ASA Hooters National Champions
Long Haul Trucking Captures ASA Hooters Men’s “A” National Championship
By Dave Utnik
Oklahoma City, OK. – Long Haul Trucking MVP pitcher Geno Buck could have pitched all night, only he didn’t have to.
That was the reward for being the only undefeated team in the field. Long Haul Trucking prides itself on having one of the best lineups at any level of slow pitch softball, but the thing is the ball club has pretty outstanding pitching, too. And Buck is the reason that the ASA Men’s Class “A” National Champions now reside in Lakeland, Minn.
He is the pitching star who rarely needs to work more than four innings and the cleanup hitter for a squad that scored 124 runs in four games at the ASA Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City.
Buck stood in the circle for all four of Long Haul’s victories, allowing only 45 runs, and he earned the tournament Most Valuable Player award following a 39-14 victory over surprise finalist Fence Brokers, of Bryant, Ark.
“He’s very important to us for several reasons,” Long Haul coach Gary Jost said.
“Geno grew up with ASA and I think he feels more comfortable pitching when he can get back a little bit and throw higher. We didn’t make an error behind him either and when you do that you’re going to win.”
With rain in the forecast for Sunday morning, the tournament was played in two days rather than three with the championship game ending around 1:15 a.m. Fence Brokers, led by home run champion and All-American Chaun Demars, took a thrill ride through the losers’ bracket before running into a well-rested Long Haul squad in the title game.
While Fence Brokers played virtually non-stop the entire day, Long Haul had a five-hour break after defeating Chaney’s/WCS/Easton 32-9 in the semifinals and they arrived at the park just after midnight ready to hit.
“It was nice to play it all on Saturday since we were playing so well,” Jost said. “It definitely helped us.”
Led by two home runs each from shortstop Brett McCollum and third baseman Mike Rhines, Long Haul combined for 40 hits in the four-inning game. Buck, who went 3 for 5 in the finals, hit one of the team’s eight home runs — a two-run blast in what became a 16-run second inning.
Big innings were prevalent in all four games for Long Haul, beginning with a 24-2 victory over CSI/JSA, of Oklahoma City, in the opening round. Team Combat, of Kent, WA, went down 24-2, while Chaney’s fell by a 32-9 margin.
The tournament proved to be a showcase of sorts for McCollum, a rising star and All-American who went 5 for 5 with three home runs against Chaney’s and demonstrated great range and a strong arm on defense.
“He’s definitely an up-and-coming player,” Jost said. “The great thing about our team is that we have a couple of guys you’d probably never heard of before who are now core players for us.”
McCollum was one of four players to bat .800 (12 for 15) during tournament play, joining teammate and fellow All-American Kevin Bazat, Ralph Hogdon of Armed Forces and Andy Schiltz of TCP/Pipac/Easton. Long Haul designated hitter JD Genter also earned All-American honors, along with center fielder Jeremy Isenhower and Chris Larson.
“I’m very happy with the team we took out there,” Jost said. “We probably had seven or eight guys hit over .700. “Our whole team was hitting the ball well throughout the tournament and we’ve got some guys who can run too.”
West Coast Dynasty Dominates at ASA Hooters C National Championship
By Fred Myers
Oklahoma City, OK. – It was almost as if Steven Lopez was wielding a wand rather than an aluminum bat. Nobody could get the West Coast Dynasty right fielder out.
In five games at the ASA Men’s Class C National Championship Tournament in Oklahoma City, Lopez batted .833 with three home runs and a team-leading 13 RBI — a performance worthy of Most Valuable Player honors.
“Steven was commanding the ball to do whatever he wanted,” Dynasty manager Jason Felix said. “He made only three outs the entire tourney.”
Lopez was the magical force behind the Dynasty’s championship run as the team comprised of Southern California all-stars generated 64 runs and took advantage of an abrupt exit by Softball Times, which was disqualified following opening round play for using an ineligible player.
“We arrived to the park [on Saturday] to find out that Softball Times was eliminated from the tourney due to an illegal player,” Felix said. “Our team was upset that Softball Times was eliminated, however it was out of our hands.
“We, as a team, wanted to send a message to all of softball with this controversy at hand: Let’s play hard, let’s play smart and let’s leave it on the field,” he continued. “Every guy on the team was challenged with needing a big hit or making a must needed play on defense.”
Lopez embraced the challenge by going 15 for 18 and the Dynasty made the most of its unexpected placement as the championship round’s No. 1 seed. All 15 players contributed to the title run, which featured exceptional defense from center fielder Aaron Martinez and third baseman Rego Nieto as well as outstanding pitching from Jason Grissom and Masami Countryman.
The Western National champions allowed only 13 runs during the final day, when they defeated South champion CSC/Gutterworks 16-4 and 21-9 to claim the title. Lopez went 3 for 3 with a pair of homers and five RBI in the semifinal matchup, while second baseman Chris Boggs tripled twice to drive in two runs.
CSC/Gutterworks battled back to earn a rematch in the title game by defeating Double Deez, 14-13, in the losers’ bracket final on a walk-off double by Chad Ferrell.
But Lopez took center stage again in the championship game, driving in six runs out of the leadoff spot.
“As the manager, I decided to let every guy get a chance to play on Friday so they could experience what [the Hooters Championship Series] was all about,” Felix said. “But heading into Saturday, I let everyone know it was game time.”
Left fielder Stephen Nobbs went 4 for 4 in the finals and Martinez had six RBI as West Coast Dynasty used a 13-run fourth-inning to break open a one-run game.
“Heading into the Hooters National Championship, it was as if we were on an extended vacation and we were going to enjoy and seize the moment,” Felix said. “Play to win is our motto.”
Virginia Select Dials up a ASA Hooters D National Championship
By Mike Larkin
Oklahoma City, OK. – When a line drive caught JR Estes square in the face, he sat out one inning and headed right back out to the pitcher’s circle.
That is the type of competitor Estes is.
The mask he wears on game days flew all the way to first base while the softball that struck him wound up by the third base dugout.
But Estes wouldn’t even allow medical personnel to attend to him that day. Virginia Select was playing for the ISA C Eastern National championship and he wasn’t about to leave the field.
In Crozet, Va., the softball community recalls that Aug. 22 incident with a touch of reverence and Estes’ teammates used it to inspire a championship run they will never forget.
“Something about that day and that moment, when the worst could have happened and it didn’t, gave us the extra spark and the extra intensity to do some amazing things at the finish of the season,” Virginia Select statistician Brandi Estep said.
Recognized as a “fireball” and “fearless leader” on the softball field, Estes can now stake claim to “motivator” and “most valuable player” of the nation’s elite Class D men’s slow pitch team.
After capturing the ISA Eastern title with a 5-0 record, Virginia Select made the long trip — from Panama City, Fla., to Oklahoma City — to become ASA Hooters Championship series National Champions.
“In all honesty, it’s been a paramount season,” Estep said. After winning 11 consecutive games to capture the ASA Eastern Nationals, Virginia Select won the WSL North American Nationals in Panama City and then made team history in Oklahoma City, where they flourished under the lights in a prime time finale.
“The forecast caused ASA to change the tournament to a Saturday night finale because rain was to set in on Sunday morning,” Estep explained. “Always fans of night games, Virginia Select was pumped by that decision.”
After defeating Victory Custom Athletics 11-9 in the semifinals, the national championship came down to a tense battle between Virginia Select and the LA Strokers, from Dusco, La. and that’s when Estes emerged once again as a leader.
His 4-for-4 performance accounted for three RBI, catcher Brian Whetzel hit a two-run homer and right fielder Andy Shreve broke a sixth-inning tie with an RBI double as Virginia Select won 10-9.
“Andy Shreve came through like he has all year in clutch situations, finding a gap to score when Select had to have runs,” Estep said. “Brian Whetzel, also known as “hot man” because of his great numbers of late, hadn’t hit any home runs out in a while but sealed it with his key homer.”
Estes did just about all the rest, going 15 for 21 (.714) and driving in 18 runs in six games to earn MVP honors.
“He peels the ball and hustles like it’s always the Nationals. JR plays with enthusiasm, intensity, and a love of the game that is contagious,” Estep said. And when shortstop Dwayne Hall caught a line drive for the final out Virginia Select finally had its “don’t wake me up if I’m dreaming” moment.
“It’s what you hope for, you dream of getting an opportunity to accomplish and suddenly you’ve done it,” Estep said. “Virginia Select Softball is the best of the best. What an honor and an accomplishment.”