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June 1, 2010
EXPANDED RENO CUP DRAWS 210 TEAMS FROM 20 STATES
Dave Dowell National Director
RENO, NV – The 2010 Rock ‘n Reno Challenge Cup departed from the norm in this, the 23rd annual event. The largest Senior Softball qualifier in the nation, and the third largest senior tournament of any kind, trailing only the SSUSA’s own World Championships and the Huntsman Senior Games, drew a record 210 teams and expanded from six to nine days beginning over the Memorial Day weekend.
The nine-day run, featuring nearly 700 games, was modeled after the SSUSA World Championships schedule, with all Women’s Divisions and the Men’s 40-Masters and 60+ divisions playing the first three days at the state of the art Golden Eagle Regional Park and Shadow Mountain Softball Complexes in Sparks and the Rancho San Rafael Softball Complex in Reno. The Men’s 65’s, 70’s 75’s and 80’s played during the week at those same complexes, and the Men’s 50’s and 55’s wrapped things up on the second weekend at Golden Eagle and the Centennial Park Softball Complex in Carson City. Every age group and Division had large brackets as teams vied for the unique “Challenge Cup” trophies and a coveted invitation to the 2011 Tournament of Champions in Florida next February.
The popularity of this signature event and the ever-increasing number of entries dictated the new nine-day schedule. In the past two years, formats had to be adjusted away from conventional bracket play simply to accommodate the number of teams. “Expanding Rock ‘n Reno to nine days allowed us to return to what the players prefer for a format. Some of the extremely late nights weren’t needed, and the expanded schedule gives us room for future growth” according to Fran Dowell, SSUSA’s Executive Director. “The Reno area also offers so many entertainment options for the entire family that we wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to fully enjoy their time here” she added.
The first session featured extremely balanced competition across all ages and divisions, with exciting finishes more the norm than the exception. The Men’s 40-Masters saw a new name at the top as two-time defending champion and reigning World Champion JK, Inc. failed to three-peat at Reno. RSC Regency (CA) lost a classic nine inning thriller to Team Braves (CA) 34-28 in the Winner’s bracket final before bouncing back to nip Team Braves in both the Championship game (24-23) and the “If needed” game (25-24), the latter being a come-from-behind last at-bat win.
The Men’s 60-Major also offered an exciting finish, with Master Collision (CO) and the KC Kids (MO) putting on quite a show of pressure softball. As the top two seeds, they met three times in the last four tournament games, with Master Collision winning the Championship bracket final (21-20), KC Kids taking the Championship game (19-17) and Master Collision coming back to win in the “If needed” game (14-13). Those three games were decided by a total of four runs.
The Men’s 60-Major Plus and 60-AAA went more to form, as top seeds completed an unbeaten weekend with championships. The 60-Major Plus title went to MTC Softball (CA) with a 22-5 win over OMEN Softball (CA) while the 60-AAA went to Last Call 60’s (NV) following their defeat of the Redwood City Bay Supporters (CA) by 18-9 in the Final. In the Men’s 60-AA, the thirteenth, and last, seeded Solano Senior Enforcers (CA) made an impressive bracket run, losing only the Championship game to the top seeded Sun City Sidewinders (AZ) before bouncing back to win the Championship in the “If needed” game by a 25-17 score.
The Women’s 40-Masters champions were the Old School 40’s (CA) in a squeaker, 12-11, over Team K.H.A.O.S. (CA) in the final. The Women’s 50+ and 55+ Red and 60+ divisions were a very familiar, and identical, story as the California Spirit 50, California Spirit 55 and Golden Saints 60’s (AZ) teams each completed unbeaten weekends in impressive fashion. The 50’s completed their sweep over an Elimination Bracket weary Silver Foxes (CA) team playing their fourth game in a row, 20-5 in the Championship. The 55’s joined their sister squad as Champions following their impressive 23-5 win over Aches and Pain (CA). And the Golden Saints achieved perfection with their 19-12 win over the Fun Bunch (MO) in the Final. The only suspense in the Women’s Divisions came in the 55+ Blue Division, as relative newcomer It’s a Good Life 55’s (CA), a team barely a year young, battled back from a first round loss all the way through the Elimination bracket to defeat Sho Me (MO) in both the Championship game (16-13) and the “If needed” game (14-13).
Tuesday dawned with a new group of teams as the Men’s 65+ and more senior divisions began play. Highlights of the second session included a very impressive group of 65-Major Plus teams, with perennial Eastern powerhouse Florida Legends/Human Kinetics making the trek west, and a fully self-contained Men’s 80+ Division featuring five teams in that group.
In the 65-Major Plus, the Florida Legends gave the Western powerhouse Nor-Cal Bluejays all they could handle before falling just short in an exciting Championship game that came down to the last at-bat before the Bluejays held on for the 22-20 win.
Several teams completed unbeaten weeks with impressive performances in Session #2. In the Men’s 75’s, The Gold Coast 75’s (CA) finished their run with a 28-21 win over the Redwood City Chiefs 75’s (CA) in the 75-AAA final. Defending World Champion Tiodize D-99 (CA) did the same in the Men’s 80’s, winning 18-8 over the Top Gun 80’s (CA) as did the 70-AAA Scrap Iron 70’s Green (CO), 11-8 over the Gamblers (CA) and the 70-AA Lincoln Hills Coyotes 70’s (CA), 12-5 over the Slammin’ 70’s (UT). Congratulations to each of those teams for their perfect weeks.
The story of the second session, though, comes from the 65-AAA Division. In a feat rarely accomplished in SSUSA tournament play, the High Desert Roadrunners (NM) began Thursday morning with an 8:00 AM game in the Elimination bracket. Over the next nine hours, they had won six in a row on the same field, the last two over Nevada Last Call, 21-10 in the Championship game and 29-18 in the “If needed” game. At the awards ceremony, in a combination of exhilaration and exhaustion, Manager John “Candy” Candelaria said “Wow, we earned that, but isn’t there somebody else we have to play?” During the run, the Roadrunners had four fairly impressive wins and escaped two elimination games in a row by identical 19-18 scores. Well done!
The final session, with Men’s 50’s and 55’s, began on Friday under blustery conditions, but sunny skies. In Carson City, the Men’s 50-Major Plus reigning World Champion Seacrest Mavericks (CA) defended their Rock ’n Reno championship with an undefeated weekend, culminating in a tight 23-20 win in the Championship game over the Nor-Cal Longhorns (CA). The Men’s 50-Major division saw the eighth seeded (of nine) Wilson Trophy (CA) club run through the bracket unbeaten, defeating the Tucson Bandits (AZ) in both the Winners bracket final (28-23) and the Championship game (21-14). The Men’s 50-AAA also saw an eighth seed (of 11) make a perfect bracket run as the Southern Oregon Flatliners beat the Stanislaus Sluggers (CA) in the Winners bracket final (24-9) and the Championship game (20-19).
Meanwhile, up in Sparks at Golden Eagle, things were a bit more complicated. Three of the five divisions playing there required “If needed” games to determine champions. Of the teams that didn’t have to go to the extra game, the 55-Major Nor-Cal Reds slipped past No Dice (CA) by a 28-23 score in the Championship and the 50-AA Not Done Yet/NDY (NV) won impressively with a 24-13 Championship game victory over the Nevada Silver Stars.
The six-team 55-Major Plus division was wide open for a winner, with no team unbeaten for the weekend. The MTC 55’s (CA), upset as a #2 seed in their first game came back through the Elimination bracket to defeat the previously unbeaten W.E. Ruth Realty 55’s (WA) in the Championship game before W.E. Ruth got back on track in the “if needed” game, 23-18 for the title.
The largest bracket of the tournament was the Men’s 55-AAA, with 17 teams. Following a winless seeding round, the sixteenth seeded Desperados (NM) got things going, upsetting top seeded R&R Strokers (CA) in an early game Saturday morning game by a tight 8-7 score. At the time, nobody knew that was a glimpse of things to come, as both teams started win streaks, the Desperados winning all the way to the Championship game, where the R&R Strokers showed up in the other dugout again. R&R, playing their eleventh game, won the Championship game (24-22) before the Desperados bounced back to win the “If needed” game 22-10.
In the Men’s 55-AA, the Cascade Thunder (OR) overcame a loss to top seeded Git-R-Done (CA) in the Winners bracket final before fighting back to take two in revenge, 19-12 in the Championship game and 11-6 in the “If needed” game.
Plans are already underway for next year’s 24th annual Rock ‘n Reno Challenge Cup, with adequate field capacity to handle the expected increase in entries.
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