By all standards, NAFA Open-Holm Classic a success

Written by Bob on June 22nd, 2013

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FARGO, ND – If Benjie Hedgecock and Kyle Koterba were exuding an air of satisfaction following the 2013 NAFA Open-Holm Classic men’s fastpitch tournament, June 14-16, in Fargo, it’s well deserved.

Hedgecock, executive director of the North American Fastpitch Association, and Koterba, tournament director for the NAFA Open-Holm Classic, collaborated to put on one of the most competitive NAFA Open’s in recent years. And Koterba, now in his second year running the tournament, deserves credit for raising the number of teams to ten this year.

But as with any endeavor, there’s always room for improvement.

“Just to have the live streaming video and send more top level umpires and to take it to 12 or 16 teams,” said Hedgecock, referring to just a few goals he and Koterba are striving for.

    RETURNING TO MICKELSON

The reason for the lack of live video coverage this year was because the tournament had to be moved from flood-ravaged Mickelson Field to Lindenwood Park. Mickelson had the resources to broadcast the games, while Lindenwood didn’t.

But a new dike holding back Fargo’s notorious springtime floodwaters, should bring the tourney back to Mickelson next year. So next year look for the tournament back at its intended home field along with live viewing.

    FARGO FINE FOR FASTPITCH

…Speaking of NAFA World Series locations, Fargo appears ideal for the Open Division because of the city’s close proximity to Canada, which sent three teams to the event this year (Randy’s A’s and Sooke Loggers from British Columbia, and the Diamondbacks of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.)

“I believe that with the number of Canadian teams we drew that we should keep it in Fargo,” Hedgecock said, “and get the other Midwest AA-major/Open teams to come and it will be perfect. So I am leaning towards keeping it in Fargo but I haven’t talked to Kyle yet. Kyle has suggested that we have a three-city rotation with Kimberly (Wisc.) and one other Midwest city, but we haven’t developed that thought yet.”

…A few Open teams Hedgecock would like to entice to the Open include The Bloomington, ILL Stix, Pete’s Blues of Mascoutah, Ill, Pueblo Bandits, California A’s…just to name a few.

    ISCORE FANTASTIC

I got my first introduction to iScore during the 2012 ISC World Tournament. It’s a computer application that provides scoring and stats of ball games. Every detail – at bats, pitching, fielding positions, line scores, team and individual statistics…it’s all at the viewers’ fingertips. It is a great program. As a sports writer, I can follow along, take notes and begin crafting a game story while the action’s underway.

…Combine iScore with live Internet viewing, and what a boon for fans who cannot attend an ISC World Tournament or NAFA Open. A question though: will the ASA incorporate this into its Men’s Major National Tournament?

    FARGO’S FINEST, JON KEGEL

For those who have been in fastpitch any length of time, the name needs no introduction. His contributions to the sport are many, including sponsoring the Kegel Black Knights who competed in the NAFA Open, and last year finished fifth in the ISC World Tournament.

…Kegel, of Moorheard, Minnesota, also serves as a vice president for NAFA, serves on the Hall of Fame committee, and as a tournament director for various divisions. And he coaches his team. There are and have been many great sponsors and contributors in the sport. He is one of them.

“Jon Kegel is one of the true “good guys” in the sport,” Hedgecock said. “He really promotes the sport all year at all levels… He is invaluable to NAFA in too many ways to count. Jon is truly one of the gems in fastpitch.”

…Now if only Kegel’s team (celebrating its 30th year) would have had a little more luck in the NAFA Open. The Black Knights, ranked No. 7 in the world, played four games finishing 1-3. All of their games were low scoring and decided by one run, including a 3-2 loss in pool play to the Sooke Loggers of British Columbia, Canada which won the tournament.

    USA SOFTBALL MAKES APPEARANCE AT NAFA OPEN

USA Softball, which governs the men’s national team, must have thought highly of the caliber of athletes competing in the NAFA Open-Holm Classic. In attendance observing the action were selection committee members Warren Jones and Andy Dooley.

    HOLM CLASSIC, WHAT A LEGACY

2013 marks the 32nd year of the heralded Holm Classic. It started in 1973 and didn’t miss a beat through ’99. But in 2000, the tournament stopped and didn’t pick up again until 2009. And now finishes a five-year uninterrupted run as one of the top Major level tournaments in North America.

…It’s hard to argue that point since some of the sports’ greatest teams have won the event: Including St. Paul, MN Whitaker Buick, the ’73 champion, which won the ISC World Tournament in ‘76; Penn Corp of Sioux City, Iowa, ’83 title holders who went on to win four ISC World Tournament crowns: ’88, ’89, ’91 as Penn Corp, and ’92 as NHCD.

…Other great teams that have won the Holm Classic were the Broken Bow Travelers of Nebraska (’92), Larry Miller Toyota, Salt Lake City (’95), which then finished second in the ISC World Tournament in ’96.

…And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention those outstanding Mankato, Minnesota teams that claimed three Holms’ titles: Boohers Inc. (’75), Mettlers Bar (’77) and Happy Chef in ’96.

…Wondering which state dominated the Holms over the years? That would be Minnesota with 14 championships, followed by Wisconsin’s five.

    CANADA BREAKS LONG DROUGHT

Canadian teams? Five Holm champions. And prior to the Sooke Loggers taking this year’s title, there had been a long dry spell, extending back to 1986 when the Winnipeg Internationals took the title.

…Speaking of the Sooke Loggers, it was good to see pitcher Scott Lieph pitch so brilliantly in beating the Minnesota Angels, 3-1, in the championship. It was Lieph who took the loss in last year’s title game when he and his teammates lost a four run lead in the seventh that allowed the Circle Tap Dukes of Denmark, WI to come away with a 9-8 win.

…Lieph was an overwhelming favorite in snaring the Most Valuable Pitcher honors, while shortstop Kris Walushka carted home the Most Valuable Player award. In 2012, Walushka was a second-team, All-World pick in ISC World Tournament with a .429 avg.

    SOOKE SMACKS THE BALL

… As a team, the Loggers pounded the ball, outscoring their opponents 42-10. Walushka had a wonderful tournament and was at the top of nearly every statistic: .632 batting average (10-17); amazing 1.353 slugging percentage; four home runs, and eight RBIs.

…and in Sunday’s playoffs, Walushka showed his prowess at the plate with two home runs and three RBIs in Sooke’s 7-4 win over Randy’s A’s in the semifinals. He stayed on his homer barrage with his third blast of the day, driving in two runs in the 3-1 victory over the Angels.

    LOGGERS IN CALIFORNIA CLASSIC

…Sooke will be one of 12 teams competing in the fourth-annual California Classic, June 29-30, at Sportsplex USA in Santee, Calif. It should be a competitive tourney with a few of the world’s top-Ranked teams vying for the title, including host California A’s at No. 5, Seattle’s Cal-State Builders, No. 18, and Sooke at No. 15.

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