The tournament was played at Big League Dreams in League City, which is a suburb of Houston. The six-field complex features Fieldturf infields, which provides true hops for infielders. Each of the fields is a replica of a current or former Major League venue, such as Yankee Stadium (Bronx), Fenway Park (Boston), Wrigley Field (Chicago), Sportsmans Park (St. Louis), Ebbets Field (Brooklyn) and Crosley Field (Cincinnati). In 2009, a veteran softball reporter called Big League Dreams, “The finest facility in the Conference, maybe the nation.”
The complex was not without some blemishes this year, though. The park is located just minutes from the beaches of Galveston. Less than nine months prior to the tournament, Big League Dreams stood directly in the path of Hurricane Ike, the third most destructive hurricane ever to make land¬fall in the United States. The 40-foot concrete and plywood walls surrounding each field withstood the barrage from the Category 4 Hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph. But some of the protective nettings, awnings and graphics weren’t as lucky. Games resumed within a couple of weeks of the historic storm, but signs of its damage are still visible both inside Big League Dreams and at neighboring busi¬nesses along Interstate 45.
Each of the first two years of the Space City Classic – 2007 and 2008 – the tournament was was won by Resmondo/Specialty Tank/Worth. Some of the blasts hit those years by players such as Jeff Wallace, Rusty Bumgardner, Jeff Hall, Greg Connell and others were probably detectable on the radars at nearby NASA.
But the Sod Boys decided not to return is 2009, which threw the tournament wide open for all comers. Teams from eight different states made the trek to the Space City, including 2007 runnerup Fencebrokers/Worth from Conway, Arkansas, 2008 third place finisher T&R Stucco/Worth from Polk City, Florida, longtime national power The Scene from New York, plus others from Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Colorado and, of course, throughout Texas.
T&R Stucco/Worth was the pre-tournament favorite, with one Conference USSSA championship already under their belts (Peach State Shootout), and they would not disappoint. Team sponsor Troy Nance, manager Tim “Tiny” Taylor and chaperon/ coach Jackie Hayes showed up ready to play on Friday night.
Their first opponent was the LED Bulldogs, a local D team which had posted 29 runs in a first round victory before meeting T&R Stucco. The Bulldog bats weren’t quite a potent against T&R pitcher Mike Rose, as Stucco impressed the huge crowd with a 25-4 stomping.
T&R returned Saturday morning to face Meridian, a strong B team from Houston, which in 2001 previously won the ASA Class A West National Championship. Meridian was missing a few of their regular starters for the Space City Classic, and one of their pickups for the weekend was former Minnesota Twin and New York Yankee All-Star second-baseman Chuck Knoblauch. The Meridian lineup also featured former Steele’s slugger Kenny Scobee. But Knoblauch, Scobee & Company could not muster so much as a single run as Rose pitched T&R Stucco to a quick 16-0 blanking.
Next up was Corbell, from nearby Pearland, and T&R kept rolling with a 21-8 victory to move into the semi-finals of the winner’s bracket where they met Mafia/House of Pain, a strong C team from Dallas. Mafia was not expected to be in this posi¬tion, but they were already 4-0 in the SCC with three wins over B teams including one over a Conference USSSA B team, Peak/ Capital Mortgage from Colorado. Mafia gave T&R Stucco all they could handle, before Tiny’s Troops escaped by a narrow 15-12 margin.
That propelled T&R into the King Seat game late Saturday night, where their bats woke up and produced a 31-15 run-rule victory over Fencebrokers/Illustrated Sportswear/Worth.
Fencebrokers dropped to the loser’s bracket Sunday morning, where teams had been pounding on each other all weekend in the 95- degree Texas heat compounded by high humidity.
The team to emerge for Fencebrokers to face in the loser’s bracket finals was one of USSSA’s surprise teams of 2009, Wood Law from Dallas. The team, which began the year classified as C, opened some eyes by winning four games in each of the two season-opening Hall of Fame tournaments in Kissimmee, Fla. Wood Law then added USSSA Major List player Dennis Shrum, which forced them to move up to Class B.
Player/sponsor Doug Wood’s bunch really shocked the nation by finishing third at the Texas Legends NIT near their North Texas base. Among the high-profile teams finishing behind Wood Law at that tournament included GTL/Stucco, AJS/ Easton, Fencebrokers/Worth, Showcase/Worth, WCS/LCV and Combat USA. The only teams finishing ahead of Wood Law were Major Open titans Resmondo and Dan Smith. Soon after that stellar showing, Wood Law was moved up to Class A.
Fencebrokers and Wood Law had met previously in the winner’s bracket semi-finals of the Space City Classic, with Fencebrokers taking a 19-12 win. There was much more on the line in the re-match Sunday morning, as the winner advanced to the championship game against T&R Stucco, while the loser headed to the house. It was a pitchers dual and defensive struggle for seven innings, until Wood Law pitcher L.C. Watson hit a walkoff home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning to give Wood Law a 15-14 win.
In the championship game, Wood Law – playing without the absent Shrum on the weeeknd – kept it close for a few innings. But after going down 1-2-3 in one of the middle innings, T&R responded with a nine-run frame to blow the game open. Then, with two out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Dustin Roberts doubled to the gap in right-centerfield to score a pair of runs and end the game on the 15-run-rule, 29-14.
T&R Stucco/Worth finished the tournament with a perfect 6-0 record, while Wood Law was runnerup at 6-2, Fencebrokers/ Worth was third at 4-2 and Mafia/House of Pain came in fourth at 5-2.
The Scene lost their first game of the tournament in an upset, then reeled off six straight wins before running out of gas and finishing tied for fifth place with Corbell. Gametime/ Bonecrushers/Worth from Arkansas and FNS/DPS of San Antonio tied for seventh, while Color Station from Ft. Worth, Miken Express from Austin, Fighting Cocks from Houston and the LA Strokers from Lafayette, Louisiana rounded out the top 10 tied for ninth place.
Mitch Mabe and Rich Gulash, both of T&R Stucco/Worth, were named Co-Most Valuable Players of the tournament. Wood Law’s L.C. Watson was named the Outstanding Offensive Player, while T&R’s Randall Poplin was named the Outstanding Defensive Player.
The rest of the All-Tournament Team included: John Dutch, Mike Rose, Brad Stillwell and Dustin Roberts, of T&R Stucco; Brandon Evans, Steve Whaley, Jebbie King and Kevin Ballard, of Wood Law; Brian McElroy, Robert Stewart, Tim Bowser and Chad Walker, of Fencebrokers; Keith Perry, Matt McFarlin and Jason Allen, of Mafia/House of Pain; Ryan Riddle and Keith Taylor, of Corbell; and Justin Valenti, of The Scene.
USSSA awards paid berths to the World Tournament for the highest finishing non-Conference teams from each division. Those awards went to: Men’s B – Corbell; Men’s C – Mafia/House of Pain (who has since changed its team name to Fleetwood/ Tapout); Men’s D – LA Strokers; and Men’s E – Texas Scorpions.
In addition to the main double-elimination bracket, promoters of the Space City Classic also provided separate single-elimi-nation brackets for all divisions below Men’s B. The winners of those consolation brackets were: Men’s C – Elite Softball from Dickinson over Fidelity Medical from Spring; Men’s D – The Endzone from Carencro, Louisiana over Xtreme from Lafayette, Louisiana; Men’s E – Texas Scorpions from Houston over the Blowholes from Tomball.
By Van Galeon
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!