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Looking forward to the 2016 ISC World Tournament

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016
Wonderful, nostalgic Phil Welch Stadium with its covered wooden bleachers in St. Joseph, Missouri, hosted the 2000 ISC World Tournament. Photo By BOB OTTO

Wonderful, nostalgic Phil Welch Stadium with its covered wooden bleachers in St. Joseph, Missouri, hosted the 2000 ISC World Tournament. Photo By BOB OTTO

MOLINE, Ill. – It’s been 17 years since I attented an ISC World Tournament, and that was at St. Joseph, Missouri in 2000 where the Decatur (IL) Pride won the championship by defeating the Broken Bow (Neb.) Travelers 2-1 at Phil Welch Stadium.

But after this long hiatus, I’ll be heading to Moline, Ill. and Green Valley Sports Complex to watch the final three days of the tournament as the best club teams the sport has to offer battle from Aug. 13-20 for the 2016 ISC World Championship.

The great Peter Meredith of Salt Lake City Larry Miller Toyota fires a pitch during the 2000 ISC World Tournament at Phil Welch Stadium in St. Joseph, Missouri. Meredith's ISC career extended from 1980-2001. He finished No. 2  all-time in world tournament victories with 60. Photo By BOB OTTO

The great Peter Meredith of Salt Lake City Larry Miller Toyota fires a pitch during the 2000 ISC World Tournament at Phil Welch Stadium in St. Joseph, Missouri. Meredith’s ISC career extended from 1980-2001. He finished No. 2 all-time in world tournament victories with 60. Photo By BOB OTTO

The players I once photographed have since left the game. No longer do White, Algar, Meredith, Rychcik, Abbot, Sorenson, Martin, Middleton, Boys, Zack, Wahl, Martie, Miljavac, Walford, Tangaroa, Schott, Seaman, Makea, Wallin and Wiebe…and so many other great stars of fastball of a bygone era thrill fans with their amazing talent.

But the current stars, of this new era are every bit as talented as the old guard. Stars such as Folkard, Jones, McCullough, Shailes, Kronk, Zechman, Mata, Cleary, Ellsworth, Ezekiel, Johnson and Mancha…will try with every ounce of their talent and toughness to win a world championship for their teams.

Let the games begin!

At the 2000 ISC World Tournament, a then young Billy Sizemore got St. Joseph Meierhoffer pitcher Chris Bigelow to autograph his softball. Bigelow (2-2, 0.88 ERA) helped St. Joseph finish fourth at 6-2 in the 48 team tournament.  Photo By BOB OTTO

At the 2000 ISC World Tournament, a then young Billy Sizemore got St. Joseph Meierhoffer pitcher Chris Bigelow to autograph his softball. Bigelow (2-2, 0.88 ERA) helped St. Joseph finish fourth at 6-2 in the 48 team tournament. Photo By BOB OTTO

Larry Miller Toyota and the Farm Tavern: none better in men’s fast pitch

Sunday, January 4th, 2015
The Farm Tavern scores its only run in the second inning of a 3-1 loss to Larry Miller Toyota of Salt Lake City. Photo By BOB OTTO

The Farm Tavern scores its only run in the second inning of a 3-1 loss to Larry Miller Toyota of Salt Lake City. Photo By BOB OTTO

SIOUX CITY, IOWA – In the 1995 ISC World Tournament at Diamonds of Champions in Sioux City, Iowa, Larry Miller Toyota of Salt Lake City and the Farm Tavern of Madison, Wisc. met in the semi-finals with Larry Miller besting Rod Peterson’s club, 3-1, to advance to the winner’s bracket final of the 48-team double elimination tournament.

Larry Miller then beat the hometown Gateway 2000 Soos, 5-2, to move into the championship game undefeated at 5-0.

But as many of you know, Darren Zack and the Toronto Gators came charging back through the losers bracket to defeat Larry Miller twice, 8-0, and 3-0, with Zack getting both wins, pushing his record-setting pitching totals to 10-0 (along with setting several other pitching records).

Thursday’s Turning Back The Pages: Remembering Brian Paton, one of Canada’s greatest fastpitch players

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

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Paying tribute to Brian Paton, who was inducted into the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame in 2011. Photo By BOB OTTO / 1995 ISC World Tournament

Woodstock, Ontario, CA – Brian Paton played in 12 consecutive International Softball Congress World Tournaments and was a member of three ISC championship teams – twice with the Toronto, Ontario Gators (1993-95) and with the Smokers of Tampa Bay, Florida (1998).

In 1995, he helped to lead the Toronto Gators in their amazing come-back week to capture the ISC title in Sioux City, Iowa. In so doing, Paton established a new record for hits in a tournament (17) and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Patrolling centre field, he was one the best at stealing what appeared to be “sure-hits” and limiting base runners to singles. He was not simply a member of great teams – those teams enjoyed their successes in no small part as a result of Brian’s leadership – witness his nine “top-four” finishes in ISC world tournaments.

Paton has numerous other notable softball accomplishments, including playing for Team Canada (1985-2002) and helping his country win four Pan-Am gold medals and silver and gold in the International Softball Federation World Championship.

  • Information courtesy of the International Softball Congress. For more information about world tournaments, statistics, photos, record-setting achievements, and more, please visit the: ISC website.
  • Darren Zack leads Gators to improbable 1995 ISC World Tournament championship

    Thursday, November 14th, 2013

    1995.ISC.Gators.2web The Toronto Gators raise their 1995 ISC World Tournament championship trophy. The team included Sponsor Jack Fireman, Brad Underwood, Bruce Casselman, Chuck Hendricks, Frank Cox, Darren Zack, Terry Wallin, Mark Bendehan, Bob Green, Brian Paton, Don Burnett, Terry Baytor (head coach), Bill Green, Ken Kivell, Ray Tilley, Craig Crawford, Rod Wetherell, Chris Baytor (bat boy), Brad Baker, Terry Challis, Chris Jones, Adam Smith, Todd Idenouye (asst. coach), Chick Kennedy, (asst. coach), and Bob Baird (trainer). Photo By BOB OTTO

    SIOUX CITY, IOWA – There’s not a sane man that would have wagered that the Toronto, Ontario Gators would win the 1995 ISC World Tournament Championship after dropping their first game of the 48-team tournament, held Aug. 11-20, at Diamonds of Champions in Sioux City.

    A 3-2 loss to the South Surrey BC Ravens and pitcher Dean Holoien, who held the Gators to five hits.

    But then again, betting against pitcher Darren Zack can be a risky proposition. Zack proved the naysayers wrong in hurling his ball club to the title over the 10-day event. And what a performance he turned in. One that many fastpitch experts say will never be topped.

    Click to continue reading “Darren Zack leads Gators to improbable 1995 ISC World Tournament championship”

    Cal-State Builders claim third consecutive NAFA Masters West championship

    Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

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    By Dave Carlton / Owner and Manager, Cal-State Builders

    CARSON CITY, NEV – The Cal-State Builders made its annual trip to Carson City, Sept. 13-15, with hopes of retaining the NAFA Masters World Series West 40-Over crown. The same rag-tag group from the previous two years consisted of 12-men (with newcomer Scott Budnick, Bothell, WA, and veteran Mario Pereira, Roseville, CA) who put their skills to the test as tough competition loomed.

    The Portland Brewers – narrowly defeated last year at the hands of Cal-State ace Kevin Kammueller (Shakopee, MN) – were hungry to redeem the loss. The Boston Seadogs, eliminated in 2012 by Portland in a dramatic extra-inning walk-off, were similarly eager to avenge the past.

    Ten hopefuls entered the NAFA West Masters, with Cal-State, Portland, and Boston opposite each other in separate pools.

      Cal-State 11, SoCal Quakes 0

    Rain and heavy wind suspended Friday’s games deep into the night. Game one slated for 8 p.m. finally got started around 10:30. The SoCal Quakes sent veteran Doug Rooney to the mound to face Cal-State’s iconic big-man Kammueller.

    The Builders showed no ill effects from the rain delay as they quickly plated seven runs in the top of the first inning, sending 13 men to the plate. Dean Waltier highlighted a six-hit inning with a two-run blast to the right field corner. Both Randy “The Hammer” Bitterman and Darin Michael posted two hits each, while Mark Summers and Scott Budnick added walks.

    Former Builder Mario Pereira, who took a few years off from the team, added a base hit, and Duane Christensen began his path to tournament MVP with a single.

    Kammueller began where he left off at the ISC World Tournament (ISC II All-World pitcher) by pounding the strike zone with nasty corners and wicked movement. The Quakes mustered three hits in the mercy-shortened contest but could not score a run off the stingy Builder’s ace.

    Former University of Arizona standout Debby Day, the only female pitcher to ever pitch at the men’s event, took over for Rooney in the top of the second and held off the Builders until the fourth, when pinch-hitter Larry Machado got a rally started with a clean single.

    kammueller.kevin.246web Kevin Kammueller shows the form that earned him ISC II All-World and NAFA Masters All-World. Photo By BOB OTTO / June 2013 California Classic Fastpitch Tournament

    Click to continue reading “Cal-State Builders claim third consecutive NAFA Masters West championship”

    Remembering Gareau, Sorenson and Piechnik, legends of the ISC World Tournament

    Thursday, September 5th, 2013

    2013-Gareau.Piechnik.Sorenson.ISC.6web Photo By BOB OTTO

    When fastpitch fans of the International Softball Congress start talking about “who were some of the best of all-time to play in the World Tournament,” three names are sure to surface – Canadian pitchers Korrey Gareau, left, Mike Piechnik, and New Zealand catcher and first baseman Mark Sorenson.

    All three – now retired – had stellar careers in the ISC and in their native countries. Let’s learn a little about them. (And fans are welcome to weigh in with their comments.)

      THE BEST PLAYER EVER? HARD TO ARGUE

    Let’s start with Sorenson. The right-side hitting and throwing New Zealander, who was recently named Head Coach of the New Zealand Black Sox National Team, was selected ISC All-World 16 times, placing him No. 2 on the all-time list behind Cleo Goyette with 16.

    Sorenson also helped his teams win four ISC World Tournament championships, while being named the Most Valuable Player and RBI leader in 1988. Sorenson was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2010.

      FUTURE HALL OF FAMER

    Korrey Gareau surged into the ISC World Tournament spotlight as a 24-year-old in 1997 when he hurled the Victoria BC Legends to second place in the world tournament in Victoria. From ’97 to 2008, Gareau went on to pitch for several outstanding U.S. ball clubs including the Tampa, Florida Smokers, Nebraska Travelers and Farm Tavern of Madison, Wisc.

    Gareau helped the Farm win the World Tournament in 2007 and was selected the LeRoy Zimmerman Memorial Outstanding Pitcher.

    In 1997, Gareau earned his first of six All-World honors with the Victoria Legends for his world tournament 5-2 record, 38 innings, 39 hits, 16 earned runs, 64 strikeouts and 2.95 ERA. Gareau’s six all-world selections ties him with nine other players, including the likes of Todd Budke (ISC Hall of Fame 2012), Dean Holoien, and Richie Stephen (ISC Hall of Fame 1979).

    Gareau will surely be up for Hall of Fame nomination when he becomes eligible.

      BEST LEFTY ALL-TIME? HARD TO IGNORE

    In an International Softball Congress career spanning 1985 to 2000, left-handed flame throwing Mike Piechnik – known for a great rise ball – earned ISC World Tournament All-World honors nine times. That puts him in a class with other great pitchers, including Canadians Todd Martin and Darren Zack (ISC Hall of Fame 2010).

    Piechnik, who was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2009, has some incredible performances on his pitching resume: In the ISC World Tournament, he threw four perfect games (1985, 1993, 1998, 2002), along with six no-hitters.

    In 1993, he became the first pitcher to throw perfect games at the ISC World Tournament, the Canadian Championships, and the ASA Major National Championship in a three week span.

      SHARE YOUR MEMORIES
  • As a player, did you ever play with or against these three men?
  • As fan, did you ever see them play?
  • Can you recall some memories that stand out about their performances?
  • If so, we invite you to share them with your fellow fastpitch fans?
  • Someone to know: Dean Holoien, Canadian fastball star

    Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

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    Dean Holoien pitching in the 2000 ISC World Tournament for the Edmonton (Alberta) Express had a 4-1 record in 35 1/3 innings with 64 strikeouts and a 1.39 ERA. He led the Express to ninth place in the 48-team tournament. Photo By BOB OTTO

    “Fastpitch softball was lucky to have him and I was grateful that I got a front row seat for a lot of years.” – Todd Martin about former teammate Dean Holoien

    REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN – Dean Holoien knows where to give credit for his long and successful fastball career – his father Doug. If not for dad’s insistence that “it’s time to practice,” fastball may not have enjoyed the exploits of one of the sport’s greatest pitchers and hitters.

    “I remember pitching in the yard to dad until the moon came out,” Dean Holoien said. “There were many times when I would have rather did other things, but he had me pitching. But I’m sure glad he did.”

    Holoien retired after the 2012 season, finishing a 20-year fastball career at the elite level. His talent carried him far – throughout Canada and the United States playing for elite club teams – and on to the worldwide stage, competing in the International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championship.

    His former teammate and pitcher, Todd Martin, knows Holoien well – since 1993 when they started playing together for the Camrose Merchants. Then they teamed up with the Farm Tavern of Madison, Wisconsin (2002 to 2004), and also played on Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team (1997-2009).

    Martin says no one was any tougher or fierce a competitor in the circle than Holoien. His will to win and his hard spinning rise ball elevated him to the top of the sport. But adds Martin, with a bat in his hand, Holoien was a terror in the batter’s box as well.

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    In 1998, Todd Martin, pitching for the Tampa Smokers of Florida was awarded the ISC World Tournament Most Outstanding Pitcher for leading the Smokers to the championship. In his career, Martin has been selected a Most Outstanding Pitcher three times. Photo By BOB OTTO

    “He had a ton of huge hits over the course of his career,” said Martin, a three-time Most Valuable Pitcher in the ISC World Tournament. “Not many guys are capable of throwing a shutout and hitting a bomb to win a game 1-0. But that was Deano.”

    Click to continue reading “Someone to know: Dean Holoien, Canadian fastball star”

    Talented speedster selected to NAFA Hall of Fame

    Monday, July 8th, 2013

    “He has pinpoint accuracy with his slap bunts and has the speed to match. He has taught me to always be one play ahead of what is happening in the outfield.” – Lacey A’s Pat Sagdal on teammate Darin Michael, Hall of Fame inductee.

    OLYMPIA, WA – In 1981, a 14-year-old boy raced on to a softball diamond as a fill-in for his dad’s fastpitch team. Now 33 years later, Darin Michael’s talent and speed have carried him to the highest of honors.

    In August, Michael will be inducted into the NAFA Hall of Fame during the World Series in Des Moines, Iowa. He joins just 32 players who have been inducted since NAFA’s founding in 1993.

    “I am humbled and honored to be selected to the NAFA Hall of Fame,” said the 45-year-old Michael. “Fastpitch has been a way of life for me and I am truly blessed to still compete at the level I do.”

    VETERAN BATS LEADOFF
    Michael plays the outfield and bats leadoff for the Lacey A’s (WA), a NAFA AA-Major ball club. Remember now, he’s 45. An age when most players are past their prime in running down and diving for line drives.

    But time has treated Michael kindly. His skills have remained in tact, says his manager Pat Bucknell, who has known Michael most of his life. Bucknell cites Michael’s ability: a switch-hitting slapper who can also drive the ball from the right side; an outfielder with a strong arm.

    But one skill stands out – speed.

    Click to continue reading “Talented speedster selected to NAFA Hall of Fame”

    Wrapping up the 2013 California Classic Men’s Fastpitch Tournament

    Tuesday, 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.

    Click to continue reading “Wrapping up the 2013 California Classic Men’s Fastpitch Tournament”

    Hitting a high-velocity fastpitch softball; a skill only the great ones possess.

    Monday, March 4th, 2013

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    Colin Abbott, three-time ISC World Tournament Most Valuable Player, one of the all-time great fastball hitters.

    By BOB OTTO / www.ottoinfocus.com

    AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – I studied Canadian Brad Ezekiel and Ryan Wolfe. I leaned in closer to my computer screen, zoning in on New Zealand’s Rhys Casley, Donny Hale and Brad Rona.

    How do they do it?

    How do they hit a softball speeding toward home plate at 80-plus miles per hour from 46 feet away from a pitcher that can make the yellow sphere dive and dance and soar like a Hummingbird on steroids?

    And then with the cruel nature of a sadist, the pitcher changes speeds. It’s as if the ball is attached to a string and our righty or lefty (prankster) yanks it back just when the batter starts to swing. Like Lucy pulling the football away from hapless Charlie Brown just as he’s about to kick it.

    What special athletic gifts have been bestowed upon fastball’s great hitters, enabling them to hit the riser, the drop, the curve, and the change-up with such proficiency?

    MEREDITH, A LASTING IMPRESSION
    I remember in 1986 standing behind a backstop watching Kiwi Peter Meredith throw a softball harder than ANY ball I had ever seen thrown. I stood in awe of Meredith’s amazing talent.

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    ISC Hall of Fame pitcher, Peter Meredith, who once pitched for TEAM USA.

    I wondered: “how can anyone possibly hit his pitches?”

    Click to continue reading “Hitting a high-velocity fastpitch softball; a skill only the great ones possess.”