Inspired Len’s Automotive defeats Duluth Fastpitch to claim NAFA A Division World Series

Written by Bob on August 24th, 2017

2017 NAFA A Division World Series Champion Len’s Automotive of St. Paul, Minn. includes back row from left, Alex Farber, shortstop and NAFA A MVP, West St Paul;  Pat Hoban, right-field, St. Paul; Joe Ganther, pitcher, NAFA A Honorable Mention, Apple Valley; Tim Schuhwerck, pitcher and co-Most Outstanding Pitcher, St. Paul; Justin Olson, first base, St. Paul; Jim Washenberger first base and manager, St. Paul; Nick Leach, third base, Burnsville. Front Row, from left, Corey Noren, catcher and NAFA A Honorable Mention, St. Paul; Willie Faricy, second base and NAFA A All-World, Rosemount; Dave Zschokke, catcher, Little Canada; Chad Washenberger, pitcher and NAFA A All-World, St. Paul;  Kyle Pobanz, centerfielder and NAFA A All-World, St. Paul, and Chris Bogie, left-fielder, St. Paul. Photo By ANNIE SATTERLEE

FARGO – At the start of the season, Len’s Automotive was searching for some sort of positive message that would unite and inspire the team in every game, in every inning.

Kyle Pobanz and Nick Leach fashioned just the right slogans for the St. Paul squad to rally around.

“The start for each day was Kyle Pobanz telling the team, “why not us, why not now,” said Joe Ganther, who pitches and plays the infield. “And the rally cry for every inning was Nick Leach bellowing, “we’re winning every inning!”

    DOMINATING PERFORMANCE

Len’s Auto responded to the inspiring mantras by rolling through the NAFA A Division World Series undefeated and defeating Duluth Fastpitch, 5-1, in the title game at Northside Softball Complex, Sunday, Aug. 20.

Len’s clung to a 1-0 lead in the early going before breaking the game open with three runs in the fourth inning and a solo in the sixth.

In the fourth, Justin Olson got the offense started with a single, followed by Willie Faricy’s double and Nick Leach’s hit, with all three batsmen driving in a run.

    RELIEVER PUTS THE FIRE OUT

Duluth responded by loading the bases in the sixth on two hit batters and a single. A third hit batter brought in a run, but Tim Schuhwerck, called on to relieve starter Chad Washenberger, stopped the hemorrhaging by spinning a drop ball and getting a double play to end the inning.

Len’s got the run back in its half of the sixth on Olson’s sacrifice fly to deep centerfield that sent Pat Hoban trotting home. Hoban opened the inning with a triple to the base of the right-field fence.

Schuhwerck hurled a clean seventh and after his last pitch, Len’s Auto commenced to celebrating. In the previous five years of competing in the World Series, the highest Len’s Auto had ever finished was ninth.

Living up to Pobanz and Leach’s slogans surely helped in an inspirational way, but to win NAFA championships takes skillful gloves, arms and bats.

    LINEUP OF TOUGH OUTS

“We’ve always been strong on defense and pitching,” said first baseman and manager Jim Washenberger, “it’s the backbone of the team. But our hitting got hot here.”

  • The batsmen scorched opposing pitching by averaging seven runs a game and outscoring their foes 42-10, with a .339 batting average, including bashing 10 home runs, 10 doubles and two triples (according to NAFA statistics).
  • And every player contributed throughout the four-day tournament that featured 38 quality teams from Canada and the United States.

    “All season and in the NAFA World Series we were never riding the same couple of players,” Ganther said. “Each weekend someone new was the hero. NAFA was no different.”

    Tim Schuhwerck, left, was selected the NAFA A Division Co-Most Valuable Pitcher, and Chad Washenberger was chosen for the All-World team, while Joe Ganther was selected NAFA A Division Honorable Mention. Photo By ANNE SATTERLEE

      SIZZLING AT THE PLATE

    But a few did stand out, notably Alex Farber and Faricy, as well as Dave Zschokke and Olson getting key RBI’s.

    Farber punished nearly every pitcher he faced, hitting for a .667 average (14-for-21) with seven RBI and four home runs.

    Faricy had a great tournament too, hitting .571 (8-for-14) and scoring eight runs. Zschokke drove in seven runs to tie Farber for the team lead, and Olson was right behind with five RBI.

    For their outstanding play, Farber was selected the Most Valuable Player, while Faricy was selected to the All-World team, and Ganther was an Honorable Mention pick.

    Outstanding hitting for sure, but in fastpitch, if a squad lacks pitching, it’s nearly impossible to win at such a high level as the World Series.

      EXCELLING IN THE CIRCLE

    Len’s Auto came bolstered with a pitching staff of three: Ganther, Washenberger and Schuhwerck, who joined the team this season.

    Though Ganther and Washenberger had to surrender some innings, they welcomed the addition of the tall, right-hander, who mixes speeds and has good movement on his riser and drop ball pitches.

    When the World Series awards were handed out, Schuhwerck, received the co-Most Outstanding Pitcher honor.

    “Having a third arm kept all of us fresh and able to give every game full effort without concern of having to save something for another game two hours later,” Ganther said.

    Len’s Auto marched through the tournament winning seven games with Schuhwerck, going 3-0, and not allowing any runs, while Washenberger and Ganther were 2-0.

      KLOSOWSKI BRINGS SOLID SQUAD

    Duluth, Minn. Fastpitch finished runner-up in the 2017 NAFA A Division World Series. The team includes (not in order) Brett Klosowski, Bud Joyce, Brent Plante, Andrew Rogers, Tyler Erzar, Mike Fink, Dave Meyer, Dan Ball, Bobby Lukkason, Isaiah Rogers, Braden Rahman, Cody Rahman, Brett Scheeval, Brock Sather and Manager Brett Klosowski. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2017 NAFA World Series, Fargo, N.D.

    Meanwhile, Duluth had a fine tournament finishing runner-up at 5-2 with both losses to Len’s Auto, including a 3-0 loss in the winners bracket final.

    Duluth Manager Brett Klosowski aspired for the top prize, but he wasn’t feeling disheartened after the losing in the final.

    “Obviously, you want to win, but I’m ecstatic that we finished second, considering that we had to pick up five guys,” said Klosowski, who has brought a team to NAFA for 15 years, and finished second out of 80 teams in 2003. “We had five guys drop out for family reasons, good reasons, so we had to scramble to put a team together.”

      VETERAN IRONMAN

    DAVE MEYER finished with a 4-2 record in leading Duluth Fastpitch to runner-up in the 2017 NAFA A Division World Series. Photo By BOB OTTO

    In the winners bracket final and the championship game, Klosowski handed the ball to veteran right-hander Dave Meyer, 56, and he delivered two fine performances. He gave up just one earned run in the winner’s bracket final game, and four in the championship to finish 4-2.

    “Dave and Mike Fink pitched the ball really well,” said Klosowski. “That was the difference why we got as far as we did.”

    Washenberger was pleased to win the World Series, but he’s proud of how far the ball club has come since playing its first NAFA World Series in 2012.

    “It feels awesome to win this because we built our ball club with a bunch of young kids,” he said.

    2 Comments so far ↓

    1. Cam Lind says:

      Thanks for posting this great report.

    2. Bob says:

      You are very welcome Cam.

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