SoCal Alliance and LA Lawmen are the victors
Major Division MVP - Eric Harryman
THE WEST CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP - Mid-May is a busy time for the police softball circuit as two of the biggest tournaments in the nation are held on opposite ends of the country. The Bash at the Beach/East Conference Championship is held in Virginia Beach and on the other coast, the West Conference Championship is held at the Big League Dreams facility in Chino Hills (SoCal). The ECC drew plenty of teams, but the numbers were down significantly in California. The WCC typically draws 24+ teams, but for a variety of reasons only 16 came out to test their skills against some of the toughest competition in the circuit. The event featured 6 Majors teams and 10 Gold teams and they were divided into 6 round robin brackets. Gold teams were spotted 7 runs against the Majors teams which created some interesting results. One of the more exciting matchups was Showtime nipping the LA Lawmen by 1 run. Another tight one was the DEA Combo vs. CenCal Connection game that ended in a draw.
HOME RUN DERBY
This year’s derby was the highlight of the event and not just due to the intense competition. Last year Officer Gilbert “Corky” Cortez was killed in an on-duty traffic accident. Cortez was a former teammate of Showtime slugger Guillermo GG Guerra when they played on the Scorpions team which was based out of the Imperial Valley. Cortez left behind a wife and two children. Policesoftball.com in partnership with GG and his Showtime teammates dedicated the derby and all the proceeds to Cortez’s family. The goal was to raise enough money to purchase 3 Disneyland day passes for the family which would cost in excess of $300. Frank Terronez the reigning WC Player of the Year donated a brand new Combat bat as the grand prize. Ben Zaredini and Dan Potter from the Code3 Softball Circuit donated $100 cash to the runner up, and Carlos Vegas and Elite Sports donated 2 pair of Elite turf shoes to the 3rd and 4th place finishers. The Arizona Ablaze team donated cash as did many others such as the Central Coast Heroes and several individuals.
The usual suspects, Robert Mason and Mike McMorrow represented the DEA Combo with authority as they typically do. Alliance rookie book ends Tim Dorn and Adam Nikolic announced their presence to the circuit by putting on a power hitting display during the derby and during crucial game situations. Hulking Chris Horn and equally hulking Guillermo Guerra advanced round after round as they neared the one pitch round. There could only be one winner and on this day Mike McMorrow stood victorious after launching a mammoth shot over the green monster. SoCal’s Tim Dorn earned the runner-up title and Robert Mason followed by Guillermo Guerra closed out the 3rd and 4th place finishes. In an act of humility and respect, Mike McMorrow donated the bat back to policesoftball.com to be raffled off in hopes of drawing enough money from a high bidder to pay for a nice hotel room near Disneyland for the Cortez family. (More on this on the message board later).
VCO Combo, a relative newcomer to the circuit surprised many by going 2-0 in round robin, defeating a Majors team and earning the top seed. SoCal Riot, Arizona Ablaze and the LA Lawmen rounded out the top 4 seeds which came with critical first round byes. The 5150/Shockers from NorCal caught fire early defeating Oakland PD Combo, SoCal Riot and the CenCal Connection to advance to the undefeated game. On the other half f the bracket the LA Lawmen utilized their bye in the first round and then defeated Nitro2Go and the VCO Combo to get their shot in the undefeated game. That game was played late in the afternoon on Friday and the heat and wind made scoring a challenge. Neither team put together any big rallies but the LA Lawmen chipped away every inning and maintained a lead throughout. The LA Lawmen closed out the game and earned a ticket the dance on Saturday afternoon. The Shockers meanwhile were guaranteed no lower than 3rd place overall but would need to fire off 3 straight wins which would have to include a double-dip in order to defend their WCC title they won last year at this very venue.
It wasn’t the Shockers that everyone was talking about on Saturday morning; instead it was circuit newbies the CenCal Connection. They were making their debut at a ps.com event and come Saturday morning in do or die time they played like a team possessed. CenCal reeled off victory after victory against formidable opponents such as: Oakland Combo, SoCal Riot, and in a rematch they were able to get some “pay back” on the Shockers to advance to the championship game where they would need to double dip the LA Lawmen. The Lawmen were fresh and waiting for the battle weary Connection players but as the game got underway it appeared both teams were fatigued. Scores of zero or one run per inning were recorded early on. CenCal pitcher Ryan Sauceda kept the Lawmen bats silent but his counterpart from the Lawmen, Tony Garcia was equally effective. Eventually the veteran LA Lawmen squad began to open up and separate from CenCal and dazzling defense from 3rd baseman Derrick Dominguez robbed several hits from the CenCal hitters. The Lawmen defense was nails in the 7th inning locking down the field and securing their first Gold Division West Conference Championship!
1. LA Lawmen
2. CenCal Connection
4. SoCal Riot
5t. VCO Combo
5t. Oakland Combo
7t. Arizona Ablaze
7t. Nitro2Go *
9t. NorCal Elite
9t. Central Coast Heroes
LA Lawmen MVP: Tony Garcia
LA Lawmen All Tournament: Marcus Kemp, Jeremy Hersey, Garrett Kizinkiewicz
LA Lawmen Defensive MVP: Derrick Dominguez
CenCal Connection All Tournament: Rolando Quinonez, Gabe Chavez, Charles Morelock
5150 Shockers All Tournament: Joe Johnson, Justin Harris
*Nitro2Go would later win the four team “Silver” division single elimination playoff and named Danny Wells their team MVP.
SoCal Alliance and SoCal Lockdown handled business in the round robin and earned the #1 and #2 seeds respectively. Those top seeds came with first round playoff byes which was important because every team in the Majors division could beat every other team on any given day. Rounding out the seeding was Cal-Showtime, DEA Combo, Battle Born and the revamped Cali-Force (formerly Concord Combo) who are now under new management.
The defending WCC champs DEA Combo were bounced into the loser bracket early at the hands of Battle Born. Battle Born impressed those in attendance by launching a balanced attack of solid pitching, dazzling defense and clutch hitting. Tournament director Jeff Blair commented how the team played to their strengths which included pitcher Trevor Neville inducing numerous ground balls which were sucked up by middle infielders Chris Traska and Ray Stieber. Traska and Strieber are quickly becoming one of the most formidable middle infield duos in the circuit. The Alliance vs. Battle Born game was back and forth and just as it seemed that Battle Born was going to shut the door, the defending World Champs pulled yet another rabbit from the hat. The Alliance snatched victory from the hands of defeat once again and advanced to face the undefeated and red hot SoCal Lockdown team in the undefeated game.
Of all the teams, SoCal Lockdown seemed to be the most dialed in. They recorded two run rule victories in the round robin and then bested Showtime enroute to the Alliance match up. More importantly, Brandon St. Aubin’s squad had all their horses in the stable and was fully staffed for the first time in months. Their new pitcher Matt “Heuro” Mejia was dealing it and his addition allowed the team to move defensive wizard Robert Roque to 2nd base. The addition bolstered their pitching depth and consequently strengthened their infield. Alliance pitcher Ray Ghillioti was able to keep the Lockdown bats at bay, and although the Alliance never got firing on all cylinders the defense, pitching and situational hitting was too tough for Lockdown to overcome. Alliance would advance to the championship game on Saturday morning.
You know a team is good when they fail to execute one of their biggest team strengths and STILL find a way to win. That was exactly the case of the DEA Combo this weekend. They are known for their ability to hit home runs on command as they boast a line-up loaded with some of the top sluggers in our sport: McMorrow, Mason, Gutierrez, Sunia, and Boyd to name a few. For whatever reason, they couldn’t flip the power switch and went 4 games in a row without a single home run. This did not deter the Combo as they are so balanced they found other ways to win. The pitching of Steve Wrathall was spot on. Their infield is simply amazing. Former Sin City star Donnie Sutton at 3rd, new comer Kevin Mort (fresh off the Ole’ Miss baseball field) at Shortstop, legendary gold glover Nate Baez in the 5 man, and Tommy Gutierrez at 2B and McMorrow at 1B is a death sentence for ground balls trying to find grass. And although they were not hitting balls over the fence they hit plenty of balls off the wall or into gaps. As a result they notched victories over Showtime, Battle Born and Lockdown to face the Alliance in the championship game.
The championship game featured a balanced team effort by the SoCal Alliance as they caught fire early and never let off the gas. It was an absolute offensive display that featured gap hitting by Ryan Coe and Bryan Schmidt, titanic home runs by Tim Dorn, Nate White, Buddy Lundy and Adam Nikolic, lasers all over by Mike Snyder and the list goes on and on. Tournament director Jeff Blair stated the performance by Eric Harryman all weekend was the single most dominating he has seen in his (near) 2 decades in cop softball. Blair said, “Harryman was flawless at the plate and in the field. His defense looked effortless and his ability to do exactly what he wanted with the bat seemed supernatural.*” The Alliance pitching duties used to be the sole property of Ryan Coe but this year Ray G. has become a monster on the mound and he now shares the hill equally with Ryan. Together they induced grounders into the teeth of the formidable Alliance defense which led to double plays courtesy of the “Double H Brand” (Hart & Harryman) all weekend. Alliance newbie and former HardCor 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, Bryan Schmidt, anchored the hot corner and played with fire in his eyes. As a result the Alliance regained their title of West Conference Champions and notched their second tournament victory in a row (Sin City Madness & WCC). The DEA Combo and SoCal Alliance battles should be epic for the next few years.
SoCal Alliance MVP: Eric Harryman *see quote in last paragraph above
SoCal Alliance All Tourney: Kevin Burger, Kris Ulibarri, Buddy Lundy
SoCal Alliance Defensive MVP: Ray Ghillioti
DEA Combo All Tourney: Kevin Mort, Donnie Sutton, Jerry Boyd
SoCal Lockdown All Tourney: Matt Mejia, Joey Cisneros
Policesoftball.com would like to thank event sponsors BRETT HELMER from Easton Sports for providing all the bats, CARLOS VEGA from Elite Sports for providing the prize packages and donating toward the HR Derby fundraiser, Big League Dreams and their awesome staff, USSSA softball for sanctioning the event, Code 3 Softball Circuit for sharing the fields and donating toward the derby, and Dan Potter our police softball UIC for putting together a great crew!