championship caps it all off.”
Cleanup hitter Lalo Lerma and 11-hole hitter Blake Vallet each went a combined 6-for-8 in the three games to lead Texas Threat. Shortstop Jose Molina and leftfielder Joseph Reed were the leaders of the Texas Threat defense. Other players for Texas Threat were David Delgado, Javier Rodriguez, Pete Chavez, Mike Barrera, Jason Juarez, Adrian Sanchez, Robert Rodriguez, Chris Lopez, Mike Mendez, Danny Hernandez, Daniel Rodriguez and Gustavo Curiel.
It was a disappointing loss for KG’s Sports Grill/Natty D’s manager Paul Wheat. “This is the worst hitting performance we’ve had all year and we picked the worst possible time to do it,” Wheat said. But Wheat has to be extremely proud of the achievements his team has accomplished this season.
The Men’s C matchup featured Color Station from Ft. Worth representing North Texas and Slapaho from Dickinson repping the South. Color Station appeared to be the much stronger of the two teams on paper, coming in ranked 17th in the nation in USSSA Points. In addition to winning the LSSO North Texas State Finals, Color Station also won first place at the Jeff Hall Shootout, a SBW Cup Qualifier and the SBW Cup Finals.
Meanwhile, Slapaho had an average year at best. Their record before the LSSO STX State Finals was 11-17 with third place being their highest finish on the year. But Slapaho pulled it all together for one great weekend and beat all the higher-ranked teams at the LSSO STX State Finals to win first place, and were looking for the same kind of performance against Color Station.
In Game 1, Color Station held an 8-4 lead after five innings, before exploding for eight runs in the top of the sixth to open a commanding 16-4 lead. When Slapaho could respond in the bottom of the sixth, then game ended on a run-rule.
After taking an hour break, Slapaho came out like a team on a mission by scoring four runs in the top of the first inning of Game 2. But that big punch was all that manager Jonathan Rodriguez’s team could muster, as Slapaho scored just two runs the rest of the way. Color Station had two big frames – scoring five runs in the second and seven more in the sixth – as they cruised to a 14-6 win to complete the sweep.
Color Station sponsor George Sauceda had his team focused for the matchup. Even though the first game did not begin until noon Saturday, he brought the team to Bryan-College Station on Friday so they could get a good night of sleep and focus on the goal at hand. Manager Ronnie Cardenas and coach Michael Wilson are both experienced at leading championship teams. Cardenas has guided North Texas powerhouses such as La Casa and Diesel in year’s past, while Wilson’s coaching resume includes stints at the helm of Conference USSSA teams.
Loy Rodriguez and Churon Thomas, the 1-2 hitters for Color Station, each went 5-for-8 in the series. Meanwhile, Josh Trimm, Color Station’s new pitcher, did a masterful job of keeping Slapaho hitters off balance in both games. Other players for Color Station were Jeremy Craft, Greg Collette, Stuart Therrian, Dwane Tockey, Brandon Young, Angel Castillo, Johnny Reyes, Tony Lopez, Raul Cardenas, jr., Tommy Jones, Jr. and Todd Rowe.
The Men’s E matchup featured Texas Turbulence from Greenville repre¬senting North Texas and Los Clavos/Team SAS repping the South. Texas Turbulence had the more decorated resume of the two, having won first place at nine tournaments on the season including the most prestigious tournament in Texas – the 24th Annual Budweiser Softball Festival played earlier in the year on the same BRAC fields as the “Battle for the Rings.”
But that didn’t deter Los Clavos. Manager David Pineda’s crew scratched in every inning except one in Game 1, as they clawed their way to a 10-6 victory.
Then, Los Clavos posted a five spot in the top of the first inning of Game 2 and Texas Turbulence could never recover. After scoring one run in the second inning to cut the Los Clavos lead to 5-1, Texas Turbulence went three-up/three-down in the third, fourth and fifth innings, which allowed Los Clavos to open up a commanding 8-1 lead. Texas Turbulence added a single run in both the sixth and seventh frames to make the final score 8-3.
Shortstop P.J. Birones was the leading hitter for Los Clavos, as he went 4-for-6 in the two games, while pitcher Ram Aleman and outfielders Santos Gomez, Jr. and Angel Aleman led the defense. Other players for Los Clavos were Ricardo Banda, Roland resendez, Jesse Zavala, Felix Tamez, Albert Torres, Randy Cuellar, Frankie Lozoya, Gabriel Borrego and Rick Hernandez.
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!