July 15, 2012
After struggling for the last four tournaments, dating back to June 8th in Indianapolis, the Street Kids Mojo softball team are finally back in familiar territory. Champions.
SKS went a perfect 4-0 en route to winning the Kiracofe Memorial tournament for the second straight year with a 15-5 win over Honey Badgers in the championship game. It was the eighth overall tournament win for SKS this season, but the first since June 2nd when they won the NSA event in Kokomo.
"This is exaclty what this team needed heading into the post season next weekend," said Terry Patesel, who earned all tournament honors this weekend in his hometown event. "Whatever we did this year up to this point - winning or losing - is out the window when the post season starts. Many teams, including ourselves, consider Kiracofe the beginning to the post season, and the win today was huge for this team."
Patesel, who leads the tournament team in hitting this yeat with a .717 average and a team high 15 triples, won his seventh Kiracofe title this weekend. Mlive.com did a story about Patesel prior to the tournamnent, which is available here.. MLive.com also covered the results of the nations longest running memorial event, which you can read here.
The Street Kids team opened the event on Saturday against home town favorite and reigning USSSA World Champions Plumbers & Pipefitters/Suburban. For the first four innings, Plumbers beat the Kids up, taking a 17-6 lead into the sixth inning. But Plumbers bats went cold and the Kids began to heat up, they scored eight in the sixth inning to bring them closer, then after the defense shut down Plumbers once again, Street Kids rallied in the bottom of the seventh. Johnny Simpson, who won his fourth straight Kiracofe title this weekend and record 17th overall, led off with a single, and Tim Austin singled for his third hit of the game after that. Fred Schmucker and Faron Miller followed with RBI singles each. Tony Hardiman and Terry Patesel each made an out and the Kids were now down by one and down to their last out. Jeremy Hochstetler, the 2011 SKS tourney MVP, came through with a clutch game tying RBI double and after that Horvath was walked and that brought up last years overall MVP Jay Jeffery. Jeffery lined a rocket toward the gap that scored Hochstetler and gave the Kids a thrilling come from behind win, 18-17.
"That was one of the most exciting games of the season," said coach JR Shapiro. "I was nervous as can be in that seventh inning. Great job by Jay and the whole team for that comeback win."
Following the win, the Kids were pitted against 22 Below Softball in the next round of the winners bracket. This one was over before 22 Below ever got a chance to get into it, as SKS scored 21 runs in the first inning alone and ran away with the game, 26-2. Jeremy Hochstetler and Joe Horvath each had four hits in the win.
The win moved the Kids to the winners bracket final on Sunday, which they were set up against Honey Badgers. The Kids came out red hot in this one again, taking an early 12-2 lead and Faron Miller continued to baffle the hitters, keeping Badgers at bay. The Kids kept on scoring and went on to beat Honey's 21-12 in seven innings. Terry Patesel, Joe Horvath and Leland Schmucker all had four hits in the win.
The SKS team was now in the championship game for the ninth time this year and awaited the winner of the losers bracket. Plumbers continued to roll through the losers bracket, despite a close game against CSC. In the losers bracket final, Honey Badgers beat Plumbers by just two runs with some key hits in the top of the seventh inning, including a three run homer by Lance Maurer. So Badgers moved on to the finals against SKS, knowing to win they would have to beat them twice. But that would not be the case.
Terry Patesel had three hits in the championship game to lead the Street Kids team as they held off a red hot Honey Badgers team in the finals, 15-5, giving Street Kids Mojo their second straight Kiracofe title, and eighth overall win of the season. Afterwards, TJ Jorgensen said the win was bigger than the actual tournament.
"This is considered by many as the kick off to the post season," he said. "If we came out here tonight and played as poorly as we have over the past month, it could lead to a very disappointing finish in 2012. But we turned it around like this team is capable of doing, and played great. We played loose, and that game against Plumbers showed how we will never give up on each other. Very proud of this team and cant wait for the post season to start next weekend.
Johnny Simpson, who was a member of the SKS Kiracofe winning team last year too, made a bigger impact than just hitting. His leadership around the younger players and around guys like Terry Patesel and Joe Horvath, who he has won titles with before, bring out more in other players. After the tournament, Simpson gave praise to pitcher Faron Miller.
"I love Joe and Terry to death, and either of them could have been the MVP this year and last year, but my vote would go to Faron," said the multiple world champion and former local high school sports star. "You don't see it in a box score, you may not see it in the dugout, but the way Faron handled one of the best teams in the country (Plumbers) was amazing. I was catching for him in that game, and I would see guys that I have known for year on Plumbers looking off balanced, out in front or whatever on Faron's pitches. And if you take away some of the mistakes we made on defense early on, they would not even have scored that many on Faron. The kid is good, and in my opinion, he was the MVP today. Again, no disrespect to Joe, he had a great tourney, but there are some things that you don't see in the box score at the end."
Simpson thinks the SKS team is outstanding and really believes in the players.
"The talent is unbelievable, from top to bottom," he added. "From the veterans, to the coaches, to the young people.. Street Kids are in a position where they could possibly win multiple titles this year. They just need to make sure they make the plays on defense that the opposing team is giving you and obviously hit it well. I will be following along all year."
Street Kids (76-16 overall) improved to 51-13 in tournament play and will take the win in Kalamazoo into Bloomington, Indiana next weekend where they hope to repeat as ASA "B" state champions. SKS won the ASA crown last year in South Bend.
Following the ASA state championship, Street Kids will take their biggest step in tournament team history, as they will compete in the NSA "A" world series in Kankakee, Illinois. Last season, Wildman of Indiana beat out Brett Helmers team in Michigan City to win the "A" crown, and SKS is hoping for the same lightning to strike for an Indiana team in the "A" world series.