The 2015 ‘A’ World tournament started on a humid but pleasant Friday night at Kissimmee, Florida’s Fortune Road Athletic Complex with 17 teams, including eight ‘A’ teams. The first night was played under the threat of rain and there were no real upsets, as most all of the top seeds advanced to the round of eight. In that second round, Team Racks rallied from a 24-6 deficit to tie the game before losing to Red’s Astros, 30-26, leaving the bases loaded to end the contest. Number-one ranked Precision needed a Davis Bilardello three-run homer to give them a 21-20 lead in the top of the fifth inning over Broughton. Precision was down 20-14 to start the inning, then they threw out the speedy Broughton center fielder, Freddie Bynum, at home plate to maintain a 23-22 lead and went on to win, 27-24. Albicocco and Fence Brokers each advanced with solid wins over TG Brand and Combat/NWA, respectively. In the final four of the winners’ bracket Saturday afternoon, Albicocco jumped out to huge leads of 17-1 and 23-13 on Red’s Astros. Albicocco middle infielder Jeff Flood made an incredible diving stop towards the shortstop side of second base and threw the runner out from his knees to squash one Red’s comeback. Red’s then got five runs in the top of the sixth inning to close the lead to 23-18, but the Albicocco offense was too strong and they batted around the order in the bottom of the sixth inning to go up 32-18 and won, 32-21, to advance to the winners’ finals. During the other semi-final game, Precision jumped out to leads of 5-0 and 17-6 on Fence Brokers Inc. (FBI). Despite the early deficits, FBI never gave up and scored six runs in the top of the sixth inning to close to within 17-12. Precision added two in the bottom of the sixth and FBI could only pull to 19-15 on a Joe Gordon threerun homer in the seventh. Immediately following the semi-finals, the winners’ bracket final was played early Saturday evening. Precision scored five runs in the top of the first inning on the power of a Curtis Stewart homer. Albicocco’s Josh Riley ended the inning on a nice backhand at first base. In the bottom of the first, Albicocco’s Chris Larsen hit a three-run homer to give them a 7-5 lead as Albicocco again batted around the order. In the top of the second inning, Precision leadoff man Keith Laski got them started with a three-run homer to give them a 9-7 lead. Precision later went on to have the biggest inning of the tournament as they scored 17 runs and never looked back in a quick 34-14 run-rule victory! In the losers’ bracket, there were a bunch of games that ended in walk-off home run wins. Sending Compound Athletics home 35-32, local ‘A’ team Shirt Doctors got a walk-off homer from Saul Tijenaro. This was after Compound scored seven in the top of the seventh to tie the game. Compound Athletics went 0-2 at ‘A’ Worlds but scored 63 runs in their two games and lost both by only three runs or fewer. Xtreme got off to a painfully slow start against Primetime, who beat them, 20-19. Encompass had the tying runs in scoring position but lost to local ‘C’ team S2S, 21-19. S2S then upset Broughton by the run-rule, 28-11, scoring double figures in their last at-bat and leaving Broughton on the field. Combat/NWA used a huge top of the seventh inning to beat VCH, 22-14. Using a walk-off homer by John Radich, TG Brand upset Team Racks, 26-25. In the two fifth-place games, Combat/ NWA used a close call that went their way and a walk-off homer by Chris Constantino to upset Red’s Astros, 23-20. Meanwhile, Fence Brokers used a walk-off homer by Alex Henry to beat TG Brand, 24-23. Then, in the fourthplace game late Saturday night, Fence Brokers knocked off Combat NWA, 30-20, to advance to Sunday. On championship Sunday, in the first game during the losers’ bracket finals, FBI went up 9-0 after two innings. Chad Durick hit a big three-run homer in the bottom of the second. FBI also had a 16-11 lead going to the bottom of the fourth, when Albicocco left the bases loaded after allowing four runs in top of inning. FBI’s Chad Durick also had a great diving stop at third base in the top of the fifth inning and both teams put up zeroes offensively in the bottom of the fourth, top of the fifth, and bottom of the fifth. At this point, FBI had used five home runs and Albicocco just one of the allotted eight homers each team gets to hit per game. FBI got a big double play to start the top of the sixth before a throwing error opened the door for Albicocco, but they did not score. In the bottom of the sixth, FBI’s Tim Bowser hit a huge two-run homer and pinch-hitter Ryan Robbins hit a two-run homer to put FBI up, 20-11. Down nine runs in the top of the seventh, Albicocco had nothing going offensively in the game with just 11 runs scored. They proceeded to produce 12 runs as Mike Stephany pinch hit and went 2-for-2 in the inning with a homer. Shortstop Brian Faria hit a big home run as well and the entire team jumped on the bandwagon and took an unlikely 23-20 lead! FBI, which had led the entire game until then, got a two-out, three-run homer from MVP Chad Durick to force extra innings. In extra innings, Albicocco could muster just one run and FBI got base hits from Tim Howard and Zach Keene and a walk off sac fly by Pat Burton to advance to the championship! In the first game of the championship, a well-rested and highly favored Precision/Easton team jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the first inning on a Davis Bilardello three-run homer. Things could have been worse if not for a diving play at shortstop by FBI’s Pat Burton to end the inning. Burton made a diving stop to turn a 6-10-3 double play in the second as well, and another sliding stop in shallow left field to keep Precision to just an 8-5 lead after two innings. In the third inning FBI middle man Bryan McBryde hit a three-run homer to tie the game at 8-8. Precision shortstop Keith Laski showed some quick hands and Dan Kirkwood in right field made a great catch, which ended the inning tied. Precision then used some good base-hitting and gap-hitting to increase their lead through four complete innings, but FBI tied the game at 15-15 in the top of the fifth and took a 19-15 lead on a Tim “Bye-Bye” Bowser grand slam! In the bottom of the fifth, Precision got a solo homer from pinch-hitter Frank Fracek after a 6-10-3 double play and Precision found themselves trailing, 19-16. From there on it was all FBI as Burton hit a two-run double, Bowser hit his second grand slam, and Alex Henry hit a three-run homer and FBI forced the “if” necessary game, 33-17! In the final game, Precision base-hit their way to three runs in the top of the first. FBI grabbed an 8-3 lead in the bottom half on Bowser and Maggard three-run homers. Then Precision, in the top of the second, got a Jeff Keske RBI triple and a Keith Laski three-run homer to pull to within a run. FBI right fielder Tim Howard made a great running catch into the fence to end the inning. FBI held a 10-8 lead on Henry and Burton solo homers and another great play by McBryde in the middle infield. Then Precision showed some life with a great play of their own by middle infielder Keske and got a pinchhit two-run homer from Frank Fracek that actually hit on the driveway path behind left field for the longest home run of the tournament! Another diving stop and GUN by FBI’s McBryde kept the game tied 10-10 going to the bottom of the fourth inning. FBI found a second wind in the bottom of the fourth as Bowser and Howard hit three-run homers and relief pitcher Jason Bridges hit a solo to take an 18-10 lead. In the bottom of the fifth and top the of sixth, FBI’s Billy Maggard and Precision’s Matt Rear traded three-run homers and Precision ended up scoring six runs to get back in the game, down 24-22, but it was all FBI from there and they held off Precision, 28-22, to win the USSSA ‘A’ World title! The entire Fence Brokers team were warriors from top to bottom in this most unlikely of championship runs, and the win for player/sponsor Chris Walker, who has been a part of the Nationwide Conference USSSA for all 10 years of its existence, felt really good! No one thought number one seed Precision could be beaten once, let alone twice, and FBI found a way to dig deep and get it done! Congratulations to Chris Walker, manager Mike Wilson, the players, and the sponsors of this great organization. Well deserved! USSSA ‘A’ World Awards: Tournament MVP: Chad Durick, Fence Brokers Inc./Buzini/Worth; Offensive Tournament MVP: Keith Laski, Precision/Easton/DO; Defensive Tournament MVP: Brian McBryde, Fence Brokers Inc./Buzini/Worth. 2015 USSSA ‘A’ World Final Standings: 1. Arkansas - Fence Brokers Inc./Buzini/Worth; 2. Illinois - Precision/Easton/DO; 3. New York - Albicocco/The Scene/Easton; 4. Washington - Combat/Northwest Athletics.
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