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Eastern Nationals Back in Raleigh for Record 6th Year
Sept. 1, 2013 – Dave Dowell National DirectorSoftball News Report
RALEIGH, N.C. – During late July and early August, this city and the Walnut Creek Softball Complex rolled out the red carpet again for the SSUSA’s 2013 Eastern National Championships. This year’s event marked the sixth consecutive year here, the longest running appearance in any American city during the Eastern and Western National Championships era.
Fifty-six teams competed for the Eastern titles and coveted berths in the 2013 Tournament of Champions in Florida in early 2014, and the USA National Championship Games against their Western counterparts at the 2013 LVSSA/SSUSA World Masters Championships in Las Vegas beginning in late September.
“Raleigh is just a perfect fit for us every year, and Southern hospitality is everything a visitor could dream for,” said Fran Dowell, SSUSA’s executive director and on site tournament director. “The weather is perfect, the fields are beautiful and everyone is so happy and friendly,” she added.
The Walnut Creek Softball Complex is a nine-field facility that is a prior recipient of SSUSA’s Complex of the Year Award.
Play began with the 65+ and more senior divisions, and a special appearance by a formidable powerhouse from the West Coast. California’s Fairway Ford 80’s made the trip to Raleigh for the opportunity to play the best the East had to offer in the Men’s 80-Major division, and it was quite a show.
Fairway forfeited its chance to play in the USA National game because they were geographically ineligible to represent the East, but that was merely an inconvenience. In front of a very large traveling party of family and friends, they fought their way back through the elimination bracket to take two from Florida Investment Properties to claim the 80-Major title.
All wasn’t lost for Florida Investment Properties, though, as they will represent the East in the USA National Game against the Arizona Prospectors.
In the Men’s 65/70-Major Plus division, Hamel Builders/Superior Softball (VA) completed an unbeaten week with an impressive 35-10 win over Talon Wealth Management (FL) in the championship game.
In the Men’s 65-AAA division, things were a bit more suspenseful as the Syracuse Cyclones 65’s eked out narrow victories over the Wilmington (NC) Softball club, 13-10 and 17-16 to earn their title.
The Men’s 65/70-Silver division featured five evenly matched teams in search of a championship. No team escaped the week unbeaten as the Vacar Stars (VA) needed two wins over the Bailey Talent Cavaliers (VA), 13-7 in the winner’s bracket final, and a last-at-bat 12-11 nail biter in the championship game for the 70-AAA championship.
Maryland’s Rips Country Inn (65-AA) and New York’s Syracuse Cyclones (70-AA) also earned Eastern National Championships and the related USA National game berths.
In the Men’s 75-Major division, Hamel Builders 75 (MD) and Joseph Chevrolet 75 (FL) needed all three games of their best two-of-three series to find a champion. Joseph bounced back from a 12-8 loss in game one to sweep the next two, 9-8 and 18-5 to conclude the first session in exciting fashion.
Friday morning brought a rise in the heat and humidity, matched by the level of excitement as the Men’s 50’s, 55’s and 60’s began play across all nine fields.
In one of the most competitive divisions, the Carolina A’s (NC) needed an “If” game to slip past Doug & Don’s Auto Care (MI) for the 50-Platinum title. Carolina edged Doug & Don’s in the winner’s bracket final (9-8) before losing the championship game 24-12 and bouncing back with a 26-17 victory in the “If” game for the 50-Major crown.
TSC (SC) garnered the 50-Major Plus berth in the USA National game.
The Men’s 50-AAA wasn’t quite as suspenseful, as Florida Automated Shade capped an impressive unbeaten weekend with a 21-16 win over the Strike Zone 50+ (NC) in the championship game. Strike Zone simply ran out of steam, playing their fifth game in a row in the elimination bracket after stumbling in a first-round bracket game.
The Men’s 55+ Division saw impressive championships by two teams, for vastly differing reasons. Sweet Construction (NJ) was one of the few teams to escape defeat during the weekend as they breezed through the 55-Major bracket with three very strong showings, culminating in a 25-8 win over the Triangle Masters (NC) in the final.
In the 55-AAA, things were not quite as simple for eventual champion Hannington’s 55 (MA).
Dedicating this tournament to the memory of teammate William “Bill” Curry, who tragically passed away during the SSUSA’s International Tour of Ireland this summer, proved both emotionally trying and extremely gratifying in the end.
All of their bracket game wins were razor thin, including 9-8 over Who’s on First/Culver (MD) in the winner’s bracket final and 15-12 over the Chicago Classics Panthers (IL) in the championship game. That win avenged their only loss of the weekend suffered in pool play, 19-4, at the hands of those same Panthers.
The Men’s 60+ Division offered a little bit of everything for softball fans. In the 60-Major Plus Division, both Hollis Appraisals (FL) and Superior Senior Softball (VA) began their best two-of-three championship series unbeaten, at 3-0, following mixed pool play with the 60-Major’s.
Superior kept the unbeaten streak intact with 24-18 and 17-4 wins to wrap up the title. In the 60-Major bracket, the Virginia Vipers came through the elimination bracket to force an “If” game by slipping past the Syracuse Merchants (NY) in championship game, before dropping the “If” game finale, 19-12, to Syracuse.
The Men’s 60-Silver Division was the most balanced division of the tournament, with only one of the eight teams getting out of pool play unbeaten. Lou’s Royals (NC) was that team, but their good fortune only lasted one game in the 60-AAA bracket before they found themselves in good company in the elimination bracket. Lou’s Royals had to play three of their last four bracket games against a very game Flip Dow Bonding (NC), who won the winner’s bracket final 21-9.
But Lou’s fought back through the third place game and then won two exciting games over Flip Dow, 20-16 in championship game and again, 21-20 with a last-at-bat rally in the “If” game.
The 60-AA bracket played out in a very similar fashion, with the Ohio Silverados and the Syracuse Cyclones 60 (NY) needing three games to determine a champion. Syracuse dropped Ohio into the loser’s bracket with a 12-10 victory in the Winner’s bracket final before Ohio stormed back through, winning both championship game (24-16) and the “If” game (11-6) to wrap things up.
A very exciting eight-team Women’s Division began play on Saturday morning, bringing a high level of energy and impressively skilled play to the Walnut Creek Complex. Following a full morning of pool play and a short rest, the Women’s 40-Masters Gold division commenced bracket play later that afternoon while the 40/50/55-Silver Division enjoyed the rest of the afternoon off.
As was the norm for many other divisions, the Women’s 40-Masters Gold was both entertaining and unpredictable, as this one also took three games between the last two teams standing to determine a champion. Kryptonite (FL) won the winner’s bracket final rather easily, 22-6, over Team Works (VA), but that didn’t last long, as Team Works returned the favor with their 14-9 win in championship game, before falling to Kryptonite (15-4) in the “If” game to decide the 40-Masters AAA crown. C.P.B. (MI) also secured a USA National game berth in the 40-Masters Major division.
The Women’s 40/50/55-Silver Division was more for the fun of the game, with all three teams already assured of a berth in the USA National Championship games. Lew’s Crew (MD), in the 40-AA, and the sister clubs, Dreamgirlz 50 and Dreamgirlz 55 (VA) played a three-team bracket for fun and bragging rights. The Dreamgirlz 50’s defeated each of the other teams, Dreamgirlz 55 (15-10) and Lew’s Crew (30-8), to grab the trophy.
For complete game scores and bracket results, visit the Eastern National Championships Tournament page at www.seniorsoftball.com.