Farmersville Haymakers overcome slow start, finish strong with Elkland and NAFA World Series titles

Written by Bob on November 3rd, 2016
2016 FARMERSVILLE HAYMAKERS, 2016 NAFA World Series, AA-Division Champions: The team includes James Gilbert, Dustin Rutt, Fernando Lombardo, Brandon Rutt, Justin Zimmerman, Kliff Zimmerman, Jerlin Rutt, Duane Weiler, Rich Sauder, Phil Zimmerman, Jake Rutt, Logan Rutt, and coach Merlin High. Courtesy Photo

2016 FARMERSVILLE HAYMAKERS, 2016 NAFA World Series, AA-Division Champions: The team includes James Gilbert, Dustin Rutt, Fernando Lombardo, Brandon Rutt, Justin Zimmerman, Kliff Zimmerman, Jerlin Rutt, Duane Weiler, Rich Sauder, Phil Zimmerman, Jake Rutt, Logan Rutt, Matt Sheaffer and coach Merlin High. Courtesy Photo

“The beginning of year it took us awhile to bond as a team and we weren’t playing the best, but by the end of the year we meshed as a team and finished out strong. It was a fun ride!” – Haymakers coach Merlin High

EPHRATA, PA – Average. Ordinary. Mediocre. Not the kind of tags competitive athletes or teams want to be labeled with. It means you’re OK, but you’ve done nothing to distinguish yourself.

That was the kind of season the Farmersville Haymakers were having, hovering around .500, finishing third at 13-12 in the Stevens’ Northend Softball League, third in the league playoffs…you get the picture.

As coach Merlin High said, at the start of the year, “we weren’t playing the best.”

But as the sporting cliché goes: it’s not how you start, but how you finish that counts. And what a finish, what a stunning turnaround the Haymakers pulled off.

    WEILER CLICKS, WINNING STREAK STARTS

And it all started at the NAFA World Series in North Mankato, Minnesota where the Haymakers delivered some big blows to go 5-0 and win the AA-Division championship.

“Things started to click at the start of the NAFA World Series,” said player / pitcher Justin Zimmerman.

And in fastpitch, “to click” starts with pitching. And with Duane Weiler as a late- season addition, the Haymakers fortunes shot upward like a NASA rocket.

NAFA WORLD SERIES MOST VALUABLES: Justin Zimmerman, left, was selected the Most Valuable Player, and Duane Weiler the Most Valuable Pitcher for helping the Farmersville Haymakers with the 2016 NAFA AA-Division Championship. Courtesy Photo

NAFA WORLD SERIES MOST VALUABLES: Justin Zimmerman, left, was selected the Most Valuable Player, and Duane Weiler the Most Valuable Pitcher for helping the Farmersville Haymakers with the 2016 NAFA AA-Division Championship. Courtesy Photo

Weiler won four games, with Zimmerman also notching a win, to lead the Haymakers to the AA title. In so doing, the Weiler was chosen the Most Valuable Pitcher (1.58 ERA in 33 innings with 43 strikeouts). Zimmerman picked up some hardware too. For his .466 average (7-of-15) and five RBI, he took home the Most Valuable Player award. And Logan Rutt and James Gilbert were selected to the All-World team.

    HAYMAKERS TAKE DURK SHERMAN

But the Haymakers didn’t stop at the NAFA championship. They stayed on a roll by finishing runner-up in the 23rd Annual Elkland First Weekend Tournament (Aug. 26-28) where Weiler picked up four wins. And over the Labor Day weekend, claimed the championship of the 64th Annual Durk Sherman Classic at Elkland.

Weiler again proved his worth, with a 4-1 record in 32 1/3 innings with 37 strikeouts, and was named the Most Valuable Pitcher.

“Duane was outstanding all three weekends,” said coach High. “Especially at NAFA.”

The key to his success?

“My rise ball was working well and I had good velocity,” said Weiler, 29, who started pitching in 2010. “(NAFA) was one of those tournaments that it all came together. As a team, we had a lot of confidence and kept getting timely hits, and making great defensive plays.”

Weiler certainly deserves his share of credit, but he had plenty of back up.

With an average age of 25, the Haymakers really stung the ball in the NAFA World Series, outscoring the opposition 30-8, with second baseman Gilbert batting .462 with a pair of RBI and four runs.

In the championship, Farmersville defeated the Balcarres Bronx of Saskatoon, SK, Canada, 5-1, with Weiler firing a one-hitter with six strikeouts and no walks. Dustin Rutt drove in two runs with a hit, and Logan Rutt, Rich Sauder and Gilbert had two hits each.

    TEAM OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Farmersville has solid pitching, hitting and defense. But it’s also a ball club that’s close knit and made up of family and friends. There’s five Rutt’s on the team: brothers Dustin and Branden, and Jake and Logan, and their cousin Jerlin; along with brothers Kliff and Phil Zimmerman (no relation to Justin Zimmerman).

“We have a strength not many teams can say anymore,” said Weiler. “We are all friends from the same league. Some of us grew up together. Most of us do things together year around. When (we) get on the field at the beginning of a tournament we get on that field as a family. Families will argue and quarrel some, but families always have each other’s back.”

    FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

The 2016 Haymakers can lay claim to a successful season. But could 2017 be even better? With most of the team returning and the addition of several talented players, it appears so.

Joining the squad is first baseman/outfielder Karel Kadecka (Czech Republic national team member), who played with Farmersville in 2015. Also coming aboard is pitcher Tyson Duncan of Australia, and infielder/catcher Steve Mullady of the Peligro Gremlins, that folded operations for 2017, Zimmerman said.

Also joining the Haymakers coaching staff from Peligro are coaches Thomas Unger and Vern Shaut.

With the Haymakers (32-18) finishing strong last season, it stands to reason that higher goals have been set for 2017.

“The team is planning on competing in the ISC World Tournament in Grand Rapids (Mich.),” Zimmerman said, “and at the Elkland Open. Duane Weiler is returning for the full season, and I believe that all the players are returning except Francisco Lombardo.”

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