After winning 22 straight tournament softball games and five tournaments in a row, the Street Kids/Wildman/KoteIt softball team took their streaks to Kalamazoo, Michigan for the NSA Directors Cup Championship. SKS came in as the number two seed behind 22 Below, the last team to beat SKS by the way. SKS has played in three DC events, and won the last two they played in.
They opened the tournament against EMR, a good team from Ohio who had just beat Region Softball pretty easily. As good as Region is, SKS knew this would not be an easy game. But SKS came out on fire, scoring 11 runs in the second inning and never looked back, winning 21-9 in six innings. Jeremy Hochstetler and Scott Martin led the way with four hits each.
The second game was against Silvertowne from southern Indiana, who has proven in years past that they can beat SKS. Silvertowne got by Honey Badgers by one run in the bottom of the seventh inning to reach the game against SKS. This one started out slow for Street Kids before they warmed up and started to hit. They scored six in the third inning and five in the fourth to take the lead, but it was the big fifth inning that made the difference. With only a 14-10 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth, SKS got read hot, scoring nine runs and walking off the game with two run home run by Jay Jeffery, to win the game by the mercy rule, 23-10. Todd Mase, Joe Horvath, Leland Schmucker, Jay Jeffery, Fred Schmucker and Tim Austin all had three hits each for the victorious Kids.
Street Kids had now reached the winners bracket finals and would face the number one seed, 22 Below, who just knocked off the heavy favorite conference team Plumbers and Pipefitters, 31-16. This game would be an epic battle between two great teams which both featured a lot of offense and a lot of depth; both teams had a deep bench as 22 Below manager Chris Douglass and SKS manager TJ Jorgensen countered switches and changes back and forth throughout the game.
22 Below struck first with six runs in the top of the first inning, but SKS answered back with six in the home half. This is how the game would go, back and forth. 22's biggest inning was an 11-run fourth inning which was huge as SKS would onlyh manage five, two, and three run innings the rest of the way. In the end, a big five run seventh would prove to be the difference as SKS could not manage the comeback, falling to 22 Below by the score of 31-28, ending the team record winning streak at 24 straight. Jeremy Hochstetler and Jay Jeffery led the way with five hits each, while Joe Horvath (eight RBI's) and Scott Martin added four hits each.
If SKS wanted to get back in the winning column and win their sixth straight tourney, they would have to start with the losers bracket. They were pitted against Silvertowne once again, and the results were almost the same, as SKS would jump all over a tired Silvertowne team and win 18-6. Newell Phebus, Terry Patesel, Jeremy Hochstetler, Joe Horvath and Tim Austin all had three hits in the win.
Street Kids were now back in the finals against 22 Below. In order to win this tourney, they would have to double dip an inspired and red hot 22 team. If you watched only the first inning of this game, you would already be looking forward to the second game. Street Kids jumped out to a huge lead, scoring 16 runs in the bottom of the first inning. 22 Below answered back though with nine in the second inning, taking advantage of an SKS infield error. Despite the big lead early, SKS and 22 were now battling neck and neck once again toward the finish line. 22 put up six runs in the top of the fifth, one in the sixth and three key runs in the top of the seventh. How did SKS answer? Well, after scoring seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, they would go two for their next 12, including leaving the tying run on deck with home runs to hit in the bottom of the seventh inning. 22 Below beat SKS 27-24 to win the Directors Cup Championship.
"I didn't think we played that bad today," said SKS coach JR Shapiro. "Even the game they (22) beat us 31-28, we didn't play bad, they just out hit us. In the championship game, our bats went dead for the last three innings, managing two hits."
Newell Phebus, who went a perfect 12-for-12 on the day, had five hits for SKS while Jeremy Hochstetler, Joe Horvath and Leland Schmucker all added four hits. Despite the great performance by everyone in that game, Phebus' single in the sixth inning was the lone clean base hit in the last three innings. Following the single by Phebus, Hochstetler walked then the 3,4,5 batters for SKS all flew out weakly, leaving the go ahead runs (at that time) on base.
Despite the loss, the SKS team did finish in second place and lost to a good team in 22 Below. Congrats to Chris Douglass and his team for an amazing run and good luck to them the rest of the way. For SKS, three players were named to the all-tourney team including Phebus, Hochstetler and Joe Horvath. Jay Jeffery, Fred Schmucker and Tim Austin all turned in good performances as well, all batting over .700 on the day. Jay Jeffery made an amazing catch on a pop foul in the championship game climbing the fence and leaping to grab the pop up before it went out of play. At the time, it was a huge play with the bases loaded.
Up next for SKS will be the 40th annual Topeka July 4th tournament, which is also part of the Worth Power Series. SKS will play the winner of Challenger Door and Strays at 8pm on Wednesday night. Here is the link for the Topeka bracket. The tourney concludes late Thursday night with an amazing firework display. If you have never attended the Topeka July 4th event, it is something to witness as over 2,000 people will line up around the field for the championship game. Click here to watch a short video promo about the July 4th tourney.
SKS is currently in third place in the stacked Worth Power Series Class B standings, trailing Jones and Sons of Montgomery and Synergy of Topeka. They only trail Synergy by 140 points and trail second place Jones by only 40 points.