BEST 23-UNDER PITCHERS: Jim Hartman, left, of Kegel / Minnesota Computers and Waseda University Maroon’s Toshihiro Matsuki, shared the Co-Most Valuable Pitcher award for the NAFA World Series 23-Under Division. Photo By BOB OTTO
QUAD CITIES, IA/IL – It just seemed the natural order to come down to this. Two evenly matched ball clubs with rosters filled with talent, battling for a championship.
And in the championship playoffs of the NAFA World Series 23-Under Division, that’s exactly what happened.
The game matched two countries that would play each other three times during the tournament.
The United States represented by Kegel / Minnesota Computers was a combined team from Minnesota and North Dakota.
And representing Japan was Waseda University Maroon that traveled by air and land over 6,000 miles from Tokyo to Moline, Illinois to play in the best 23-Under young men’s fastpitch tournament in the world.
The two ball clubs met in earlier pool play, with Waseda blasting Kegel / Minn. Computers 8-0.
But in the end, Kegel / Minn. Computers would come out on top by taking the championship in two games.
On Sunday afternoon in front of the largest crowd of the World Series, Kegel / Minn. Computers scored its first win on a dramatic walk-off RBI single by Kurtis Tomkins for a 6-5 victory.
The loss was the first for Waseda, which had won five consecutive games in pool play and the playoffs by a 52-1 differential.
Now, with one loss each, a second game would decide the championship.
And again, Kegel / Minn. Computers pulled out a thriller, this time 3-2, to give them its second consecutive 23-Under NAFA World Series championship.
The game was thrilling from the first to last pitch and both managers praised the play of their opponent and of their own team.
“They are a great team,” said Kegel / Minnesota Computers manager Richard Quigley about Waseda University. “This was the most talented team I’ve coached since 1994 (when his Scandia, Minn. team finished fifth in the ASA Class A National Championship).