Alliance and WarPigs Both Come out on Top When the Dust Settles
The SoCal WarPigs Win their Second Gold Division Title of 2012.
The West Conference Regional Championship sponsored by Easton Sports was held the weekend of May 11/12, 2012 at the Big League Dreams Riverside Facility in Southern California. This event has undergone a few name changes and venue shifts since its inception in 2008. Although names and locations have changed a few things have remained constant and those are: the best teams in the West (and sometimes the East) come to the event and an assortment of quality stock bats are provided by the event sponsor Easton Sports. On this weekend, almost every team in the West Conference top 25 rankings participated and all seven fields had at least three of the new 2013 line of Easton bats.
Many tournaments only give 2 round robin/bracket games but the availability of seven fields afforded tournament directors the ability to give all teams’ one extra round robin game. This meant that all teams were given a five game guarantee on the weekend, and mathematically most would get many more than that. So there was a LOT of softball to be played over the two day span. This particular complex is unique in that every field has vastly different dimensions ranging from the cozy confines of Vero Beach which has a short RF porch of 240’ to the roomy Pawtucket that stretches to 330’ in CF. Although the temperatures reached a toasty 85 degrees the bats and the 2012 policesoftball.com signature edition balls (USSSA Classic M) held up well to the conditions and many games had scores in the 30’s even during the peak heat hours.
All teams played three bracket games on Friday for purposes of playoff seeding. Every bracket had four teams and based on W/L record and tie breaker criteria the top 2 seeded teams in each bracket advanced to the Majors double elimination playoffs on Saturday while the bottom 2 seeds advanced to the Gold double elimination playoffs on Saturday. The following is the bracket play results along with seeding:
2.Stanislaus *won tie-breaker criteria
4.El Dorado Cartel
3.Alameda’s Most Wanted/AMW
1.Sin City Combo
HR DERBY/PLAYER’S PARTY
Mid day there was a one hour break for lunch along with the annual West Conference Regional HR Derby Championship. Typically this event goes several rounds with a nail biting tie breaker but that was not the case this time. For starters the directors began re-enforcing the rule that requires pitchers to pitch from behind the security screen at the pitching rubber. For the past few years that rule was not actively enforced and it allowed pitchers to serve up cookies. Now with this rule back in place, the pressure was back on the pitchers once again. Next, the wind was blowing in on the replica Forbes field. Although it wasn’t a strong wind it definitely knocked back some of the high fly balls. Low trajectory home runs were still flying out. Under these conditions the perfect pairing of having an accurate pitcher and strong hitter who could cut through the wind would be needed to win. And that was exactly the recipe for success for big Andy Williams from the DEA Combo as he wasted little time in smashing through the competition to claim the title of West Conference Regional HR King. Andy won a 2013 Easton Brett Helmer edition bat along with a paid berth into the World Series HR derby in Las Vegas. Andy will have his picture displayed on the policesoftball.com website for one year. Later on Friday night at the host hotel another DEA Combo member claimed a title and that was Mike McMorrow who won the poker tournament at the player’s party. Overall it was an early night because playoffs were set to begin early on Saturday morning.
GOLD DIVISION PLAYOFFS
With two Gold Division heavyweights, Nitro2Go and Stanislaus getting bumped up into the Majors Division the Gold Division was really up for grabs. On face value it would seem that either Red Republic or BP Arsenal would cake walk through the division because both of these teams typically play in the Majors. But on this weekend Red Republic struggled to get 10 players and actually played with 9 in a couple games. Meanwhile BP Arsenal had their roster decimated by last minute work assignments so their upper level pitcher and key position players were unavailable. Undaunted by the manpower shortage, both teams limped into the battlefield to give the best effort they could muster given their depleted conditions. The SoCal WarPigs had been playing well all year by winning the Gold Division at the DEA Kickoff and advancing to the Gold Division championship at another tournament but suffered a double dip courtesy of the Majors Division Aftershock team. Would the WarPigs be able to bounce back from that heartbreaker? And how would the brand new Arizona Ablaze team fare playing their first tournament in the circuit? These questions would be answered soon enough.
Surprisingly last year’s juggernaut the Fontana Gunslingers suffered two quick losses and were done early. Same was true for the usually solid CenCal Syndicate. The holes in their line-up were too big to overcome as BP Arsenal were also eliminated early. Meanwhile, the Arizona Ablaze got their first taste of the circuit and now realize the level they need to be at to compete with the big boys in the Gold Division. They certainly looked better on Saturday than they did on Friday so they have something positive to build on.
The El Dorado Cartel got a shot in the arm when Hall of Famer Joe Mestres returned to their team on Saturday after missing Friday due to prior commitments. The team has plenty of sluggers and with Joe toeing the rubber they played well on Saturday by notching a couple wins but they could not sustain it. The SoCal Dawgz looked solid as they had several former players return to the team after they parted ways with SoCal Lockdown in the off-season. You can expect the Dawgz to have one of their best years to date, but on this weekend they did not have enough firepower to get to the dance.
Anytime a team finishes in the top 5 against this quality of competition you have to consider it a successful weekend. Alameda’s Most Wanted/AMW is a true bubble team and their upset over the Major’s Division NorCal Choir Boys at the DEA Kickoff denied them a chance to see how they would fare against other Gold Teams in Chino Hills back in February. This time they landed where they were supposed to be, in the Gold Division but just couldn’t recapture that magic of the Choir Boys game and ended up settling on 5th place. NorCal Elite did not get firing on all cylinders on Friday but when it really mattered, playoff time…they looked strong. They finished tied for 5th and just missed doing some damage in the top 4.
The Red Republic mantra of the weekend was, “send us you’re sick, injured, and inexperienced and we will take them to battle with us.” You have to appreciate what the team did with nine players and a merry-go-round of available players all weekend. One thing is certain, the additions of former Pound the Gap studs Mike Pimental and Greg Folsom will make this team a force once again. Pimental has extensive civilian ball experience and Folsom anchored the hot corner for the SoCal Alliance at the 2006 World Series.
If you though Red Republic was banged up you should have seen Team Vargas. They had only one loss on Saturday but had to forfeit their remaining games due to some family/medical emergencies. They had only 8 players available so they respectfully decided to bow out. The question remains…what would they have done given a shot to double dip the eventual champs? Our well wishes go out to their player who is dealing with a family medical issue which occurred at the fields.
Hats off to SoCal Riot! Ps.Com was extremely impressed with them upon their debut to the circuit at the DEA Kickoff 3 years ago. Since that time they have not stepped up to the level many thought they were capable of performing at. They silenced their critics this weekend as they advanced to the championship game and ended up earning 2nd place in the Gold Division. Riot had scored well all weekend but after several games in a row in the hot sun, their bats just gave out on them in the championship game. Given the quality of teams Riot finished ahead of they should hold their heads high with pride in that they are playing at the level we knew they were capable of all along.
1st Place Gold Division Champions
With their undefeated playoff run the SoCal WarPigs are clearly one of the top Gold Division teams in the nation. This is their 3rd championship game in 3 circuit tournaments. They have 2 wins now and a 2nd place finish. Their only losses have been to Majors Division teams. The SoCal WarPigs are a notch above all others in the Gold Division and with the West Conference Championship title on their resume they have to be one of the favorites to win the World Series in Vegas this year. Congrats to the SoCal WarPigs earning the title, West Conference Gold Division Champions.
MAJOR DIVISION PLAYOFFS
The usual suspects were favored to come out on top: SoCal Alliance, Sin City, HardCor, Showtime etc. But many of the top guns were hurting for players and free agent pickups were the theme of the weekend. Sin City had exactly 10 for the playoffs including a few playing injured. The healthiest and deepest team appeared to be the DEA Combo and as expected they went deep into the playoffs.
Many who watched felt the LAPD Blue team was fielding their strongest lineup of the season. Their new pickups Scott Thomas and Jerry Boyd looked like perfect additions to the squad who was undergoing a youth movement and boasting a more athletic lineup than in past years. Unfortunately some ill-timed solo shots early in the game against Vegas Heat eventually led to their first loss (in walk-off fashion) and put them into the loser bracket early. They did not recover from the blow, but although they had an early exit their team looked impressive. Stanislaus was another team that had to pick up players and the fact is they were just outgunned. Stanislaus is a bubble team that could bounce between Majors and Gold with their full line up, but with a make shift roster they didn’t have the horses to compete with the big dogs. They gave Sin City a nice game, but in reality they would have been better off in the Gold Division where they could have had a nice run. Unfortunately they played too well in the round robin and that put them in the heavyweight division. Nitro2Go is constructed very much like Stanislaus and they too would have made a nice run in the Gold Division rather have to battle the Goliaths of police softball. Their 2-1 round robin record showed their potential but they are still a bit shy of being able to advance deep in the Majors. Concord on the other hand is a Goliath and clearly can compete with any of the big dogs. Remember, this is the same team that sent, the famed Ohio Lawmen into the loser bracket in the 2011 World Series. And they did it in convincing fashion. Every weekend is different and on this weekend they came up short come playoff time.
HardCor suffered what many felt was a first round upset against Aftershock. Running with a skeleton crew they tried to mount a run but they just couldn’t get firing on all cylinders and checked out earlier than expected. Meanwhile the team that put HardCor in the loser bracket, Aftershock couldn’t keep the hot hand and suffered a pair of losses just after their nice victory.
Vegas Heat has been the most improved team in the West Conference this year as they have seamlessly moved from the Gold Division into the Majors Division. Normally a team would struggle in their first year of the transition but not the Heat. They posted some big wins over some high profile teams and have solidified themselves as a West Conference big dog now. Their line-up is well balanced and they have the talent to hang with anyone. They still have some hurdles to clear but they are on the right path. SoCal Lockdown is loaded with talent, boast great pitching and outstanding defense. On paper they have the offense to compete with anyone but for the past few tournaments they have not clicked offensively. They seem to fall short of putting together those big 10-12 run innings and when playing high caliber teams they simply cannot afford to post a steady clip of 2 run innings.
California Showtime was another team with 10 guys but they seemed to have the right 10. Matt Boykin looked outstanding on the bump and Jeff Regino was his usual dominant self in the lead off role. Mike Mayer ran the team this weekend and he has to be proud of their effort. They went down swinging to Sin City and finished is a very respectable 4th place in a tournament loaded with top contenders.
Many thought this would be the DEA Combo’s weekend and by all accounts it was shaping up to be that way. They ran up a big score against Sin City to advance to the undefeated game against SoCal Alliance. For whatever reason they came out flat against SoCal, but based on their performance all weekend most expected them to bounce back and meet SoCal in the championship game. That never happened as the hot hitting Sin City handed them a loss the next game and the DEA checked out in 3rd place. Once again, finishing 3rd against this level is a proud accomplishment.
Sin City and SoCal Alliance have exchanged top dog status on and off for the past couple of years so it should have been no surprise to see them in the championship game facing off against their friendly foes once again. But, with Sin City running so short handed (exactly 10) and having some players gimping around the field them getting to the dance was a testament as to how good this team really is. Not only did Sin City get to the dance, they pushed a healthy SoCal team to the limit and had it have not of been for some late inning heroics by eventual SoCal MVP Mike Snyder, there would have been an “if” game. Sin City proved that good teams rise to the occasion no matter how difficult the conditions and that is just what they did on this weekend.
1st Place Major Division Champions
The SoCal Alliance went a perfect 7-0 on the weekend to claim the West Conference Regional Majors title. Offensively they clicked all weekend and few games went beyond the 4th inning. Their strength on this weekend was their depth because despite missing many key players the guys who were there played lights out softball. Ryan Coe is having his best year as a pitcher as his ability to hit locations, change speeds and add deception makes him a downright menace on the bump. The defense up the middle (Coe, Harryman, Baez, and Wells) was absolutely locked in so they kept opponents to single digits in most games. They should once again be among the favorites to have a shot at the World Series this year, a title that has eluded them since 2008.
ALL TOURNAMENT SELECTIONS
MVP – Mike Snyder, SoCal Alliance. In the lead off spot, Mike hit .906 on the tournament and went 5 for 5 in the championship game including a walk off grand slam to end the game. This is Mike’s third year on the circuit and he has quickly become one of the best police players in the nation.
MVP Ben Zaredini – Ben played lights out all weekend on defense and offense and led his team to their third straight tournament championship game.
TOURNAMENT GOLD GLOVE
A MESSAGE FROM POLICESOFTBALL.COM
Ps.Com would like to thank all the teams that participated in the tournament this year. We know that many teams were short handed, banged up and running on fumes. We thank you all for still managing to put together a team and make the journey to Riverside and we hope you enjoyed your experience. We are proud to invite all 24 of those who participated to represent the West Conference in the World Series this year. YOU ALL HAVE A RESERVED SPOT FOR THE WORLD SERIES UNTIL JULY 1ST. . Please send us your entry fee before July 1 to retain this reserved spot. We are always looking for ways to improve so if you have any ideas on how to make the event better please don’t hesitate to contact us via email at email@example.com. Thanks to RoverPlusNine for supporting the event and providing part of the prize package. Thanks goes out to Dennis Leonard and 3n2 for their 3n2 MVP program. There will be an individual story on the 3n2 MVP in the next week or so. Individual thanks goes out to Jason Hart for helping out all weekend despite not being able to play. Thanks to Ryan Coe, Norm Coe and those who helped break down the director booth after the event. Thanks to Jim Munson and his Big League Dreams staff for keeping the facility in top condition for our event all weekend. Lastly, special thanks to Brett Helmer and Easton Sports for supplying the bats and for their continued support of policesoftball.com.