DEA Combo and Nitro2Go Emerge as Champions
The West Conference kicked off the official start to the 2014 season with the annual DEA Kickoff in Chino Hills, Ca. Twenty-one teams came out of hibernation to debut their new uniforms, and in many cases also new players. Since California decided not to recognize winter this year, the conditions were perfect for softball, sunny and 80 degrees with very little wind. Although attendance at many tournaments has dropped the past few years, the Kickoff has held steady at 20+ teams for the past several years. The tournament was once again sponsored by Easton in a provided bat format.
Five “Major” Division teams had to spot their opponents 7 runs in the round-robin games, but that did not impact the outcome of any of the games played by HardCor, Alliance, DEA Combo, Battle Born, or SoCal Lockdown. These five advanced to the A-Flight (Majors) playoffs along with BP Arsenal, NorCal Shockers, NorCal Elite, LAPD Lawmen and Arizona Ablaze. The two teams that drew a lot of conversation were BP Arsenal and Arizona Ablaze who both looked much improved from past seasons. The B-Flight (Gold) playoffs featured the defending Silver Division World Champions Nitro2Go along with; CHP Elite, Oxnard Regulators, 1203.2/SB Probation, SB Hit squad, Oakland PD, El Dorado Cartel, OC Enforcers, SoCal Riot, WC Titans, and Central Coast Heroes.
Prior to the playoffs several players faced off in a home run derby. The final four sluggers would have made a good tag team match between the DEA Combo (Robert Mason & Jerry Boyd) against two SoCal Alliance rookies (Tim Dorn & Adam Nikolic). Experience prevailed over youth on this occasion with former World Series Home Run King Robert Mason adding yet another derby title to his growing future Hall of Fame resume.
Come playoff time the Gold Division was very evenly matched as there were quite a few close games. 1203.2 are newcomers to the “circuit” but they hit like experienced veterans. They plated plenty of runs and impressed in their ps.com debut. El Dorado Cartel debuted a younger and more athletic line-up so they will only get better as the season progresses. It appears there are some new rivalries growing such as Central Coast and SB Hitsquad, and on this occasion the CC Heroes emerged victorious. Another growing rivalry is SoCal Riot and Nitro2 Go. They have faced on numerous occasions and lately Nitro has been getting the better of Riot. But, the team that had everyone taking a double take was the Oxnard Regulators. They advanced through the playoff bracket undefeated and were in the driver’s seat come championship game time. Winning teams seem to find ways to win and that is exactly what Nitro2Go did. They double dipped Oxnard to win yet another tournament. Remember, Nitro double dipped SoCal Riot to win the Silver Division World Championship in Las Vegas a few short months ago.
Final results for Gold Division:
4.El Dorado Cartel
5t. Central Coast Heroes
5t. 1203.2/SB Probation
7t. SB HitSquad
7t. OC Enforcers
9t. WC Titans
9t. Oakland PD
9t. CHP Elite
MVP: Chad Gross- Nitro2Go
All Tourneys: Seth Palmer, Rob Denney and Jason Mears- Nitro2Go
All Tourneys: Cody Collet, Jess Aragon, Kevin Gormley Oxnard Regulators
There were some familiar faces missing from the Majors Division. Normally active Sin City Combo is scaling back their schedule this year and the SoCal War Pigs folded. NorCal was represented with the Shockers and Elite, both of whom bulked up on talent during the off-season. The additional talent earned them two tickets to the Majors Division for playoffs. And the vastly improved Arizona Ablaze also earned a ticket to the gun show by going 1-1 in the round robin which included a win over Nitro and a narrow loss to the LAPD Lawmen. Speaking of the Lawmen, their new pitcher Tony Garcia will be a huge addition as it allows slugger Derrick Dominguez to move to his natural infield position where he can refocus on driving runs in with his potent bat.
Clearly the most improved team in the entire West Conference is Border Patrol Arsenal. For the past few years they were a “bubble team” that bounced between the Gold and Majors, but seemed to fall just short come playoff time. Their current roster is downright nasty and they showed just how strong they now are by eliminating HardCor in the playoffs. Their 3rd place finish will certainly elevate them come rankings time.
The last 2 teams standing were the defending World Series Champions the SoCal Alliance and the DEA Combo. The undefeated game was absolutely epic. Alliance was plus 11 going into the bottom of the 7th. Alliance recorded a quick out and the DEA had their work cut out for them chasing double digits with only 2 outs remaining. They collectively began spraying base hits around with surgical precision and with the tying run on 3rd and winning run on 2nd a deep sac fly to center plated BOTH runs. Somehow the Combo managed to claw back and send the Alliance into the loser’s bracket. A short time later the Alliance returned to face the DEA in the championship game, but the DEA was in the driver’s seat. Alliance avenged their earlier loss, to force an “IF” game. Many times winning that game would be a momentum changer and early on it appeared to be the case. Alliance was plus 5 going into the 6th inning but the DEA plated 11 runs to go up by 6. The Alliance comeback fell short and the DEA stood victorious. These two teams match up very well against each other so they will most likely exchange wins and losses all year. But on this occasion, it was the DEA Combo who prevailed with an impressive tournament championship!
3.Border Patrol Arsenal
MVP: Mike McMorrow- DEA Combo
All Tourneys- Robert Mason, Nick Larkin, Tommy Gutierrez- DEA Combo
All Tourneys- Kevin Burger, Eric Harryman, Mike Snyder- SoCal Alliance