September 8, 2012
The Street Kids/Mojo softball team entered the 2012 NSA "B" World Series in Kalamazoo, Michigan with the hopes of finally getting off the snide that has saw them finish second in four different world or national championships since 2009, including the NSA Super "B" Worlds last fall.
They opened against Bubba's from Wisconsin, a team that featured a lot of talent, but it was later found to be just a glimpse of what their real team will be at the NSA Super World Series in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Bubba's took advantage of the Kids slow start and put it to them hard, winning easily 21-8. Of the eight runs, five were scored in the last inning. The Kids were immediately dropped to the losers bracket and faced the loser of Reds Boys and the defending World Champions B&J Logging. In a long battle, it would be B&J who would move on, sending Reds to the losers bracket to face SKS.
This is a battle that many people have been waiting for all year, as Reds was having an amazing season, highlighted by a huge win over the number one USSSA team in the nation, Resmondo. SKS has been playing up and down, but were hoping for some magic in Kalamazoo. Reds and SKS are a pretty evenly matched team when both teams have their full rosters. In this game, it would come down to the two awesome pitchers from each team that would turn out to help the eventual winners.
Both teams started out slow, and after four innings, the score was tied at six. But in the fifth, SKS was able to get to Reds' pitcher, scoring six runs and then scoring two more in the sixth on Johnny Simpson's cluth two run double. Heading into the bottom of the seventh, SKS held a 14-6 lead, but never count out Reds, the newly crowned back to back NSA "B" state champions from Indiana. The first four hitters for Reds all reached and all scored, but after the player wearing number 8 for Reds connected for a two run homer to bring them within four with no one out, Reds would go three up and down, giving the Kids a thrilling 14-10 win.
The next game in the losers bracket was against Tap Racing from Michigan. SKS put up five runs in the secong inning, four runs in the third but it was the fourth inning that would prove to be the difference as SKS put up nine runs to take an 18-5 lead. They would add four more in the fifth and hold on to beat Tap, 22-5. Terry Patesel and Chad Melcher led the way with four hits each.
The Kids were now in the final four. SKS and Bubba's in the losers bracket and B&J Logging and Plumbers/Suburban in the winners bracket. Bubba's and SKS battled back and forth in another great match up of pitching power, with Faron Miller shutting down the potent offense of Bubba's, holding them to only nine runs through the first six innings. But SKS was not fairing much better on the offensive end, but enough to have the lead. In the fourth inning, with the wind blowing in, Terry Patesel hit a huge grand slam to take a 10-9 lead. They would add two runs that would prove to be huge on run scoring singles by Faron Miller and Nick Bishop to take a 12-9 lead. In the bottom of the seventh, Bubba's clean up hitter led off with a single and after the next batter flew out, the batter of him hit a two run homer that brought Bubba's to within one. But Faron Miller was able to pitch the Kids through it, retiring the next two batters on fly balls, giving SKS a win, 12-11.
In the winners bracket, Plumbers continued their quest for the title with a win over B&J Logging, setting up a rematch of last years NSA "B" world title game, SKS vs B&J. The Kids scored a lot of runs early, putting up five in the first, five in the second and eight in the third innings, but unfortunately, that was all they would put up the rest of the game. After three innings, SKS led 18-8, but it was far from over. Logging scored five runs in the fourth to make it close and in the seventh, they got two quick hits and after an out was recorded, got another hit that scored a run, bringing them to within four. But Faron did what he has done all day and shut down the loaded bats of B&J Logging, and helped lead SKS to an 18-14 win, and their second straight trip to the NSA "B" world title game!
It was now the championship of the NSA world tournament. Plumbers/Suburban on one side, Street Kids/Mojo on the other. In order for the Kids to win their first ever world title, they would have to do what Laser Show (in 2009) and B&J Logging (in 2011) had done to them: double dip for the title. Across both dugouts there were a lot of friendships and former teammates, and even some league teammates, but in this game, all of that was thrown out the window. Plumbers wanted their second title in three years (they won the NSA B world in O'Fallon, Illinois in 2010) and SKS wanted to finally get over the Buffalo Bills hump (four straight super bowls in the 90s without a win). It was game time!
For the first time all day, SKS won the flip and Plumbers batted first. Despite a single by the number two batter, Faron Miller retired them in order. In the bottom of the first, longtime pitcher for Suburban Todd Fairbanks did one even better, retiring Terry Patesel, Jeremy Hochstetler and Chad Melcher in order, ironically all on the same type of top spin ground out to first base. In the top of the second, Plumbers scored one run on a solo home run by Rocky Smith, but in the bottom of the second, the Kids responded with three runs, highlighted by a two run double by Faron Miller.
Plumbers answered back themselves with five runs in the top of the third, highlighted by a three run home run number 22. But in the bottom of the third, it was all Street Kids. They would send 10 batters to the plate and score seven times, highlighted by home runs by Chad Melcher and Fred Schmucker, two of the leading hitters for SKS on the weekend. In the top of the fourth, Plumbers struck for three runs, but in the bottom of the fourth SKS would only muster one run on a solo home run by Terry Patesel. Plumbers scored again in the fifth, as pinch hitter/coach Josh Onstott (battled the flu all weekend) reached on a fielders choice, but scored on a two run double by Mike Ortiz. The Kids would go quiet in the home half of the fifth, and after five, the game was deadlocked at 12 all.
Plumbers would begin to heat up, scoring five in the top of the sixth, highlighted by another two run single by Mike Ortiz. The Kids answered back with four in the bottom of the sixth, highlighted by ailing Joe Horvath's three run home run. In the top of the seventh, and up by only a run, Plumbers added some insurance, scoring three times, highlighted by a two run homer by Kenny Geirsbach. So heading into the bottom of the seventh, with their world title hopes on the line, SKS trailed 20-16, but still had a home run to hit. Johnny Simpson led it off with a single, and Terry Patesel did the same. Jeremy Hochstetler followed with a run scoring single and after Chad Melcher made the first out of the inning, Leland Schmucker hit a huge game tying three run homer! Despite their only being one out, SKS could not get the potential winning run on base and had to settle for extra innings.
In the top of the eighth inning, Plumbers scored three times and took a 23-20 lead into the bottom of the eighth. With no home runs to hit, SKS would have to rally once again to save their NSA world title hopes. Jay Jeffery flew out for the first out, then Fred Schmucker singled sharply to center. Faron Miller then flew out to left for the second out. SKS was down to their last out, but they refused to go quietly. Nick Bishop singled and veteran Terry Patesel came through with a run scoring single of his own, cutting the lead to two. With two outs, and the tying run at the plate, Jeremy Hochstetler lined a single to right center, scoring Bishop and Freddy Schmucker - who ran for Patesel - scampered all the way to third. With the tying run at third and the winning run at first, young but confident Chad Melcher stepped to the plate. Melcher had a big tournament, but his numbers were not strong in the last game, coming into the last at bat being 2-for-5, but at that moment, with the tying run at third and given the way he has played all tournament, the Kids would rather have no one else at bat.
Plumbers called time to talk about strategy and try to ice the young Melcher, who prior to this tournament had never seen a Class B world tournament, and now here he was staring at one of the best pitchers to ever pitch NSA softball in Michigan. After a quick meeting on the mound, Fairbanks knew exactly how he wanted to pitch and position Melcher, who is known for hitting the middle hard. Fairbanks pitched and dropped to his left into the hole, and Melcher hit a rocket as hard as you can hit a ball toward the middle. The ball took a sharp low bounce right at the feet of Fairbanks - one of the harder balls for any pitcher to field - and the former ASA National Tournament MVP snagged the sharply hit ball and threw to first, retiring Melcher and giving Plumbers and Pipefitters/Suburban/Combat the NSA "B" world crown by the score of 23-22.
Melcher slammed his bat down in anger and just stood there for a few moments while Plumbers players congratulated each other on the field. SKS players went up to Melcher to let him know he did a great job and to not hold his head down. The SKS players congratulated Plumbers and once again would leave another world championship tournament as the runner up.
The Kids didn't play as well as they know they could have all tournament, and it was evident by the .543 team batting average. But for their individual efforts, Chad Melcher, Johnny Simpson, Faron Miller and Terry Patesel were all named to the All-World team. Chad Melcher was named co-MVP of the tournament as well.
"It sucks to finish second again," said TJ Jorgensen. "This one wont hurt as bad as last years double dipping did, but we still had a chance to win it late in the game, even in the seventh, but couldn't. But I'm proud of my teammates. They played with heart after that first game loss to battle all the way back and lose by a single run. They say no one remembers second place, but in our case, I think a lot of people do. And thats not something we are proud of, however, as Bill Horton (NSA VP) said to me after the game, there are hundreds of teams, thousands, who would rather take second over 20th or 35th. We will give it another go at the Supers in October.
Congratulations to Plumbers on their world title. It was well earned and very deserved.
Click the picture above for over 100 pics from the weekend!