POWER ATTACK LEADS TO 65 AA SPA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
DALTON, GEORGIA – If ever a team lived up to their name it was the CHICAGO HITMEN, who captured the SPA 2014 WORLD 65 AA CHAMPIONSHIP at DALTON, GEORGIA'S HERITAGE POINT PARK, SEPTEMBER 11-14.
Over seven games (3 pool, 4 bracket) the HITMEN batted .769 outscored their opponents 152 (21.7) to 90 (12.8) and won all seven games in the nine-team 65 AA field.
“We did hit well but it wasn't as easy as it sounds,” SPA 65 AA MANAGER-OF-THE-YEAR MIKE SABATINO said, “In three of the games including the final two we trailed by at least five runs heading into the 5th inning.”
The games SABATINO was referring to were the tournament pool play opener against the DAYTON LEGENDS and the two final bracket games against THE FIRM.
Against DAYTON, the WINDY CITY guys trailed 21-12 heading into the seventh and erupted for 10 runs to win 22-21.
Against THE FIRM in the winner's bracket, the HITMEN rallied from a 17-12 deficit in the fifth inning to erupt for 22 runs in the final innings for a 34-17 win.
The championship game against THE FIRM was almost a duplication as the HITMEN trailed 18-12 fifth inning. They responded by scoring five runs in the sixth inning and 14 in the seventh for 31-20 championship clinching win.
SABATINO claims the way his team continually responded was due to patience, attitude and never giving up, even when they were behind. They gave it best they had.
“We just had less talk and more action,” SABATINO said, “We never lost our confidence, kept our composure and always we believed we had the talent to rally back and win every game we played.”
The manager also stated they never take any team for granted and are usually prepared when they face that team in the tournament.
“I scout each team during pool play and early bracket games so as to know what to expect,” he stated, “You can never take any team for granted and in tournament play you need every edge you can have and I believe scouting and knowing your opponent is a huge edge.”
Another edge the HITMEN have is they have nine players who who have been together since 2008. Over that span the team has won 70-percent of their tournament games but this is their first SPA WORLD TITLE.
“We have come close a few times but this is the first time we have all been healthy coming to the tournament and that really made a difference,' SABATINO said.
The nine who have been with the team for the ten years are: STEVE DECORI (RC, .741), JOHN DOYLE (DNP), FELIX GARCIA (3B,.680), CO-MANAGER JIM KUPIEC (P. .800), RICK MASINO (P,.610), SABATINO (RF,.680), PHIL WHITMAN (C, .650), STEVE GAJDA (SS, .680) and DAN TODD (LF, .667).
Others on the team are: DAVID ABNEY (DVD), MIKE MCLENNAND (1B, .778), RICHARD DAHM (DNP), MIKE CHASTAIN (2B, .679), BUBBA RUSSELL (C/1B, .739) and TOURNAMENT MVP WARREN YORK (LC,.852).
The speedy left center fielder in addition to making outstanding defensive plays with both his arm and glove batted .852 to lead the team in hitting.
Joining YORK on the ALL-AMERICAN team were DECORI, KUPIEC, WHITMEN, CHASTAIN and GAJDA.
The team's sponsor is SUPREME LOBSTER OF VILLA PARK, ILLINOIS, owned by DOMINIC STRAMAGLIA..
“DOMINIC has been sponsoring area softball and little league teams for at least 15 years and has been our sponsor since 2004,” SABATINO said, “He is really a great guy and his SEAFOOD is top of the line. He also ships from west coast to east coast and anywhere in-between"
Although the HITMEN have won other tournaments over the years, SABATINO says the team peaked at DALTON.
“As a team. That is the best we have ever played in our history,” he stated,”We were patient at the plate and made the big plays on defense, If we needed a big hit or big defensive play we made it happen. We really played great.”
The manager also stated the secret to his team's success over the years is ,”.....we are like brothers, there are no ego trips. We all get along.”
As for the SPA, SABATINO gave both RIDGE HOOKS, the staff and the tournament high marks.
“RIDGE (HOOKS) is a tremendous guy and runs a great tournament, it is first class,” he said, “ We loved the opening ceremony and the umpires were the best we have seen all year.. Every team in the tournament was tough and a great bunch of guys. It was a great tournament.”
“I just wish SPA had tournaments closer to CHICAGO, so we could attend more SPA events. Maybe they can do that in 2015.”