MANSFIELD, TEXAS – A spirit that dates back to the very foundation of the Republic of Texas was on display recently when adult slow-pitch softball teams battled for their biggest prize in the state these days – the Lone Star Shootout Series Championship Rings.
Texas heroes such as Jim Bowie, James Fannin, William B. Travis and Davey Crockett, along with fellow Texan and Tejano soldiers, lost their lives and their land on March 6, 1836 at the “Battle of the Alamo” in San Antonio. But less than two months later, Gen. Sam Houston and revamped Texas troops won back that land and their indepen¬dence at the “Battle of San Jacinto” near Houston.
The spirit of that Texan resilience was on display – in a slightly less impor¬tant arena – on July 28-29 this year at the Lone Star Shootout “Battle for the Rings” held at Big League Dreams in Mansfield, as ALL SIX divisions went down to an “if” game. Some teams simply refused to lose.
The Lone Star Shootout State Championship Series is the premier adult slow-pitch softball program in Texas. Qualifiers began in early January and were held in every corner of the state on a weekly basis, culminating with the Grand Championship “Battle for the Rings” in late summer.
In true Texas tradition, where every¬thing is bigger, Super Bowl-style rings were awarded to members of the cham¬pionship teams in each division. This year’s piece featured a prominent star surrounded by stones on the face of the gaudy ring. And though some say it resembles the star orn on the side of the helmet of a popular pro football team in Dallas, it actually signifies the lone “Star” of the Lone Star Shootout Series.
Prior to 2011, the “Battle for the Rings” was a simple head-to-head, best-out-of-five game series between the North Texas State Champion and the South Texas State Champion in each divi¬sion. But starting last year, the “Battle for the Rings” was expanded to a full-fledged, invitation-only double-elimi¬nation tournament held at Big League Dreams in Mansfield. The modern eight-field complex was selected due to its large number of fields, plus its recently installed FieldTurf playing surfaces which virtually eliminates weather-related issues. The tournament consisted of 120 teams from all across Texas, plus a few from Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
In every division except Men’s B, there were 10 automatic invitations handed out for the “Battle for the Rings.” Those bids went to the top two finishers at five tournaments – the North Texas State Finals (Mansfield), South Texas State Finals (League City), Southwest State Finals (San Antonio), the gigantic Budweiser Softball Festival (Bryan- College Station) and North Texas Budfest (Mansfield). At-large berths were awarded to other teams with the next highest point totals in the Lone Star Shootout Final Standings.
Resilience was on display in spades in the Men’s C Division, where the pre-tournament favorite among the 16 teams was the No. 1-ranked Texas Regulators from Garland. The Regulators were still playing with heavy hearts after the unexpected death of their coach, Buddy Wren, less than one month earlier. In their only prior appearance since Wren’s death, the Regulators went 0-2 at the Little Rock Major.
Things didn’t start out well for the Texas Regulators at the “Battle for the Rings” either, as they lost their first round game to Olmito Heat (12-11). The Regulators then dropped to the loser’s bracket and defeated Steel/AYS/Glove It Sports (16-3), Prototype/Soldi (18-6) and Vivid/NTX Mayhem (18-6) in a game that did not end until after 4 a.m. Sunday. The Regulators returned to the park a few hours later, with very little sleep, and defeated the Jokers (13-5), Stanley Law/TWP (12-10) and Budweiser/Frank’s/Gooseneck (14-10) to make it all the way back to the championship against the team that handed them their first loss. The Regulators then proceeded to double-dip Olmito Heat, 20-5 and 23-14, to claim the championship with an 8-1 record.
“Buddy would have been so excited to see this,” said manager Craig Burns. “He put his heart into the team this year, and this was our goal. These guys showed how much heart they have after losing the very first game then coming all the way back against great competition.”
Olmito Heat overcame long odds as well in capturing second place, as their players had to make a 10-hour drive from the Rio Grande Valley just to get to the tournament. Their 4-2 record earned the runnerup trophy and made them imme¬diate contenders to watch for at the USSSA Hispanic World Tournament to be held just minutes from their hometown in Brownsville later this year.
Budweiser/Frank’s/Gooseneck from Bryan-College Station came in third place; Stanley Law/TWP from Oklahoma City finished fourth; and the Jokers from Ft. Worth and Old School from Spring tied for fifth. The rest of the Top 10 consisted of TheFactoryGirl from Forney and Vivid/NTX Mayhem from Plano, tied for seventh; and Whut It Dew from San Antonio, Texas Bombers from Houston, Call Your Shot from Round Rock, and Prototype/Soldi from Kennedale, all tied for ninth.
Members of the All-Tournament team included: Jeff Toborsky, Shawn Burris, Austin Denney, Preston Spurlin and Stephen Cooper, of Texas Regulators; Anthony Salinas, Mike Aguirre, Julio Ruiz and Hawk Scott, of Olmito Heat; Kip Todhunter, Jared Lehman and Kevin Ballard, of Budweiser/Frank’s/Gooseneck; and Dusty Brown, Chris Townley and Brian Masoner, of Stanley Law/TWP. Others named All-Tournament were Garvin Mikesh (Whut It Dew), A.J. Cicconi (Select Few), Brian Elliott (Prototype/ Soldi), Patrick Guajardo (Call Your Shot), Noel Nevarez (Vivid/ NTX Mayhem), Cody Kagiorgis (TheFactoryGirl) and Monte Lewis (Old School).
In the 28-team Men’s D Bracket, it was a team that was bumped from E to D after the 2011 season that won it all. The DC Outlaws went 81-34 against E opponents in 2011, but the “Battle for the Rings” was not one of their better moments, as they went 0-2 in that one. But despite getting bumped this year, DC/Y&R/Middle Finger Crew from Houston, made it back to the Big Dance. DC/Y&R earned their berth by finishing second at the Lone Star South Texas D State Finals, then backed that up with an impressive third place finish playing up in the STX C State Finals the following weekend.
At the 2012 “Battle for the Rings,” DC/Y&R posted wins over Owen Oil Tools (12-11), Wasted Weekends (13-3), Bad Decisions (16-14), LA Classic/Buzini (18-17) and Hitmen (12-9) to advance to the championship game. That’s five wins with all except one by either one, two or three runs. After losing to DC/Y&R in the king seat game, the Hitmen dropped to the loser’s bracket and knocked off the 409ers to get another shot in the champion¬ship. The Hitmen even beat DC/Y&R, before the Houston team rebounded in the “if” game to claim the championship with a 14-11 win and 6-1 record. DC/Y&R had a run differential of just 1.28 in their seven games. That’s cutting it close.
“We wanted to come up here and rep for H-Town against all the great competition in this tournament,” said manager Gabriel Rivera. “We did that and proved we are the best D team in Texas for 2012.”
The Hitmen from San Antonio are a team of veterans who were a longtime fixture in Men’s C. But after going 1-6 against C opponents in 2011, they successfully appealed to drop to Class D. And manager Joe Antu’s crew only had a mediocre 17-16 record against D opponents this year, before coming out of nowhere to finish second with a 6-2 record at “Battle for the Rings.”
The 409ers from Galveston went 5-2 to claim third place; JBSA-Lackland, a military team from San Antonio, went 5-2 to finish fourth; and LA Classic/Buzini from Bossier City, La. and Wharton’s Worst Nightmares from Wharton tied for fifth. WWN is another true success story, as they won first place at the 2011 “Battle for the Rings” in Men’s E. But rather than break up and scatter like cowards, as many teams do after getting an end-of-year bump, WWN stuck together and have had a successful season in the D division, cracking the top five at the next higher level in the “Battle For The Rings.”
The rest of the Top 10 consisted of Realside Softball from Dallas and BTX Bulls/Elite from Beaumont, tied for seventh place; and Texas Rage from Edinburg, Wasted Weekend from Allen, AMPM/Glove It Sports from Houston and Bad Decisions from San Antonio, all tied for ninth.
Members of the All-Tournament team included: Larry Juarez, Steven Diaz, Joshua Biehl, Thomas Darr and Dominic Cano, of DC/Y&R; Gil Carbajal, Trey Roberts, Angel Cruz and Joey Antu III, of Hitmen; Robert Salinas, Lance Sholmire and Daniel Boyington, of 409ers; and Brett Cannon, Brian Goelz and Chris Brinkhaus, of JBSA-Lackland. Others named All-Tournament were Devin Trotti (Wharton’s Worst Nightmares), Chris Garcia (Realside), Noel Guerra (Brewskies), Luis Hernandez (Famous/ A3), Denton Aguam (Outlawz/Oak Cliff’s Finest), Chris Almanza (Dynasty), Kevin Barrey (Angry Chimps), Elliott Escamilla (Team Texas), Jonathan Lord (H&H), Jason Yankie (Team Worth It), Mitch Best (Owen Oil Tools), Paul Knaus (Team FU), Ryan McDonald (Sinister/RL), Jason White (Smashouse), David Holland (Hit and Run), Felipe Rodriguez (Team MTS), Jared Ledbetter (Bass Tools), Jordan Hooker (Wasted Weekend), David Escobar (Texas Rage) and Taylor Beavers (LA Classic/Buzini).
The largest bracket of the tournament was Men’s E, which featured 32 teams. Coming into the “Battle for the Rings”, the Phenoms from San Antonio had three first place finishes on their resume, but had finished only fourth at the Southwest State Finals and tied for ninth at the Budweiser Festival. Then in the most important tournament of the year, the Phenoms defeated Disruption (4-2), Batteries Plus (16-4), Devilz Rejectz (11-6), Back-AlleyStrokers (11-6) and Ain’t No Easy (18-4) to advance to the championship game undefeated.
Meanwhile, Guess Who from Magnolia defeated No Chance (15-3), Goons (12-7) and Buckwild (7-6), before losing to Ain’t No Easy (14-11). Then, Guess Who dropped to the loser’s bracket and knocked off the Devilz Rejectz (12-9), Back-Alley Strokers (14-13) and Ain’t No Easy in a re-match (13-3) to make it to the championship. Guess Who knocked off the Phenoms (16-13) in the first game to set up a winner-take-all “if” game, but the Phenoms rallied for a thrilling 11-10 win to capture the crown with a 6-1 record. Guess Who settled for second place with a 7-2 mark.
“This team just got together in 2011, and most of the guys were teammates on the baseball team back in high school at Burbank High (in San Antonio),” said manager Troy Arredondo. “This is so awesome for it being our first time being here. To beat out the 32 best teams in Texas was cool.”
Ain’t No Easy from Austin came in third place with a 4-2 record; Back-Alley Strokers from Spring finished fourth also at 4-2; while the Devilz Rejectz from Richmond and B&N Sports Bar/Texas Crooks from San Antonio tied for fifth. The rest of the Top 10 consisted of SOS Softball/Autoplex from Baytown and GT Crew/CSC from Seguin, tied for seventh; and Mayhem from Houston, Batteries Plus from College Station, Dirty Sox/ On The Rox from Conroe, and Buckwild from Houston, all tied for ninth.
Members of the All-Tournament team included: Nick Esparza, John Tejada, James Holton, Gilbert Campos and Ralphie Lopez, of the Phenoms; Jeremy Collins, James Kelley, Devon Conroy and Adam Deltgen, of Guess Who; Reno Malay, Derrick Walls and Mike Turnipseed, of Ain’t No Easy; and Dustin McCoy, Brian Cote and Buddy Yen III, of Back-Alley Strokers. Others making All-Tournament were Ruben Ybanez III (Baaaaad), Phillip Farmer (DTA), Jacob Ryan (Texas Swagger), Scott Vidrine (Goons), Paul Quintanilla (Disruption), Jose Flores (Chuggers), Dalton Vanatta (Cen-Tex Outlaws), John Flores (Chop City), Thomas Quinones (B.O.B.), Toby Stripling (Texas Rampage), Andrew Wells (Akin 2 Live), Jason Gonzales (Young Bucks), Keith McMillan (Team Impact), Inocente Rea (NTX Takeover), Shawn Davis (Batteries Plus), Pete Almaraz IV (Buckwild), Graig Harrison (Mayhem), Ronald Lawson (GT Crew), Josh Luna (SOS/ Autopolex), Tyrone Fields (Devilz Rejectz) and Blake Cisneros (Dirty Sox).
In 2011, Team Dallas Women advanced all the way to the cham¬pionship game of the “Battle for the Rings” before settling for second place in the Women’s C/D bracket. This year, they would not be denied. Team Dallas Women posted wins over Genesis (14-8), Jolt (10-5) and Lady Top Dog (13-4) to make it to Sunday undefeated. But they lost the King Seat game to HarmsWay (10-7). Then Team Dallas Women dropped to the loser’s bracket and eliminated the red-hot Lady Brokers (10-8) to make it back to the championship, where they proceeded to double-dip HarmsWay, 7-0 and 11-4, to finally win their rings.
“This feels great,” said leadoff batter Temeka Stoker. “It was so disappointing when we lost in the championship game last year. But we were determined to come back and win those rings this year. And we did.”
HarmsWay from nearby Ft. Worth was the runner-up this year with a 4-2 record, while the Lady Brokers from Houston came in third at 6-2 and Cajun Chaos from Haughton, La. came in fourth at 4-2. Cajun Chaos won first place at the 2011 “Battle for the Rings” playing under the name Louisiana’s Finest as a D team.
Lady Top Dog from Beaumont and Lady Terror Squad from Bryan tied for fifth place, while the Lady Warhawks from San Antonio and WTC Team Texas Blast from Lubbock tied for seventh. The remainder of the Top 10 was Lady Ego from Houston, Famous Freaks from Sanger, B&T Express from Houston, and Jolt from Arlington, all tied for ninth.
Members of the All-Tournament team included: Kamara Stancle, Melissa Gholston, Tracey Rodgers, Brittany Washington and Towana Tollette, of Team Dallas Women; Carol Wells, Misty Rowell, Terri Puinter and Courtney Walters, of HarmsWay; Monica Phillips, Kiamesha Goynes and April Garcia, of Lady Brokers; and Leanne Shanks, Shannon Miles and Deni Zeigler, of Cajun Chaos. Others named All-Tournament were Yolanda Garcia (Connection), Desirae Soto (San Antonio Aces), Andrea Gonzales (Lady Hard Shots), Kara Liakos (Rated-R Supa Stars), Joyce Williams (Texas Queens), Renee Rea (B&T Express), Melissa Ream (Jolt), Tara Fields (Lady Warhawks), Tawna Williams (Team Texas Blast) and Christina Jacques (Lady Top Dog).
In the 20-team Mixed C/D Bracket, Alldaysports.com from Carrollton won their first five games over UA/Urban Assault (17-12), Co-ed Connection (10-8), Angels & Demons (12-11), Craftmasters/Half Nuts (10-9) and Team Prototype (14-0) to advance to the championship game. Co-ed Connection from San Antonio took a less-conventional path. After losing their first game to Alldaysports.com, Co-Connection dropped to the loser’s bracket and reeled off consecutive wins over PHS/ ASPNation.com (9-8), G.M.B. (15-12), High Octane (12-5), Craftmasters/Half Nuts (17-16), Angels & Demons (16-14) and Team Prototype (9-5) to make it back to the finals. Co-ed Connection then beat Alldaysports.com (16-8) to set up an “if” game, which Alldaysports.com won (16-5) to capture first place with a 6-1 record. Co-ed Connection had to settle for second place at 7-2.
Team Prototype from Dallas came in third at 3-2; Angels & Demons from Austin finished fourth at 4-2, and Sluggers from Friendswood and Craftmasters/Half Nuts from Brenham tied for fifth. The rest of the Top 10 consisted of 90 Proof from Center and High Octane from Carrollton, tied for seventh; and 123 Not It from Euless, Cen-Tex Outlaws Co-ed from Harker Heights, G.M.B. from Ft. Worth and DGKoed from Houston, all tied for ninth.
Members of the All-Tournament team included Luke Evans, Kip Todhunter, Alicia Zamora, Tawna Williams and James Barron, of Alldaysports.com; George Govea, Donte LaPoint, Sarah Kimec and Greg Perez, of Co-ed Connection; Ethan Stackler, Levi Coon and Cory Waldrop, of Team Prototype; and Zach Fisher, Adam Carter and Archie Windham, of Angels & Demons. Others named All-Tournament were Voncia Ducre (Whut It Dew), Raul Gomez Jr. (UTI), Raul Cantu (Cen-Tex Outlaws), Damien Delasbour (PHS/ASPNation), Pablo Cuellar (The Misfits), Lindsey Halter (G.M.B.), Joseph Reed Jr. (DGKoed), Matt Diverdi (90 Proof), Cameron Squirres (High Octane), Caley Jeter (Craftmasters) and Natasha Tate (Team Juggernaut/HTC).
There was also a four-team Men’s B/Conference C “Upper” Bracket in the tournament, and all had enjoyed success at various times this year. Team All-Out/DaBomb from Houston shocked the softball world by scoring an upset over defending Major Open world champion Resmondo/Specialty Tank/Worth en route to a fourth place finish at the Texas Star Major in Euless. Texas Miken Softball Club from Pearland, who played in Conference USSSA in 2011, tied for seventh at the Space City Major in League City. Sagnasty/Worth/Prototype from Saginaw and Miken Mafia/ASPNation from Rowlett were both in Conference USSSA as C teams this year. Sagnasty tied for fifth place at both the Texas Legends Major and Busch Major in Little Rock, while Miken Mafia placed third at Space City and fourth at Little Rock.
Miken Mafia/ASPNation featured weekend pickups of Conference USSSA players L.C. Watson from Resmondo, Justin Stuart and Brady Bascle from Buzinisports.com/BWW/Worth, and Rodney Fail from The Scene. Meanwhile, Sagnasty/Worth/ Prototype had just one pickup, Cory Large from Line Drive, and Texas Miken also had just one pickup, Mark Dennis from The Scene, while Team All-Out/Da Bomb had no Conference USSSA pickups.
With their four new players leading the way, Miken Mafia/ ASPNation went undefeated to grab first place, winning all three games by 10-plus runs.
Sagnasty/Worth/Prototype went 2-2 to come in second place, while Texas Miken was third. Team All-Out/DaBomb was fourth.
Members of the All-Tournament team were Justin Stuart, Charles Key, Jason Trammell, Chris Potts and Marcus Thornton, of Miken Mafia; Luke Evans, Trace Reynolds, Juan Rodriguez and Cooper Vittitow, of Sagnasty; Kenny Hare, Matt Kainer and Ryan Riddle, of Texas Miken; and Kevin Cooper and Frank Reyna, of All-Out/DaBomb.
The weekend festivities at “Battle for the Rings” began Friday night with three All-Star Games on Polo Grounds Field. The first game featured Women’s players and North Texas, led by manager Dwayne Crisp, held on for a narrow win over South Texas. The second game was for Men’s D/E players, and the South Texas under manager Billy Ward scored a decisive victory over the North to even things up. The third and deciding game was for Men’s B/C players, and manager John Heath’s North All-Stars pounded the South to win the night for the Northerners.
By Van Galeon, Contributing Writer
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!