LAPD BLUE conquers Los Angeles. UTAH METRO strikes Gold. Suffolk wins Mids and Peacemakers claim Silver.
Peacemaker leader Shane Roach displaying his backside swing
The West Conference Championship was played in Los Angeles County (West Covina) for the first time since the inaugural year over a decade ago. It was dubbed “The Battle for Los Angeles” and the event drew a record 29 teams from a variety of states including: New York, Michigan/Illinois, Utah, Washington, Arizona, Nevada and of course California which is still ONE state despite all of the politics pushing to separate it into thirds.
The home run derby format was identical to the World Series. It wasn’t about how far you hit it, or even how many you hit, instead it was all about being able to hit a home run on command. (Much like a real softball game). Almost everyone got through the first round which was hitting one home run while getting five swings. Several advanced past the second round, 1 homerun to 3 swings. But, the cream rose to the top when we got to the 1 swing round. It was a heated battle, but ultimately New York Hound superstar Ryan Thiess was declared home run king. He was awarded a brand new Easton Blue Line bat (courtesy of Brett Helmer & Easton Sports) for the victory.
The round robin bracketed both Gold and Majors teams together, with Majors teams required to spot 7 runs at the onset of the game. The spotting of runs was a recipe for upsets as several Gold teams took full advantage of the situation . The number 1 ranked team in the nation, the New York Hounds fell to a very hot Familia squad and their friendly rivals from New York, Suffolk County suffered a defeat at the hands of Northwest Shakedown. The veteran Cali-Force team fell to Utah Metro and the DEA Combo salvaged a tie against the High Desert Law Dawgz. Undefeated top seeded Majors teams included: The Empire, CenCal Connection, LAPD Blue and the Great Lakes Lawmen. The “India” bracket which consisted of 5 Mid-Majors teams was conquered by Stanislaus Combo. The 2017 Mid-Majors World Champions, Arizona Ablaze was the odd team out as they were the only team in the bracket to bump down to Gold.
Regardless of the round robin results, all teams had a fresh start come double elimination playoff time. And the playoffs are all that matters.
In the Gold playoffs the #1 seed Utah Metro looked absolutely dominant in posting convincing victories over Aftermath, Gold World Series Runners-up Team Galvez, and the El Dorado Cartel to advance to the undefeated game against the #3 seed, Familia from NorCal. Familia looked equally as impressive in their wins over Mixed Nuts, Riot (typically a MM team), and the new hot shots Gov X/Silver Stars. Familia won the undefeated game and earned a ticket to the dance where they would need only one win to bring home the title.
In the loser bracket, Arizona Ablaze was surprisingly eliminated early as they suffered losses at the hands of El Dorado Cartel and Northwest Shakedown which sent them into the Silver Division to finish out the tournament. Speaking of the Cartel, they looked strong with wins over Ablaze, High Desert Law Dawgs and SoCal Riot before finally falling to Gov X/Silver Stars. Their impressive 4th place finish is something they will look to build on as they move into the Tahoe tournament and finish the season at the World Series. The young guns, Gov X/Silver Stars were once again very impressive and checked out in 3rd place.
The stage was set for a championship game rematch between the undefeated Familia squad and the white hot Utah Metro team. Utah had just polished off Gov X/Silver Stars and were firing on all cylinders as the well rested Familia team marched onto the field. Utah would need to beat them twice in order to win the title and the first game was over quickly. Utah launched a hitting barrage that Familia could not defend. That forced an “IF” game, and the undeterred Familia squad answered with vengeance by plating 15 runs in the top of the first inning! Facing such a big deficit early on would usually prove to be too big of a challenge for most teams, but Utah never lost their poise and they marched back with double digit runs in response. Utah looked every bit as good as the Majors teams as they continued to pepper the outfield gaps with line drives and ran the bases like cheetahs while plating runs every inning. Utah never let off the gas and won both games with authority earning the title of 2018 West Conference Gold Champions. Although disappointed by the eventual outcome, Familia opened a lot of eyes and stamped their logo on the face of police softball. They proved to be a legit force to be reckoned with and drew comparisons to the reigning Gold champions, Lonestar/NEP.
1. Utah Metro
3. Gov X/Silver Stars
4. El Dorado Cartel
5t. SoCal Riot
5t. High Desert Law Dawgz
7t. Northwest Shakedown
7t. Team Galvez
9t. RSD Force
9t. Arizona Ablaze
9t. Cali Peacemakers
13t. LAPD Shot Callers
13t. Yard Recall
13t. Gold Combo
13t. Mixed Nutz
17. CRC Guard Dogs
MVP: Brion Casper- Utah
All Tourney: Austin Rowberry, Wes Keelan, Shaps Tripp- Utah
Defensive MVP: Greg Neer- Utah
All Tourney: Chayo Acevdeo, Roman Grider, Atle Cote- Familia
Utah Metro won a paid World Series berth courtesy of Garrett Metal Detectors along with custom jerseys from Elite. Familia won an Elite prize package.
The Silver Divison was a single elimination format for teams who finished outside the Top 7 in the Gold Playoffs. It was a cut-throat, single elimination, “do or die” format so there was no margin for error. The Cali Peacemakers looked rusty early in the day but come Silver playoffs they were firing on all cylinders. The same could be said about RSD Force who had earlier struggled to find enough players to field a team. Undeterred, team leader Ray G. rallied his young squad and they advanced all the way to the ship to face the Peacemakers. The Peacemakers are led by Shane Roach and he had the team dialed in early as they jumped up big. Riverside took a while to get going but started rolling late in the game. Ultimately the Peacemakers held off the pesky RSD Force to claim their first tournament victory of 2018 and were declared Silver Division champions.
MVP: (co) Stuart Dondaldson & Ryan Marshall- Peacemakers
For the first time ever, the #1 seed came down to a coin toss. The Left Coast Empire and CenCal Connection both went 2-0, had the same run differential, allowed the same number of runs and scored the same number of runs. The Empire won the toss, but ultimately seeds 1-4 all received a first round bye so it really didn’t matter. Those 4 seeds went to Empire, CC Connection, LAPD Blue and Stanislaus.
The nation’s #1 ranked team, New York Hounds looked rusty in the round robin as did cross state rivals Suffolk. So what do the 2 teams that traveled the farthest get in return for a lackluster round robin showing? A first round match up against each other! The Hounds got things straight and sent Suffolk into the loser bracket, but they never really got firing on all cylinders. The lost to CC Connection to fall into the loser bracket where they were able to get past BP Arsenal before being eliminated and sent into the Mid Majors bracket by DEA Combo.
The DEA Combo defeated the LA Lawmen game 1, then lost a close one to the LAPD Blue in game 2. In the loser bracket they defeated the Hounds and Great Lakes Lawmen (maintaining their nickname as being the “Eastecutioners”), before being eliminated by the LAPD Blue.
Great Lakes Lawmen made the trek to California and did not disappoint by sweeping the round robin and then notching two quick playoff victories over BP Arsenal and Stanislaus. That set them up to dance with The Empire, but undefeated top seed Empire would have nothing to do with the loser bracket as they defeated GLL. GLL never recovered from that loss as they lost the next game against DEA Combo in heartbreaking fashion despite being ahead by 2 in the bottom of the 7th with 2 outs nobody on base and zero home runs left for the Combo. Combo was resilient and scrappy by putting balls through miniscule infield holes, taking walks and maximizing every at bat. They literally brought a new meaning to the term, “two out nightmare.”
Ultimately the top 2 seeds faced off in the undefeated game. It appeared that CC Connection had finally made the leap to top dog status in the West Conference after smashing the round robin competition and then defeating the Hounds and LAPD Blue (1-2 in the nation respectively) to advance to the undefeated game. Facing a red hot Empire, the CC Connection never got things going and were sent into the loser bracket. They were still in good shape as it would only take 1 win to put them into the “ship” for a rematch against The Empire and they had several hours to regroup. Unfortunately, the ran into the LAPD Blue buzzsaw who had mowed through the LA Lawmen and DEA Combo before quickly dispatching the Connection.
Going into the championship, The Empire looked strong, but the LAPD Blue looked possessed. The first game went 9 innings and ended with the LAPD victorious. That 9 inning game took a toll on The Empire. Middle infielder Eric Harryman suffered a leg injury and was lost for the “IF” game. The older Empire team seemed to be dragging as Saturday became Sunday…yes the game went well after midnight. The game was an absolute shoot out with the LAPD Blue scoring over 50 runs and Empire scoring north of 40. The LAPD Blue was declared champions after double dipping The Empire. Meanwhile in the distance, roosters began to crow and newspaper deliver men started their routes. Teams walked off the fields at 1 AM. They were battered, tired, and bruised…but none could say they did not get their share of high caliber softball over the weekend.
1. LAPD Blue
2. Left Coast Empire
3. CenCal Connection
4. DEA Combo
5t. LA Lawmen
5t. Great Lakes Lawmen
7t. Stanislaus Combo
7t. New York Hounds
9t. Suffolk County
9t. Cali Force
9t. Nitro2Go Hitmen
9t. Border Patrol Arsenal
MVP : Walter Sevilla- LAPD Blue
All Tourney: Justin Charles, John Adamson, Keoki Cauaco- LAPD Blue
Defensive MVP: Matt Austin- LAPD Blue
All Tourney: Ryan Coe, Bryan Schmidt, Kris Ulibarri- The Empire
MID MAJORS PLAYOFFS
Suffolk County did not plan on ending up in Mid Majors, but they decided to regroup and make a run in order to finish strong. That is exactly what they did when they defeated Nitro2Go 25-20 in a close one and then eliminated the New York Hounds in a rematch. They faced BP Arsenal who had earlier defeated Cali Force in Stanislaus in the championship. It was a well played game by both teams, but when the dust settled Suffolk County was still standing and earned the Mid Majors Championship.
MVP: Keith Piccoini- Suffolk County
A MESSAGE FROM JEFF BLAIR (SWAMI)
This was the first tournament I have run without Del right there by my side. I want to personally thank all of you who asked about Del’s wife Michele, extended their sympathy, and offered to help. I had numerous guys come to the booth asking if there was anything they could do to assist. My wife, Anne Marie and I really appreciate all the support. Special shout out to Anthony “Big Tone” Costanzo who traveled all the way from Sacramento to assist and Kevin Schoch who flew in from Ohio to assist. Ryan Coe and Ashley have joined our ps.com management team and they were a huge help. Even with Ryan playing, he spent all other waking moments at the booth ensuring everything went smoothly. The real challenge will be the World Series where I really will need a LOT of help setting up, checking ID’s, announcing games, running scores, replacing broken bats etc. I hope everyone had a great weekend. SoCal weather was every bit what it is built up to be, and as promised, everyone got PLENTY of high caliber softball. My goal is to secure the last weekend in June in West Covina again next year so we can make this an annual thing. I will likely switch to Sat/Sun format so we don’t have to be out early on Friday for league play. This will make each day more balanced so we don’t end up leaving at 1am on the final night. Finally, a shout out to Carlos Vega from Elite, along with Vaughan Garrett from Garrett Metal Detectors and Brett Helmer from Easton Sports for sponsoring the event. And thanks to the great BLD staff for providing outstanding customer service at a top notch facility. See you all in Vegas! JBeezy