The Nationwide Conference USSSA Championships began on Friday night of Labor Day Weekend in Kissimmee, Florida, with eight teams in the Major bracket and nine teams in a separate ‘A’ bracket. The upsets started early in this one, as a shorthanded eighth seed Albicocco/The Scene/Easton knocked off number one seed Smash It Sports, 14-8, early Friday night in the Major bracket. Number six seed Red’s Astros/Louisville Slugger knocked off their sister team, number three seed Backman/ Shoppe/Louisville Slugger, 19-10, on Field 1. Number four seed Precision and number two seed Resmondo Specialty Tank Worth advanced to the final four, but Precision did so by just one run over number five seed Team Combat. Meanwhile, number two Resmondo used a game-tying two-run homer by Andrew Collins and a walk-off single by Greg Connell to beat number seven OC Swats, 21-20, in the bottom of the seventh. Had OC Swats hung on, there would have been three lower seeds in the final four. Late Friday night in the second round, Precision advanced to the winners’ final with a 15-10 victory over Albicocco and Resmondo crushed Red’s Astros, 33-4, to advance. On Saturday in the Major bracket, the best game of the tournament was Precision and Resmondo in the winners’ bracket finals. They played in sweltering heat and humidity and Precision jumped out to early leads of 7-0 and 9-3. Resmondo then scored three in the fifth inning and two in the sixth to close the gap to 10-8. Precision’s Brett McCollum led off the top of the seventh with a solo homer and they added one more run to take a 12-8 lead. In the bottom of the seventh with one quick out, Resmondo’s Dennis Rulli singled, Greg Connell doubled, and Andy Purcell hit a three-run homer. That was followed by a Jimmy Salas solo homer to tie the game at 12-12, and Precision got a 3-6-3 double play to force extra innings. In the eighth, Precision put up a zero and in the bottom half of the inning, Resmondo struck out looking and fouled off a third strike and the game moved into the ninth inning still tied at 12-12. Precision’s Brett McCollum tripled to hit for the cycle and Davis Bilardello hit a sacrifice fly to score him. Then Dan Kirkwood walked and scored from first on Curtis Stewart’s RBI single to left-center field to give Precision a 14-12 lead. In the bottom of the ninth, Resmondo’s Jeremy Yates hit a one-out single, Rulli singled, and Connell hit an RBI double. Precision intentionally walked Andy Purcell before Salas hit a sacrifice fly that tied the game at 14-14 to send the game to the 10th inning! Precision pitcher Andy Vitcak and Gary Lofton stroked one-out base hits to roll it to the top of the order where Matt Rear singled, Keith Laski doubled, Brett McCollum hit a sacrifice fly, and Davis Bilardello hit an RBI double to give them an 18-14 lead. Resmondo could only muster a two-run triple by Andrew Collins in the bottom of the 10th and lost, 18-16. In the losers’ bracket, Smash It Sports knocked off Albicocco, but lost to Resmondo in the losers’ finals 32-23. The Conference point standings were so close this year that the winner of that game actually won the number one seed for the USSSA Major World Series. Resmondo had a rematch against Precision on Sunday morning at 10:30, live on CBS Sports Network. Much like the winners’ final, Precision jumped out to a 7-1 lead after two innings and led in hits, 10-3. Matt Rear and Keith Laski each collected two hits in their first two at-bats. Veteran hitter Howie Krause got the Resmondo team going with a two-run homer in the bottom of the third to cut the lead to 7-3, and big lefty BJ Fulk hit a three-run homer to tie the game at 7-7, and Resmondo led 9-7 after three innings. In the top of the third, Precision grabbed a 12-9 lead on a Rear sacrifice fly, a Laski RBI single, a Davis Bilardello RBI single, and a two-run double by Dan Kirkwood. But Resmondo separated in the bottom of the fifth and extended their lead to eight in the bottom of the sixth, forcing the “if” necessary game with a 26-15 win. In the final game, it was all Resmondo as they outpowered Precision eight homers to one, winning 24-9. Resmondo’s Greg Connell hit three homers in the game and was 5-for-5. Jimmy Salas went 4-for-4 with two homers, and Don Dedonatis Jr. was also 4-for-4. The tournament was played in extreme heat and humidity and was delayed both Friday and Saturday due to rain and lightning but finished up on time. They used the Conference ZN Stadium ball, which was perfect for the tournament, and a full contingent of top Conference umpires officiated the games. In the ‘A’ bracket it was all Xtreme/Miken as they won their first game by forfeit then rolled through three straight opponents to capture the first-ever GSL ‘A’ title. The real story of this tournament may have been in the losers’ bracket as five teams without a berth to the Major were still trying to qualify, with the highest finishing non-qualified team getting the 17th seed to the World Series. Combat NWA, OI Livingston, and Semper Athletics just did not play well enough to get into the Major and 3rd Street gassed out on Saturday, but Broughton/ Bad Draw/Worth exploded for at least 21 runs in every game they played and mashed their way into the World Series by winning five games, including come-frombehind victories over very good FBI and Compound Athletics teams, 38-35 and 49-37. The Compound game went to extra innings and was the best game of the tournament. USSSA Conference Championships Major Final Standings: 1. fl- Resmondo Specialty Tank Worth; 2. IL - Precision/Easton/DO; 3. NY - Smash It Sports/Compound Athletics/Easton; 4. NY - Albicocco/The Scene/Easton; 5. IN - Backman/Shoppe/Louisville Slugger; 5. IN - Red’s Astros/Louisville Slugger; 7. CA - OC Swats Doerflinger/Miken/LCP; 7. WA - Team Combat/Baugh Ford/Softball.com.
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