September 28, 2012
by TJ Jorgensen-
When it comes to reaching the championship game of the nationals or world championship, Street Kids Mojo is second to none. The only problem is, second is all they know, it seems:
After we were beaten twice in the championship game of the 2009 "B" Worlds in Indianapolis by a very good Lazer Show team, featuring future SKS players Brandon Dillon and Danny Penale, I walked away disappointed but happy to have reached that goal. To finish second in a "B" World is awesome, regardless of losing twice in the championship game.
Fast foward to the fall of 2010. We had a great team on paper, maybe one of the most talented teams we ever assembled, but all that talent didn't lead to wins. With just a couple of weeks before the ASA National Championship in Minnesota, our team was depleted of all the big names that came on board, including our starting pitcher. Then enter the retired Lanny Fisher, the eccentric Pook Filkins and put that together with the closeness of a team that stuck together throughout the tough times in 2010 and a group of 10-12 guys battled all weekend and reached the championship game of a 70-team ASA National Championship. We played with heart, we had fun and even though we got raped by a red hot Pope Transport team (they put up 23 runs in the first inning before we even batted), we came away feeling great knowing we gave it all we had with a less then talented team than the season started, and still finished second.
Fast forward to the fall of 2011. The Street Kids team was having a dream season. Despite getting double dipped in the NSA "B" State Championship, the Kids had commprised an amazing feat of reaching the championship game in 12 straight tournaments (up to that point). We went undefeated en route to winning the ASA "B" state title and traveled to Owensboro, Kentucky for the NSA "B" Worlds. We had what Kentucky NSA state director Mickey Blue called "one of the most prolific displays of softball I had seen in many years." He went on to say if the tournament would have finished on Saturday, no one would have stopped SKS. We went undefeated on Saturday and reached the championship game of the B worlds again. We put up crazy numbers in the four unbeaten games to reach the finals, including scoring 108 runs in just 18 innings, an average of six runs per inning. We had beaten two newly crowned ASA National Champions. But we would have to come back on Sunday morning to play the finals against B&J Logging. Despite two close games, including at one point SKS being one pitch away from the world title, B&J pulled off the double dipping, and beat SKS for the B world title. This one stung bad. Real bad. Honestly, I still don't think players have forgotten about it. I know I haven't.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. The NSA Super "B" Worlds. SKS won the first two games over two good teams, then lost to Hustlers by one run to be sent to the losers bracket. In the losers bracket, we picked up wins over Creative Design, Wildman and B&J Logging (some revenge there was nice) to reach the finals of the Super B Worlds. Hustlers - featuring Brandon Dillon - was undefeated meaning we would have to pull off what has happen to us enough times, a double dipping. We got close.. Thanks to the technology age, I had an iPhone recording video when Nick Bishop hit that thrilling single scoring Fred Schmucher with the winning run to force the "if" game. That moment alone was the single biggest highlight of our season. Hustlers would come back and beat us in the "if" game, 18-6, giving us another second place finish.
I remember Brandon Dillon telling me the next day when I congratulated him on winning the world title that "once you guys won that game, I thought you guys were going to win it all. I figured karma was on your side, with the tough loss to B&J Logging and even dating back to the Lazer Show sweep."
Fast forward to September of 2012. SKS is in Kalamazoo for the NSA "B" Worlds. We lose the first game but come back to beat some talented teams, including one of the best teams in the nation at any level, Reds Astros, and beating Bubba's, who featured the nations second leading home run hitter from Team 454 as well as members of the newly crowned USSSA "A" World Champions R&M/Easton. They reached the finals again, this time facing a team full of players they have battled with for and grown to respect for years, Plumbers/Suburban. Plumbers was having a great year, coming off their 2011 season where they won the USSSA "C" World Title. Plumbers were unbeaten so we would have to beat them twice, however, with the tying run at third base and the winning run at first, we would fall to Todd Fairbanks and Plumbers by one run, giving them the title, and us yet another second place finish.
I have taken emails, phone calls, text messages and Facebook posts from some of the greats in the game, telling us how much it may suck to finish second, but there are so many teams who would love to have even reached that level. I did some reseach tonight between NSA, USSSA and ASA I had a hard time finding any team in the last 25 years to take the majority of the same guys and reach the finals of one of the highest levels of competitive softball four years straight. While we did pull off two years of back to back ASA "B" state titles, it pales in comparison to the sheer level of consistency it has taken our team to reach the finals four four years straight. Including the 2009 B Worlds, we have played in eight national or world championship tournaments (2009-2012 NSA B Worlds, 2009-2012 ASA B or C Nationals, 2010-2011 NSA B Super Worlds). Out of the eight, we have compiled:
Win/Loss Record of 34-18
Six Top Five Finishes
Five Second Place Finishes
Next weekend we head into a loaded NSA "B" Super World Series in South Carolina with a lot of pressure, but at the same time, this team thrives on that. When you join Street Kids Softball, you know people are going to be watching, and most of the time, criticizing your every move. Thats why its not for everyone. Many players and former SKS players will tell you that its not the same when you put on this jersey, especially if you are not used to playing with a little added pressure. But this team we have, from the Amish guys to the veteran leadership of guys like Terry Patesel and Joe Horvath to the "swag" of Jay Jeffery and Scotty Martin... we have a group of guys that just know how to bring it all together when our backs are against the wall. And heading into next weekend, despite how loaded the Bubba's team will be, or how great of a run Reds Astros are on, or how amazing the B&J Logging team is, or how strong the newly crowned B World Champions Plumbers will be... this Street Kids Mojo team is special.
And I wouldn't count us out just yet.