Wrapping up the 2013 California Classic Men’s Fastpitch Tournament

Written by Bob on July 2nd, 2013

SANTEE, CA – If you’re a men’s fastpitch fan living in southern California, there’s not much in the way of top-flight tournaments to watch. Except the California Classic. It’s the only big-time tourney being offered south of Santa Barbara where Clyde Bennett hosts the Best of The West.

Now concluding its fourth consecutive year, the Classic offers good competition. This year the Sooke Loggers of British Columbia, CA stopped the California A’s from claiming its fourth consecutive title with a 9-6 victory on Sunday.

Some thought California was heavily favored. That the A’s – loaded with international stars – were a superior team. Especially with Argentine and ISC All-World pitcher Lucas Mata toeing the rubber.

Schellenberg.Kevin.CalifA's.430web Shortstop Kevin Schellenberg is one of several international stars who play for the California A’s. He’s been a member of Team Canada that finished fifth in the 2013 ISF World Championships.

LOGGERS ARE FOR REAL
But I suspected this would be a good game. These Loggers are the same guys who knocked the stuffing out of the Circle Tap Dukes in the NAFA Open World Series by 10-0 and 9-2 scores on there way to claiming the championship.

For the A’s Mata, maybe it was the heat (100-degree range), maybe he was still working himself into shape, or maybe he had an off day. Regardless, the Loggers roughed up one of the top pitchers in the world for six earned runs and 10 hits.

Sitting close behind home plate, I saw that he hung some of his pitches – especially the riser. And to Sooke’s credit they pounced on it.

Hunter.Blake.Sooke.64web Sooke’s Blake Hunter had a good game against the California A’s, driving in two runs, going 2-for-3 with a triple, and later scoring on a passed ball.

Will Sooke steamroll Mata for another nine runs should they meet again? I seriously doubt it. But will they have a chance to win the ball game? I wouldn’t bet against them.

Sooke reminds me of a good Minnesota team of the late 1970s and early 80s called the St. James, James Gang. Like Sooke, the St. James’ roster was mostly local from a small town, and they had two good throwers in Charlie Engler, a right-hander, and lefty Craig Brown.

THE JAMES GANG AND SOOKE
Engler and Brown, much like Sooke’s Rich Haldane and Scott Lieph, made a good combination. Engler threw hard up and down, while Brown used a great change-up, good riser and even better location to get batters out.

Sooke.Haldane.Pitcher.156web Sooke Loggers’ pitcher Rich Haldane.

Lieph, 23, and Haldane, 43, are of the same mold. Lieph flatout comes at hitters. He challenges them with a high-speed riser and drop – I’m guessing mid to high 70mph range, while Haldane spots his pitches, fights for the corners and changes speed.

I saw Lieph flirt with throwing a few change-ups at the A’s, but often missing the strike zone. Maybe he was just off with the pitch on Sunday. But if not, here’s some advice Scott that I think many would confirm:

PERFECT THE OFF SPEED
Learn to throw the change-up and learn to throw it well. On any count. In any situation. All the great pitchers that have come before you had good-to-great change-ups: Ty Stofflet, lefty Bob Moore (Wisc), Darren Zack, Michael White, and my buddy Craig Brown, who staked his long career on that pitch.

So Scott, work on it, and then work some more until you perfect it, and you will be one tough hombre in the circle.

ROUNDING THIRD HEADING FOR HOME

Sportsplex in Santee is a beautiful softball facility. Great fields for the players and great viewing for fans. I hope the Classic stays there. Although it was disappointing with all the empty seats during the championship game.

Bob Chapel from Bakerfield was on hand helping run the tournament, as well as help run the Santa Rosa Fastpitch team. The 66-year-old serves the sport well as a Northern California Director for NAFA, and president of the West Coast Fastpitch Association. With him was his grandson, 17-year-old Nick Scott, who is learning to pitch under the guidance of Simon Brewer, at one time a top California and U.S. pitcher.
2013.Capel.grson.13web Bob Chapel with grandson Nick Scott.

Speaking of learning to pitch, 16-year-old Taylor Weldin, son of California A’s field manager Dave Weldin is also taking to the circle. Taylor is working with New Zealand native and retired pitcher Ross Vincent in hopes that he can tryout and make the 2014 USA Junior Men’s National Team for the ISF World Championship.

Taylor is a baseball pitcher and says, “I wasn’t used to going from overhand to underhand, but I love it and I’m shooting for the USA team.”

Salas.CJ.185webCJ Sales, a bright young fastpitch star in Southern California and on the national stage.

CJ Sales was at the tourney playing for the Cal-State Builders of Seattle. He’s going to be busy the next couple of months going to the ISC World Tournament with the Builders, the NAFA 23-Under World Series with Clyde Bennett’s Young Guns, and playing in the NAFA AA Division with the Builders. If that’s not enough, he’s attending Santa Ana College, coaching a baseball travel team and he coaches JV baseball for Segerstrom High School in Santa Ana.

Meltz.Dave.1web Good friend Dave Meltz in 1999 made All-League in the So. Calif. Fastpitch Association. Not a hard thrower, but the lefy spotted his pitches well and moved the ball up and down and changed speeds..

…Also on hand was David Meltz. Much like myself, Meltz, a lefty pitcher (I’m a righty) left the Midwest (Wisconsin) for California’s sunshine. But at times he misses his home state, as I do Minnesota now and then. We are so much alike: both farm boys. Both remember fondly playing baseball and softball in hayfields and cow pastures. Both remember throwing thousands of softball pitches against the side of the barn, and both recall how much fun it was to play fastpitch in the small town leagues. Even though he’s no longer playing he’s a big fan of the sport. And I don’t believe he’s missed any of the four years of the Classic.

K.Master.ball.8webDirty bird of a softball jumped out of the ball park all weekend. Home runs were hit in nearly every game..

…I don’t know if anyone kept track of the number of home runs hit during the Classic, but the ball was jumping out the park. The ISC official ball was used – a Worth K-Master .47 core. I was told the ASA went to a .44 core (compression rating), but the ISC is staying with the “livelier” .47 core, which flies faster and farther off the bat, I’ve been told. I was amazed at how quickly a pristine, white K-Master turned the color of the muddy Mississippi within a couple innings. The balls looked like they were coated with pine tar or tobacco juice.

Marquez.Team.Pena.HR.153webIsmael Pena celebrates his home run that gave Team Marquez a 6-4 advantage over the Cal-State Builders during Sunday’s elimination playoffs.

Team Marquez of Ensenada, Mexico made it into the final four on Sunday before getting knocked out by Sooke, 11-3. But this young team beat a good Cal-State Builders, 6-4, to advance Sunday morning. The team, sponsored by Oscar Marquez, finished Saturday’s pool play 2-1. Team Marquez, which fields a crop of young players, finished second in the Best of The West and have a couple of goals said their spokesman, Mario Perez, Jr.

“We are an all-star travel team (and play) in the Mexican National Tournament,” he said, adding that if Marquez would have won the Classic, they had plans to go to the Quad Cities for the ISC World Tournament.

…Also on hand was Russ Snow, a very good left-handed pitcher who threw for Salt Lake City Miller Toyota in the 90s. At 56, he throws mainly in Master’s tournaments with another good southern California left-hander, Cary Weiler. And on the international level of fastptich, Snow is the head coach Great Britain’s Men’s National Team since 2006, and before that coached the women’s teams for several years. Snow took special interest in watching Rich Haldane, who threw for Snow on Great Britain’s national team in the 2013 ISF World Championship in Aukland, New Zealand.

kammueller.kevin.246webKevin Kammueller pitched for the Cal-State Builders in the California Classic, and also in the past two ISC World Tournaments.

…Kevin Kammueller was pitching for the Builders in the Classic, and here’s what I don’t understand: Kammueller, who throws hard and has a good rise and drop and is a very competitive pitcher, didn’t receive an invite to tryout for the USA Men’s National Team. Here’s what he’s done the past couple of years at the ISC World Tournament: in 2011 Kammueller had a 4-2 record, 1.40 ERA, pitched 35 innings and struck out 33 in leading the Builders to a 17th place in the 46 team tourney.

In 2012 the Builders went 1-2, with Kammueller getting the lone win. Again his stats were great: 0.72 ERA, 9.2 innings, four hits allowed and 17 strikeouts. And it matters not to Kammueller who he faces. Hand him the game ball and he takes it against all comers. He’s a warrior who hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserves. Come on USA Softball, he’s better than some you’ve had in the circle for the national team. Give him a tryout.

…No one works any harder at promoting the game than Jim and Maddy Flanagan (fastpitchwest.com). They worked in suffocating heat both days of the Classic, Jim broadcasting games via Ballpark Radio, and Maddy (Maddy’s Fastpitch Photos) shooting action photos. Two of the best in their respective specialties working as a team in letting the world know the men’s sport is still alive.

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Perri prince says:

    Way to go sooke men good to see the true potential of ball on Vancouver island the best place to live in the world

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