MARYLAND TEAM RUNS MARATHON AT TO TAKE CHAMPIONSHIP
DALTON, GEORGIA – TEAM ELITE CC MIKEN got their money's worth at the SPA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS at DALTON, GEORGIA'S HERITAGE POINT PARK, using three pool games and six bracket games to win the SPA 2014 50 AAA TITLE.
The MARYLAND team went 2-1 in pool play and 5-1 in bracket play, winning their last three loser-goes-home games to win the championship.
“Our backs were definitely to the wall,” SPA 50 AAA MANAGER-OF-THE-YEAR and TEAM ELITE MANAGER RAY 'RINGO” JONES said, “ But we went into the tournament with the attitude the tougher it was going to be, the tougher we would play.”
Not a real unique strategy but the first-year team was definitely unique in another way. You sure needed a program to know who was playing where. It was almost like the ABBOTT and COSTELLO routine “WHO'S ON FIRST.”
Where other teams have names like BOB, BILL, JOHN, etc, TEAM ELITE'S roster was sprinkled with names such as HILLBILLY, POPS, J HOLLYWOOD, BUZZ, 50/50, RAZ and RINGO. And they all were versatile and played different positions from one game to the next.
“Those nicknames are the ones you can print, they also have others you can't print,” JONES laughed. “When we put this team together this year our main objective was the players would have versatility and be able to play at least a couple of different positions.”
They needed the versatility because only twelve players made the 11-hour trip to DALTON. All 12 played in the pool games but only 11 were used in each of the bracket games with one player being kept in reserve in case of injury.
“The versatility we had played a huge part in us winning the championship,” JONES said, “I had to constantly manipulate the line-up in regards to both batting order and defensive positions due to injuries.”
“Falling into the loser's bracket and playing all those extra games didn't help us either,” he added, “Guys were really wearing down and it was hard to find fresh legs.”
After falling in the pool opener to the DAYTON HITMEN 17-12, they ran off four wins in a row beating STILL SWINGING (20-15) and NORTH GEORGIA OUTLAWS (23-15) in pool play and then SOUTHERN HURRICANES (29-23) and FINANCIAL EAGLES (15-11) in bracket playing before losing again.
“We lost to DAYTON again, this time 23-18,” assistant coach JIM “50/50” GALLAGHER said, “They just beat us, it looked like we weren't ready to play. We were really inconsistent at bat and in the field.”
From there on things changed for the better. What changed them?
“Let's just say we had some good dialogue between everyone,” GALLAGHER said, “It wasn't a gripe session, we just discussed what we had to do better so we could really focus in on what we were here to do.”
The session worked as TEAM ELITE opened SUNDAY beating FINANCIAL EAGLE 20-15 then forcing an “IF” game with a 26-17 victory over DAYTON and followed that with a 21-14 decision against DAYTON in the title game.
“That was a great feeling,” JONES said, “To win a tournament against the competition in this tournament was fantastic. There really were a lot of great teams here and everyone was capable of winning it all, we just got hot on SUNDAY and that carried us through.”
Earning MVP TOURNAMENT honors was SAM MANNS. The first baseman hit .861, including nine HR'S and 38 RBI'S. In addition he was involved in several key defensive double plays.
Joining MANNS on the ALL-AMERICAN TEAM were JIM “50/50” GALLAGHER (2B,.722), DARYL (HILLBILLY) BILLINGS (LCF, .727), ROBBIE WINNER (OF, .784), JIM “RAZ” RASNAKE (P,.600) and ROBERT “BUZZ” SMITH (OF, .778)
Other members of TEAM ELITE CC MIKEN are: MIKE BEDELL (DNP), MANAGER-OF-THE-YEAR RAY “RINGO” JONES (OF, .676), RANDY LOTT (DNP), BRIAN (CAVEMAN) WEIMAN ( LF, .677), CLIFF (BIG DOG) CURTAIN (DH,.583), CHRIS “POPS” FLEISCH (SS, .586), HOWARD COHEN (DNP), DANNY PIPER (DNP), BARRY LYNN (3B,.594), JIM “HOLLYWOOD” SMITH (DNP) and KEITH DELANEY (C,EH, .697)
It hasn't been an easy first year for TEAM ELITE despite winning the 50 AAA SPA WORLDS. Injuries have been common, just notice the “DNP'S” on the above roster.
“We started with eighteen players on the roster,” GALLAGHER explained, “But we were never able to have more than 12-or-13 at any tournament because of injuries and other commitments. We were lucky to make it here with 12 players.”
Besides all the sponsor names listed as TEAM ELITE CC MIKEN, the team is self sponsored except for some help from teammate CLIFF CURTAIN, who has a trucking company in CATONSVILLE, MARYLAND and HARDESTY HEATING AND AIR CONDITIOING plus a few other anonymous sponsors.
“As you can tell by all our nicknames, this team is really loose and has fun together,” GALLAGHER said, “We all enjoy traveling and playing ball together. The chemistry is so good and everybody is willing to go that extra mile to help the team win. Playing with these guys makes playing senior softball just a much more enjoyable experience.”
GALLAGHER and JONES both had high praise for RIDGE HOOKS and the SPA WORLDS.
“Other organizations can take a lesson from the way RIDGE runs the SPA tournament.” they said, 'Having three umpires for the championship game is something we have never seen before and all the umpires who worked the tournament were the very best we have ever had.”
“We loved the complex and the opening ceremony was just fantastic,” they added, “It was really worth the long drive and it was a great experience, we will always remember.”