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A1 Bombers and J&B Painting merger creates super team with big goal

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

The J&B BOMBERS defeated the Northeast Naturals, 11-0, in the championship game of the 2017 Las Vegas Road Trip X, AA/AA-Major tournament at Sunset Park in las Vegas, Sunday, April 9. The team includes co-sponsors and managers Bob Berger and Jerry Zimmerman; players Eli Salazar, Cameron Schiller, Tyler Dudley, Freddy Carmona, Jorge Segura, Pat Burns, Tony Mancha, Blake Hunter, Tyler McGaughey, Mike Hoadley, Derrick Kennedy, Kris Walushka, Jesse Palacios, Mark Aranda, Gil Saenz, Devon McCullough and Bryan Erwin. Photo By BOB OTTO

LAS VEGAS – Both Jerry Zimmerman and Bob Berger look back with pride on the accomplishments of their respective ball clubs during the 2016 season.

Zimmerman’s A1 Bombers of Saskatoon, SK, CA finished fifth (4-2) in the ISC World Tournament, while Berger’s J&B Painting club of Agoura Hills, Calif. took 11th (2-2). And just a year prior, they finished third and fifth respectively.

Adding to those accolades, the Bombers also took second (5-2) in the 2016 ASA Men’s Major National Championship.

And during the regular season, both teams were ranked in the top-ten by the ISC.

Very good ball clubs? Certainly. Great? Close, but not quite.

While both were competitive, capable of and often beating the best in the game, neither had quite the firepower to grasp the brass rings – which in men’s fastpitch equate to winning the ISC world tournament and ASA major national championship.

So, if you come close but can’t quite win those titles, what can be done? Merge. Exactly what the two men decided to do.

By combining forces, they significantly raise the odds of winning those two coveted championships. And it appears they’ve created a ball club – the J&B Bombers – that must be considered one of the favorites to win it all.

Zimmerman and Berger left no doubt about their expectations.

“We’re going to win the world,” Berger said, “win everything. That’s our goal.”

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Stepping Back In Time: Tim McGuire numbers among the best for Bloomington Beer Nuts

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

TIM McGUIRE had a successful pitching career with the Bloomington (IL) Beer Nuts, a major-caliber team from Bloomington, Illinois. Photo / The Pantograph

“I was wild as all get out. I might strike out 10, but I would walk 15 or 16.” – Tim McGuire

By RANDY KINDRED
Pantograph staff
June 25, 1986

BLOOMINGTON, IL – The numbers don’t lie. A 22-3 record, 1.01 earned run average, 175 strikeouts and only 14 walks in 151 innings.

Without question, they add up to the best start of Tim McGuire’s softball pitching career. That, he says, is what worries him.

“The book on me is I usually throw better in July and August (than May and June),” the Bloomington Beer Nuts right-hander told a reporter at O’Neil Park, his home away from home.

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ASA Meet May Top the World

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

TY STOFFLET pitched for several national championship teams, including 1979 York (Pa.) Barbells. Photo By BOB OTTO / 1991 ASA Masters National Championship

By Bob McGinn / Green Bay Press-Gazette
Aug. 14, 1979

GREEN BAY, Wisc. – The ISC World Tournament. The fastpitch softball faithful in the Fox Valley speak of it in almost reverential tones.

It conjures up images, always, of a week or two on the West Coast, in places like Sun City, Ariz., Long Beach, or even Bakersfield, Calif., where this summer’s version of the International Softball Congress’s national tournament is scheduled to begin Friday.

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A Step Back In Time: Scandia honors local Fastpitch Hall of Famer Wayne Erickson

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

SOFTBALL CHAMPS – Scandia, Minn. defeated River Falls, Wisc. 8-6, in nine innings Sunday night, July 24, 1967, at Eau Claire’s Carson Park to win the first Open Softball Tournament. Members of the championship team were front row, left to right: Choc Junker, Tom Thompson, Barney Barnholdt, Jim Lindberg, Wayne Erickson and Joe Junker. Back row, George Lindgren, Dean Carlson, Dennis Lofboom, Greg Benson, Phil Anderson, Manager Don Seguin, and Dan Jacobson. Staff Photo / Eau Claire Leader

SCANDIA, Minn. – For the thousands of batters who faced Wayne Erickson, it was most-often a frustrating and fruitless endeavor. But his teammates? They loved him. After all Erickson was a huge factor in helping Scandia win four state men’s fastpitch championships.

And for Erickson’s great exploits for Scandia fastpitch, the city renamed its softball field (simply called “Scandia lighted ball field”) to Wayne Erickson Memorial Ball Park, in 2011.

Erickson is the only Minnesota Sports Federation Softball Hall of Fame (1984) member to come from Scandia.

In his youth, Erickson played baseball, but at age 16 he began pitching fastpitch for Scandia, and continued throwing for his hometown team for the next twenty years.

FOUR TIMES CHAMPS

Those attending the dedication remembered Wayne for his perfection of the art of pitching that helped take the Scandia team to four ASA Class A state championships in 1963, 1966, 1967 and 1968.

“I’m one of four ball players from Scandia that got to play with and against Wayne Erickson in his prime,” Doniver Ahlm said. “Before playing with Wayne I played against him. I had the opportunity to strike out against every type of pitch he threw.”

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Al DeWall the greatest pitcher of Minnesota’s Golden Age

Friday, January 6th, 2017

ST. PAUL ALL-AMERICAN BAR won the 1976 ISC World Tournament with pitcher Al DeWall leading the way with five victories. DeWall, pictured in the last row, third from left, was selected the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher. Courtesy Photo

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The decades of the 1950s through the 1980s are considered the Golden Age of Minnesota men’s Fastpitch.

The Golden Age saw many outstanding teams rise to power such as St. Paul’s Belmont Club, New Bar and Clover Club, Mankato Happy Chef, St. James James Gang, Duluth and Scandia.

But none rose to power like St. Paul’s Whitaker Buick (1962 – 1973) and All-American Bar (1976 – 1986). Basically the same roster, just a change of sponsorship.

Between the two teams they appeared in 14 ISC World Tournaments and several ASA Major National Tournaments. In 1976 All-American Bar won the world tournament, beating the Lakewood, Calif. Jets twice, 5-2 and 6-0, to take the title.

    STARS A PLENTY

“It was unbelievable playing for Whitaker Buick,” said Mike Payton, the team’s centerfielder in the 1960s and 70s. “Back then you didn’t play a qualifier and go to the nationals like now. You had to win six or seven games (state and regional playoffs) and it was single elimination.”

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Will to win boosts Craig Brown into Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame

Saturday, November 26th, 2016
Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame members, Dan Nessler, left, and Craig Brown, who were inducted in 2016, and Jeff Nessler, Dan's brother, who was inducted in 2004. Courtesy Photo

Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame members, Dan Nessler, left, and Craig Brown, who were inducted in 2016, and Jeff Nessler, Dan’s brother, who was inducted in 2004. Courtesy Photo

St. James, Minn. – His speed wind-milling a softball? Average. His spin to make it rise, drop or curve? Good but not great. His physical stature? Not imposing.

Craig Brown may not have had all the physical tools to become a great fastpitch pitcher. But what Brown did have speaks to the internal rather than the external.

Call it what you may: guts, drive, intense desire. As his former teammates would attest, Brown possessed the one quality all great athletes have: a relentless will to win.

No one knew Brown any better than Dennis Johnson, St. James’ softball statistician, historian, and devoted fan of the town’s fastpitch teams.

“He was an intense competitor,” said Johnson, who holds memberships in the International Softball Congress and Minnesota Softball Federation hall of fames. “He wanted to prove that he could beat the good teams and prove his skeptics wrong. That motivated him. He just hated to lose.”

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A Step Back In Time: the 1976 Casey Truckers

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

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CASEY, IL – In 1976 the Casey Truckers hosted the ASA National Class A Invitational Tournament. I was lucky enough to be drafted to pitch for St. Paul Merchants. And while there, I got a Truckers official program.

Looking through the program, I discovered that the Truckers were quite a team, and from 1963 to 1975 had a record of 695-329. The Truckers best year was 1973 when they finished 80-24 and were ASA Class A state champions along with finishing third in the national tournament.

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Nicholas Mercer: The violence of throwing a softball

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
FIVE-TIME ISC TOP PITCHER - Adam Folkard has won five ISC Most Outstanding Pitcher awards, and has led Australia to titles in the ISF and WBSC World Championships. In 2016, he pitched the Hill United Chiefs of Ontario, Canada to runner-up in the ISC World Tournament and was named an All-World pitcher for a eighth time.  His 4-1 record gives him 39 wins all-time in ISC World Tournament play. Photo By BOB OTTO

FIVE-TIME ISC TOP PITCHER – Adam Folkard has won five ISC Most Outstanding Pitcher awards, and has led Australia to titles in the ISF and WBSC World Championships. In 2016, he pitched the Hill United Chiefs of Ontario, Canada to runner-up in the ISC World Tournament and was named an All-World pitcher for a eighth time. His 4-1 record gives him 39 wins all-time in ISC World Tournament play. Photo By BOB OTTO

The Telegram Sports
By Nicholas Mercer
Sept. 12, 2016

ST. JOHNS, NL – Seeing high-level fastpitch softball play out on a computer screen over a webcast doesn’t do the game justice.

Nor does it allow the average fan to appreciate just what goes into throwing the softball very hard at the plate.

When you’re watching the game 20-feet from the pitching rubber, it’s easy to see the webcast sells the act incredibly short.

A hush falls over the crowd as the pitcher takes his signs from the catcher. They’re counting on seeing something great with every pitch.

That sense of anticipation only heightens when the pitcher rocks back before leaping towards the plate and uncoiling a ball that travels at ungodly speeds.

Continue Reading in The Telegram

Pat Sagdal, in the fastpitch spotlight

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Sagdal_collage.1lr Pat Sagdal had a great game against the Kegel Black Knights of Fargo, ND in the 2016 ISC World Tournament in Moline, IL. He went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI, and also scored twice in leading the A’s to a 6-0 victory. Photo By BOB OTTO

MOLINE, IL – Pat Sagdal has played fastpitch softball on many levels, starting locally in his home state of Washington.

From the lower divisions his talent quickly jettisoned him to the highest: As a member of Team USA since 2014 representing the United States in the World Baseball Softball Confederation.

One of his highlights on Team USA was hitting a home run against Mexico to advance the team in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Ontario, CA.

On the club level he has played for some of the highest ranked teams by the International Softball Congress in its World Tournament. This season he was with the No. 5 ranked Vancouver BC A’s.

Sagdal helped the A’s finish fourth (5-2), Aug. 20, in Moline, IL. He is known for his abiltiy to drive the ball to all fields, for his speed in the outfield and on the base paths.

Sagdal was also selected an ASA All-American and was the batting champion for helping the Cal-State Builders / Eventhelper win the 2013 ASA Class A National Championship in Salem, OR.

And in the 2012 NAFA World Series at Topeka, KS, Sagdal helped the Bucknell Park A’s of Washington win the AA-Division championship, and was chosen an All-World player.

Success has found Sagdal, and he will no doubt experience more of it in the future.

Pitcher Jerry Ralfs reminisces about the good times in fastpitch

Friday, August 19th, 2016
Jerry Ralfs, one the greatest pitchers in the history of men's fastpitch was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2004. Photo By BOB OTTO

Jerry Ralfs, one the greatest pitchers in the history of men’s fastpitch was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2004. Photo By BOB OTTO

MOLINE, IL – Jerry Ralfs gazed out on the ball diamond as pitchers Sean Cleary of the Toronto Gators and New York Gremlins Andrew Kirkpatrick battled each other pitch-for-pitch in the 2017 ISC World Tournament.

Seeing their intensity, their talent, their will to win, brought back memories of the bygone days when he too was locked in intense battle with some of the games greatest teams and pitchers of the 1950s through 1995 when he finally retired.

Ralfs, an ISC Hall of Fame pitcher (2004), battled against and defeated some of the greatest pitchers ever to step on the ball diamond: There’s Dick Brubaker, Don Sarno, Art Bunge, Ralph Salazar, Ed Klecker, and perhaps the greatest of all-time – Ty Stofflet.

The two left-handers tangled several times. In 1969, Ralfs pitched Rock Island Sportshop to second place in the ISC World Tournament, and put together outstanding marks with a 5-2 record and 79 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings.

In that tournament, he beat the defending champion Long Beach, Calif. Nitehawks twice. Both shutouts.

But his two loses? To Stofflet. But by the slightest of margins possible in the sport, both 1-0 setbacks.

But a smile comes to his face when he remembers when he did get the best of Stofflet.

“It was in 1971 in Springfield (Missouri) and we beat Stofflet,” said Ralfs, now 80 years old, but looking 15 years younger. “I even got a bloop single to win the game.”

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