2013 NAFA A World Series

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Day Named Co-Most Valuable Pitcher of NAFA World Series

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

wolfpack.doom.debbie.322web Pitcher Debby Day helped the Long Beach Wolfpack win the 2013 NAFA A World Series in Des Moines and Urbandale, Iowa, Aug. 18, 2013. Photo By BOB OTTO / www.ottoinfocus.com

Release by Tracy Maple

URBANDALE, Iowa – Debby Day is no stranger to the softball diamond in the NCAA. For the last two summers she has made her mark by trading her coaching shoes for playing cleats, taking her talents to the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA), an organization that hosts the largest men’s fastpitch softball tournament in the world.

Not only has she defied the gender barrier, but in 2013 she was named the NAFA A World Series co-Most Valuable Pitcher for her performance in the circle for the World Series Champion Long Beach Wolfpack.

Undeterred from the fact that it is a men’s league, Day has proven her ability to not only play with and against the competition of her male opponents, but to succeed. During the week, Day produced an overall record of 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA in 30 innings with 14 strike outs.

Though the environment was hostile last year, it was a completely different atmosphere this time around.

“Honestly, it was one of the coolest playing experiences I have had in a while,” she shared. “Not only were the opposing teams and fans accepting, but having the other Southern California teams out there watching us on Sunday was really incredible and we were very appreciative of that support.”

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Kiwi and converted slowpitch players impressive in NAFA A World Series

Monday, August 19th, 2013

johnston.kiwi.pitcher.183web Many who saw Ethan Johnston, just 18 years old, pitch in the 2013 NAFA A World Series, believe he has a bright future in the sport. Photo By BOB OTTO

URBANDALE, IOWA – The five foot nine, 160 pound, 18-year-old New Zealander with hair hanging off his shoulders looked more like a drummer in a rock band than a fastpitch softball pitcher.

But with a circular whip of his skinny – but strong – right arm and a snap of his wrist, Ethan Johnston worked magic with a softball, sending it spinning sharply upward, or darting suddenly downward during the four days of the NAFA A World Series.

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Long Beach Wolfpack’s hitting comes alive to take NAFA championship

Monday, August 19th, 2013

wolfpack.celebrate.254web The Long Beach Wolfpack celebrate their 7-3 NAFA A World Series victory over the Kansas City Outlaws, Sunday, at Urbandale’s Walker-Johnstoton Softball Complex. Photo By BOB OTTO

URBANDALE, IOWA – Getting shutout doesn’t sit so well with the Long Beach, California Wolfpack. Especially after averaging nearly nine runs in reaching the championship game of the NAFA A World Series with a 5-0 record.

But then they ran into a wall. An 18-year-old wall named Ethan Johnston pitching for the Kansas City Outlaws.

The right-hander from New Zealand who turned 18 in the World Series, saddled the Wolfpack with a three-hit, 6-0 loss in Sunday’s first meeting. Now with one loss a piece in the double-knockout tournament, the two ball clubs played a second game to decide who would wear the crown of “World Series champions.”

    SECOND TIME A CHARM

This time around though, Long Beach prevailed as their bats came alive. The Wolfpack pounded out 12 hits in defeating Johnston and the Outlaws 7-3 late Sunday at Urbandale’s Walker-Johnston Softball Complex.

“I think we were pressing in the first game,” said Wolfpack manager and catcher, Jesse Mullen. “We were a little too excited and not relaxed. In the second game, we went in loose and I think we got to (Johnston’s) rise ball. He had to throw other pitches, and when he did we were able to hit the ball.”

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Big comeback and homer puts Long Beach Wolfpack into NAFA A championship

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

wolfpack.17.Mich.207web Wolfpack catcher Jesse Mullen blocks the plate and tags out Northern Michigan’s Dylan Cuddahee trying to score the winning run with the game tied, 8-8, in the botton of the seventh in the winners bracket semifinals, Saturday, at Walker-Johnston Softball Compex in Urbandale. The Wolfpack cameback to win the game 10-9 in extra innings. Photo By BOB OTTO

URBANDALE, IOWA – They’re called the Long Beach Wolfpack, but a name change might be in order, such as the “Comeback Kids.” For the second consecutive game, the Wolfpack rallied to pull out a win.

This time a big one in the semifinals of the winners bracket in the 40-team NAFA A World Series, Saturday, at Walker-Johnston Softball Complex in Urbandale.

In what seemed more like a heavy weight fight than fastpitch softball, the Wolfpack pulled out a 10-9 victory over a Northern Michigan team (3-1) that scored 19 runs in its previous game.

“We haven’t seen hitting like this ever,” said Wolfpack manager and catcher Jesse Mullen. “Everybody’s crushing the ball and we have to crush it with them.”

    IMPRESSIVE NUMBERS

The two clubs combined for 27 hits – the Wolfpack leading with 17. And they cleared the fences with five home runs, four by Northern Michigan’s Tom Tryban, Joe Barnette, Randy Wheelock, and Devin Milheim; and one by the Wolfpack’s Luis Perez.

No.Mich.10HR.55web Northern Michigan’s Devin Milheim is greeted by his teammates after hitting a three-run home run in the second that gave his team a 3-1 lead. Photo By BOB OTTO

After slugging it out for seven innings in which there were three ties and four lead changes, the game came down to the eighth inning tied, 8-8.

    ONE FOR ALL, ALL FOR ONE

In the top of the eighth, the Wolfpack put the game in the win column by scoring twice on Joe Janicke’s RBI single that plated Dave Hess, who walked, with the go-ahead run, followed by Dave Waco’s hit up the middle that brought home Perez, who reached safely with a single.

About the Wolfpack’s clutch hitting, Mullen said, “if one guy doesn’t do the job, the next guy will. We believe in each other.”

wolfpack4.mich10.178web Wolfpacks first baseman Dave Waco, front, and Northern Micigan’s Joe Barnette collide and are sent sprawling. Photo by BOB OTTO

Now leading by a pair of runs, a big question loomed: could pitcher Debby Day get three outs and seal the win? Yes, but not without some trouble.

Day got two ground ball outs to start the inning. But then Barnette blasted a homer deep over the centerfield fence to cut the lead to one. And Wheelock kept Northern Michigan’s hopes alive when he singled to left.

But Day got Dylan Cuddahee on a strikeout to end the game and send the Wolfpack into the winners bracket final against the Kansas City Outlaws (See story below).

    DAY TOUGH COMPETITOR

Day, who improved to 4-0, finished by allowing nine runs (seven earned) on 10 hits, four walks and two strikeouts. Though Northern Michigan roughed her up some, Mullen was impressed with her tenacity in facing such a good hitting ball club.

day.mullen.jub.234webA Wolfpack pitcher Debby Day gets a big hug from catcher Jesse Mullen after striking out the final batter and getting the win for the Wolfpack. Photo By BOB OTTO

“She’s gritty and doesn’t give up,” he said. “If something happens, she just blows it off and goes right back at them. She’s stone-faced, you can’t tell if she gave up a home run or struck two people out in a row.”

Northern Michigan trailed 8-7 going into the bottom of the seventh. And only a huge play by Mullen at the plate denied them the win. The inning started with Wheelock reaching first on an infield throwing error.

Then Day issued walks to Cuddahee and Lee Wykcoff to load the bases for Guy Thorston. And the right-side hitter came through with a clutch single to centerfield that scored Wheelock to tie the game.

    SO CLOSE TO VICTORY

On Thorston’s hit, Cuddahee kept churning around third base trying to score the winning run. But centerfielder Aaron Breslow gunned a strong throw to Mullen blocking the plate to cut down the sliding Cuddahee and deny Northern Michigan the walk-off victory.

“It’s just been heartbreak after heartbreak for the other teams I think,” Mullen said. “These comebacks (were made) by all our guys.”

    Wolfpack down Kansas City Outlaws to reach championship game

Batting cleanup, Luis Perez belted a walk-off solo home run that sailed 300 feet over the slowpitch fence in deep centerfield to give the Wolfpack a 5-4 victory over the Kansas City Outlaws in the winners bracket final on Saturday night.

perez.luis.HR.281web Luis Perez belted a solo homer that gave the Wolfpack the walk-off victory in the winners bracket final over the Kansas City Outlaws. Photo By BOB OTTO

Perez, who went 2 for 3 with a walk and two RBIs, also hit a two-run homer in the first inning to put the Wolfpack up 2-1. The Outlaws tied the game two-all in the second on Mark Whitworth’s groundout, but Joe Janicke’s solo shot in the third put the Wolfpack back on top, 3-2.

And in the fifth, Janicke (2 for 3, double, home run) led off with a double and eventually scored on two passed balls to push the Wolfpack ahead, 4-2, a lead they carried into the seventh.

wolfpack.mcdougall.catch.315web Wolfpack left-fielder Tom McDougall made the play of the game when he made a diving catch to rob the Outlaws of a hit. Photo By BOB OTTO

The Wolfpack could have won the game in the top of the seventh, but the Outlaws scored twice on a walk and two infield errors and Matt Springston’s RBI single that tied the game.

The Wolfpack’s Andrew Ysais came on in relief in the fourth to pick up the win. The right-hander pitched well, allowing two runs (none earned) on five hits, one walk and one strikeout.

Outlaws’ 18-year-old New Zealand pitcher, Ethan Johnston, went the distance allowing five runs (three earned) on eight hits (three homers), one walk, and five strikeouts.

The win puts the Wolfpack in the championship game scheduled for Sunday at 1:15 p.m. at Walker-Johnston Softball Complex. Meanwhile, the Outlaws must win an 11:30 losers bracket final for a second shot at the Wolfpack.

Grumpy’s and Merchants hammer each other

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

DES MOINES – The NAFA A World Series has had its share of high scores. For example, the California Wolfpack defeated the Long Beach Black Sox, 12-9.

That easily qualifies as a slugfest in men’s fastpitch softball.

But the game between Grumpy’s Bar of Iowa and the Northern Michigan Merchants, Friday, borders on the ridiculous.

The numbers back up my claim: 31 runs were scored on 36 hits with eight home runs, and when the bats were finally put away (to the pitchers’ sighs of relief), the Merchants had prevailed, 19-12, in NAFA A World Series quarterfinal play late Friday.

The hitters and home run “pitcher bashers” from the merchants were Randy Wheelock, Dave Milheim, Guy Thurston, Joe Barnette and Tom Tryban with one a piece.

Grumpy’s fence busters were Ryan Smuck, Levi Fryslie and Seth Kloetzer with one each.

I’m not going to even mention the RBIs, that was impressive as well.

Both teams used two pitchers, and they all got roughed up, but the Merchants Matt Wright did a decent job in 4 2/3 innings of relief. He gave up four earned runs on six hits, didn’t walk any batters and struck out six.

I don’t know if this score or hits or home runs are a NAFA record, but It surely has to be near the top. Oh, there was one other game in which a team scored 24 runs. I stand corrected.

The Merchants take their lumber into the semifinals of the winners bracket where they take on the California Wolfpack at 2 p.m. at Walker-Johnston Softball Complex, today.

Outlaws knock off Bowen in extra inning thriller

Friday, August 16th, 2013

outlaws.bowen.winrun.27web Kansas City Outlaws Clay Bowen scores the winning run in the eighth inning for a 2-1 victory over Bowen Financial, Friday, in the NAFA A World Series. Photo By BOB OTTO

DES MOINES – The pitching? Great. The hitting? Slim. But a thriller of a game none the less.

But in the end someone had to win, and the Outlaws of Kansas City did by scoring the winning run in the eighth inning to defeat Bowen Financial of Illinois in a walk off 2-1 victory.

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Battle for California bragging rights, young Kiwi impressive

Friday, August 16th, 2013

lens.club500.217web The action has been fast, furious and exciting at the 2013 NAFA A World Series championship double-elimination tournament that continues through Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo By BOB OTTO

DES MOINES – The Long Beach Black Sox and California Wolfpack are on a collision course and will meet in a semifinal matchup of the NAFA A World Series upper bracket at 1 p.m. today at the Greater Des Moines Softball Complex.

The Wolfpack (2-0) defeated the Kansas City Angels, 8-5, and Fender Cycle of Des Moines, 8-1, while the Black Sox beat Garnett of Kansas, 2-0, Herzog of St. Joseph, MO, 15-0, and St. Paul Morelli’s Fastpitch, 10-6.

    BRIGHT FUTURE FOR YOUNG KIWI

johnston.ethan.kiwi.6 New Zealand’s Ethan Johnston pitching a gem against Bowen of Illinois. Photo By BOB OTTO

The Kansas City Outlaws New Zealand pitcher, Ethan Johnston, just 18, is spending his first summer pitching in the U.S., and he’s thrilling fastpitch fans with his speed and spin on the ball. The slim right-hander is pitching right now for the Kansas City Outlaws against Bowen of Illinois and has struck out 12 of the first 16 batters he faced, while protecting a 1-0 lead.

    COME OUT TO THE BALL PARK

Des Moines weather today can only be described as beautiful. Temps in the mid-70s with sunshine and blue skies forcast through Sunday, when the NAFA A championship will be decided at 1:15 p.m. at Walker-Johnston Softball Complex in Urbandale.

Morelli’s scores big in NAFA A World Series opener

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

morellis.lammers.59web Gregg “Chopper” Lammers picked up the win in Morelli’s Fastpitch 13-4 victory over Mazon Fastpitch of Illinois. Photo By BOB OTTO

URBANDALE, IOWA – Ryan Thomas went 3 for 4 and drove in four runs and Gregg “Chopper” Lammers allowed four earned runs, walked none and struck out two, and Morelli’s Fastpitch of St. Paul defeated Mazon, Illinois Fastpitch 13-4 in the opening round of the NAFA A World Series, Thursday, at Walker-Johnston Softball Complex.

morellis.bunter.15 The Morelli’s offense pounded out 16 hits in winning their first game ever in the NAFA World Series. Photo By BOB OTTO

Morelli’s collected 16 hits with Matt Fitzenberger going 3 for 3, three RBIs, Brooks Albrecht went 2 for 2, RBI, and Tyler Bouley was 4 for 4 with an RBI.

Morelli’s ended the game in the fourth under the mercy rule and now moves on in the 40-team tournament with a Friday morning game.

NAFA A World Series information

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

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DES MOINES & URBANDALE, IOWA – The 40-team double elimination NAFA A World Series championship starts at noon today with games through Sunday at Walker-Johnston Softball Complex and the Greater Des Moines Softball Complex.

Check out the A World Series schedule and plan on watching a few ball games.

For the latest weather report, call 888-852-1115

Timeless St. Paul team makes first appearance in NAFA World Series

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

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ST. PAUL, MINN – Matt Fitzenberger has played for Morelli’s Fastpitch for about 15 years. But he’s just a youngster when it comes to the storied history of this St. Paul team, and the countless numbers of players who have come long before him and worn the Morelli’s uniform.

Morelli’s Market in St. Paul has been sponsoring a men’s fastpitch team for over 40 years.

A baseball player fresh out of college, Fitzenberger was asked by Jim Morelli to play for his team. He accepted and has never left.

“A lot of original team members got into the game because of Jim,” said Fitzenberger, 30, who is the player / manager of the team.

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