California teams dominate at 24th Annual Smoke Tournament
By Ermano Siri
RENO-SPARKS, NV - They said they came to town ‘just to party', a goal that undoubtedly many teams have done in the 24-year history of the Smoke Softball Slowpitch Tournament. As a matter of fact, they did just what they named themselves-Jus 2 Party.
But they did much more than that, going undefeated in the twenty-eight team ‘E' division Sept 16-17 at Sparks Shadow Mountain Complex. The Gilroy, CA, team posted a perfect 6-0 record, and finished the weekend off with a convincing 16-1 win in five innings over Double V's Gamecocks of San Jose, CA.
Jus 2 Party manager Alex Salgado said he put the team together specifically for the tournament, but players from both South Bay Area teams said they've played each other often. When asked what makes a good ‘E' division team, Salgado said, "Base hitters. Line drive hitters. You don't have home runs, of course. That, and defense."
The team displayed all that, and more in the championship game. In the bottom of the third, Jus 2 Party pretty much put the game away with nine runs, most, if not all, coming on line drive singles, and solid, blazing-fast base running. Double V's only run came in the top of the first; and that lead was very short-lived, as Jus 2 Party answered with three in the bottom of the inning. Four more in the fifth put the game away, with Ralph Martinez knocking in the winner with, appropriately enough, a single.
The champions earned a shot at the title by blanking Sanger Dukes of Sanger, CA, who finished third, 9-0. As a matter of fact, they beat every contender in the field, sending eventual fourth place finisher, All About U of Fremont, CA, into the loser's bracket with an 11-6 decision.
Meanwhile, Double V's was fighting its way through the loser's bracket after losing, 9-8, to the Dukes in their winner's bracket game. But Double V's got the revenge that often happens in double elimination tournaments, beating Sanger, 8-5, in a loser's bracket finals rematch.
Shortstop Santos Gutierrez, a key to Jus 2 Party's defense was named Offensive MVP. Double V's second baseman Richard Valencia took home the Defensive MVP award.
The All-Tournament selections were: Bobby Granados, George Salgado, Jr., and Ralph Martinez of Jus 2 Party; Eric Cox, Joaquin Gabriel, Jr., and Anthony Zertuche, Double V's Gamecocks; Sam Regalado and Nuny Gallardo, Sanger Dukes; and Curt DeFranco and Pat Hiriyama, All About U.
The 14-team men's ‘D' division also saw a team that was put together just for the tournament take the title. It even played under a name that implied as much.
Together Again of Ceres, CA, a team composed of players who've played with, and for, manager Andy Chipponeri, came from behind to beat North Valley Softball of Chico, CA, 19-12, in the winner's bracket final, and then easily held off North Valley, 21-6, in the championship game. The ‘D' division championship was also played at Shadow Mountain.
The names of 13 teams were printed on the back of Together Again's jerseys, starting with The Ceres Padres and ending with SWAC Extreme Softball of more recent central California slowpitch wars.
North Valley scored 19 runs in the first two innings against World Gym of Carson City, NV, on its way to a 25-14 win, which left World Gym in third place.
World Gym had to battle all the way through the loser's bracket after losing its first game of the tournament. It edged out Ottenwalter Farms of Colusa, CA, 19-18, in the game that decided fourth place. Ottenwalter had the tying run on third and the winning run on first with two out in the bottom of the seventh, but World Gym's second baseman made a full-extension diving catch of a ground ball, and then threw the runner out at first to end the game.
Jeff Fetters of Together Again took the Offensive MVP award, while North Valley left-center fielder Mike Barney was named Defensive MVP.
Named to the All-Tournament team were: Heath Lane, Art Parish and Dave Satnat of Together Again; Eddie Heaney, Damon Whittaker and Pete Folger of North Valley; Bob Whited and Darrin Ketchum of World Gym; and Rodney Roger and Rick Burgess of Ottenwalter.
Underdogs/TSC of San Ramon, CA, scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Scandalous of Redding, CA, in the "if" game of the tournament's 24-team co-ed division played at the Reno Sports Complex at Rancho San Rafael Park. The score stayed close throughout the game until Scandalous scored nine runs in the top of the fifth for a 17-7 lead; but Underdogs answered with ten in the bottom of the inning to tie it. Both teams scored three times in the sixth to set up the decisive seventh. Scandalous came out of the loser's bracket to force the "if" game, with an overwhelming 25-13 win.
Underdogs, who took second last year under a different name, beat Worth 5150, the defending champion, in both teams' first game. Worth survived in the loser's bracket long enough to finish fifth this year. Last Call of Concord, CA, took third, and Early NOften of Vacaville, CA, finished fourth.
Underdogs' David Leal and Kelly Saenz were named Offensive co-MVPs, and Mikey Parrish and Mike Hobbs of Scandalous won Defensive co-MVP honors.
All-Tournament selections were: Nik Cavarco, Nate Szutu and Donna Rauch, Underdogs; Marcee Savage, Mark Madron and Stacie Lonquist, Scandalous; Maricela Soto and Michelle Villgas, Last Call; and Aaron Bryant and Melissa Bryant, Early N Often.