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Successful season earns Yusef Davis a spot on USA Softball’s Pan American fastpitch team

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Possessing speed, quick hands, an aggressive style and commitment to the game, YUSEF DAVIS, JR., 23, of Long Beach, Calif. is well on his way to becoming a star in men’s fastpitch. Here he is seen playing for CR Bartels Farms of Portland, Ore. that won the NAFA AA-Major World Series, Aug. 11, 2017. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2017 NAFA World Series

LONG BEACH, Calif. – During the week, Yusef Davis, Jr. can be found near his Long Beach home either in the gym, at the batting cages, or engaged in any kind of sweat-filled labor that will help improve his fastpitch softball skills.

During most weekends, however, he’s anywhere but home.

A search could find him in fastpitch havens such as Wisconsin, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania or Michigan competing in high-caliber fastpitch tournaments.

Only 23 and in his fourth year playing fastpitch, the demand for his talents just keeps on growing.

    TWO GREAT TOURNAMENTS

Prime examples: During the NAFA World Series, he was in Fargo, North Dakota helping CR Bartel Farms, Portland, Ore. win the AA-Major World Series.

And soon after the championship game ended, he was off to Grand Rapids, Michigan to join his Bear Bottom Haymakers of Ephrata, Penn. for the most exclusive of open-caliber tournaments – the International Softball Congress World Tournament.

Those two tournaments were exhilarating for Davis, who possesses great speed both in the outfield and at the plate, and who is rapidly becoming recognized as one of the up-and-coming young stars of the game.

“The experience playing in the ISC and NAFA was breathtaking,” said Davis, who throws and bats left-sided. “Once you realize you’re on the same ballfield as some of the best players in the world, you just can’t help but be proud and humbled.”

CR Bartels swept through the NAFA AA-Major undefeated at 5-0, and the Bear Bottom Haymakers finished ninth in the 24-team ISC World Tournament at 4-2.

Bear Bottom Haymakers manager, Merlin High, was pleased how Davis played the entire year and at the ISC World Tournament for his squad.

“He’s a great defensive player, one of the best who ever played for me,” said High. “His speed is unmatched by anyone in the game, and he’s a good hitter too with some of those hits coming from his speed beating out ground balls. He’s a great teammate, upbeat and positive. I’m hoping he comes back with us next year.”

    SWEAT & TOIL TO BE BETTER

Though he played well and had a successful season, Davis acknowledges that there are areas that need improvement.

“If I could improve in two areas, it would be pitch selection when I’m in the batter’s box,” he said, “and getting even better jumps on the ball in the outfield. During the off season, I’m going to hit the batting cages even more and work on the fundamentals of hitting, and keep working on my slapping and bunting.”

But the off-season workouts will have to wait for he has one very important and prestigious tournament remaining: The World Baseball Softball Confederation X Pan American Fastpitch Championship in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sept. 15-24.

    PROUD FATHER, SEASONED MENTOR

When Davis got the word that he had been selected to the 15-man roster, he was ecstatic, and he called the one person he knew would be delighted about this honor.

“I called my dad and told him I had made the team,” Davis said. “I know it meant a lot to him. And it means so much for me to represent my country in the sport I have so much passion about.”

Leading up to the Pan Am games, Davis will be consulting with a veteran of USA Softball: Kevin Castillo, who is a teammate of Davis on Those Guys and Patricia’s Mexican restaurant ball clubs from Long Beach.

Castillo, and his father, Paul Castillo, were instrumental in bringing Davis into the sport and nurturing his development.

“Kevin’s always pushing me to be better,” Davis said, “I’ve gotten a lot of help from him on hitting lessons and strategy on defense. Just the confidence he gives me to play at my best is what’s so meaningful.”

    REACHING HIGH, SETTING GOALS

Though he’s still learning, growing, and going through the trials and successes that the sport both challenges and rewards, Davis has set some short-range and long-range goals as well.

In the immediate future, he wants to help USA Softball win the Pan American games, and then if it can be arranged, he would like to take a second trip to New Zealand for a season of “down-under” fastpitch with the Waitakere Bears.

And as for long-range?

“I would love to run softball clinics and coach kids and work with outfielders,” Davis said. “I would like to travel the world playing ball and make as many memories and impact as many young athletes to take the right path as I can – teach one, reach one.”

2017 USA SOFTBALL PAN AMERICAN ROSTER
Kevin Castillo
Jenner Christenson
Joel Cooley
Yusef Davis
Tyler Dudley
Derrick Kennedy
Jonathan Lynch
Tony Mancha
Nick Mullins
Travis Nevin
Jeff Nowacyzk
Erick Ochoa
Cameron Schiller
Chase Turner
Duane Weiler

COACHING STAFF
Gregg Leather, Head Coach
Greg Hicks, Assistant Coach
Nick McCurry
Assistant Coach

USA rallies to escape upset minded Republic of South Africa in Men’s Softball World Championship

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

WHITEHORSE, YK, CanadaKevin Castillo gave Team USA hope, Matt Ratliff gave them new life, and Tyler Dudley gave them the winning run as the United States rallied in extra innings to defeat the Republic of South Africa, 4-3, Thursday night in the final game of pool play.

The win moves Team USA (5-2) into Friday’s first-round of playoffs in the Men’s Softball World Championship at the Pepsi Softball Centre in Whitehorse. RSA, playing well in the tournament, drops to 2-5.

But in the bottom of the seventh, victory seemed improbable with Team USA trailing 3-0 and down to their final out.

Castillo, however, had other ideas.

Click to continue reading “USA rallies to escape upset minded Republic of South Africa in Men’s Softball World Championship”

Dudley and Mancha drive USA closer to playoff spot in Men’s Softball World Championship

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

WHITEHORSE, YK, Canada – Lean and fit Tyler Dudley doesn’t have the big, burly build of the prototypical power hitter, but his incredibly quick hands can whip a bat around with lightning speed.

When Dudley hits a softball, it can go a long way.

And two of his gigantic wallops did just that in leading Team USA to a 12-2 victory over the Dominican Republic in the Men’s Softball World Championship at the Pepsi Softball Centre in Whitehorse, Tuesday.

With the USA trailing 1-0 in the bottom half of the first inning, Dudley came to the plate with the bases loaded and promptly drilled a triple down the left-field line to clear the sacks and give Team USA a 3-1 advantage.

Click to continue reading “Dudley and Mancha drive USA closer to playoff spot in Men’s Softball World Championship”

United States defeats Australia for crucial win in softball world championship

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

WHITEHORSE, YK, Canada – The defense? Stellar. The pitching? Superb. The offense? Clutch.

Team USA put together an outstanding game to defeat Australia, 2-1, in the second round of the 2017 Men’s Softball World Championship at the Pepsi Softball Centre in Whitehorse, Saturday.

And it was without a doubt a team win.

Let’s start with the pitching.

Jeremy Manley started and went five innings giving up just two hits – one of them a first-inning home run to Nick Shailes that gave the Aussies the early lead.

Often, that’s all the run support Aussie hurler Adam Folkard needs. Considered by many fastpitch experts as the best pitcher in all of men’s fastpitch, he can be nearly impossible to hit with his 80-plus mph riser and drop.

Click to continue reading “United States defeats Australia for crucial win in softball world championship”

Team USA beats one of fastball’s best in big win over Globe to claim Rodney Fox Memorial Tournament championship

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

PAT SAGDAL belted a two-run home run to help the USA Men’s National Softball Team defeat Globe, 8-0, in the 2017 Rodney Fox Memorial Tournament, Sunday, May 21, 2017. USA Softball Photo.

STEVENS, Penn. – The USA Men’s National Team bullied their way to a 4-0 mark in the Rodney Fox Memorial Fastpitch Tournament on Saturday. They bludgeoned opposing pitchers for 38 runs, and on Sunday in the opening game of the playoffs they kept on swinging those hot bats, beating Elanco, 13-3.

That set up a matchup with Globe for the tournament championship.

Now surely this title game would present a far greater challenge for Team USA. For the guy toeing the rubber for Globe was an internationally renowned pitcher: Sean Cleary.

The hard-throwing Canadian right-hander has an impressive resume:

  • He’s a Canadian national team pitcher.
  • He’s the 2016 International Softball Congress Most Outstanding Pitcher for hurling the Toronto, Ontario Gators to the ISC World Tournament championship.
  • In 2015, Cleary helped pitch Canada to the World Softball championship.

    But on this day, the United States’ batsmen got the better of Cleary and Globe for an 8-0 victory that gives Team USA its first tournament title of the season, and great preparation for the 14th World Softball Championship tournament at Saskatoon, Canada, June 26-July 5.

    In the quest for the title, they roughed up Cleary for five runs on five hits in four innings before he gave way to reliever Jon Gwizdala in the fifth.

    Bryce Kay hammered a two-run homer in the second inning, Nick Mullins drove a run-scoring double into left-field that ignited a four-run fifth, and Pat Sagdal homered with one aboard to close out the scoring in the sixth, ending the game on the mercy rule.

    That was more than enough runs for Team USA veteran pitcher Tony Mancha who held Globe to two hits with nine strikeouts and a walk. Both runs were unearned.

    Team USA had seven hits, with Mullins perfect at 2-for-2, and Jeff Nowaczk, Bryce Kay, Kevin Castillo, Sagdal and Matt Ratliff getting one hit each. Both Sagdal and Kay homered, and Mullins and Castillo doubled.

    (I wasn’t aware this was the championship game. Congratulations Team USA. Off to a great start in preparation for the 2017 WBSC World Championship.)

  • USA National Softball Team stays perfect in Rodney Fox Memorial Tournament

    Saturday, May 20th, 2017

    Jonathan Lynch led a 16-hit attack to power Team USA to victory in the Rodney Fox Memorial Tournament, Saturday, May 20. Photo By BOB OTTO

    STEVENS, Penn. – Jonathan Lynch was perfect at the plate, B.J. Runoff dominated in the circle, and Team USA cruised to a 16-0 victory over Kelly’s in the second-round of the Rodney Fox Memorial Men’s Fastpitch Tournament in Stevens, Saturday morning.

    Click to continue reading “USA National Softball Team stays perfect in Rodney Fox Memorial Tournament”

    Yusef Davis Heads Down Under To Hone His Fastpitch Skills

    Friday, December 30th, 2016

    Yusef Davis Jr., reaches up and slaps a high rise ball off BC A’s pitcher Gregg Garrity and reaches safely on an infield single. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2016 SCIFL Tournament

    LONG BEACH, Calif. – For many people, their Christmas wish-list is often filled with requests for material things: like an iPhone 7, a car, or new clothes and jewelry.

    Just like the rest of us, 22-year-old Yusef Davis appreciates the finer things in life, too.

    But the young man from Long Beach wanted more than material things. And he got his Christmas wish and then some with a trip “Down Under” to expand his fastpitch softball horizons.

    Click to continue reading “Yusef Davis Heads Down Under To Hone His Fastpitch Skills”

    In The Spotlight: Kevin Castillo, USA National Team and ISC All-World player

    Wednesday, September 7th, 2016
    KEVIN CASTILLO of the Vancouver BC A's earned All-World honors at the 2016 ISC World Tournament; his second such award, as he was named All-World in 2015, too. Photo By BOB OTTO

    KEVIN CASTILLO of the Vancouver BC A’s earned All-World honors at the 2016 ISC World Tournament; his second such award, as he was named All-World in 2015, too. Photo By BOB OTTO

    LONG BEACH, Calif. – Kevin Castillo had a successful 2016 fastpitch season, both with his Long Beach team, Those Guys, and the Vancouver BC Athletics, his club team that finished in the top tier at the ISC World Tournament in Moline, Illinois.

  • ISC performance earns Castillo high tournament honors:
  • He was selected a Second-Team, All-World infielder for helping the Athletics finish fourth in the 36-team field of the best club teams from the U.S. and Canada.

    Click to continue reading “In The Spotlight: Kevin Castillo, USA National Team and ISC All-World player”

    Around the ball yard at the SCIFL Alliance Tournament

    Thursday, June 30th, 2016
    Jesse Ortiz is the president of the So. California Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL), and he also pitches for the So. Cal Bandits. Photo By BOB OTTO

    Jesse Ortiz is the president of the So. California Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL), and he also pitches for the So. Cal Bandits. Photo By BOB OTTO

    SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif. – I had never been to Little Lake Park in Santa Fe Springs, either as a player or reporter. But after my visit Saturday, June 25, for the So. California Independent Fastpitch League Alliance Tournament, I give the venue where SCIFL plays most of its tournament games, a thumbs-up.

    The four ball diamonds are within easy walking distance for teams and fans. It’s a relief to not have to drive back and forth between distant ball fields. And there’s plenty of shade trees to cool off for players, families and fans.

    HE DOES IT ALL – SCIFL President Jesse Ortiz must be exhausted after these two-day SCIFL tournaments held throughout the fastpitch season. Ortiz does it all – from recruiting teams, making out the bracket, prepping the fields, setting up the scorekeepers at each ball diamond, and even doing a little fencing.

    Ortiz, with the help of just one volunteer, erected fencing around two of the ball fields. Twice. On Saturday night, he had to take down the temporary fencing for fear of having it stolen by thieves in the middle of the night. Then early Sunday morning, he had to put the fencing back up.

    All this work is complicated by one other matter: Ortiz pitches for the So. Cal Bandits. One minute I saw him raking and prepping a field, the next he’s on the rubber pitching. Very few in fastpitch work as hard as this man running a league. Ortiz also said that a good Mexican team contacted him about playing in an upcoming SCIFL tournament.

    ELI SALAZAR MAKES THE BIG SHOW – A versatile player, Salazar started playing in 1996 at the lower levels. But last year, while playing for J & B Painting, he got the chance to play in his first ISC World Tournament. Stepping into the batter’s box against three of the world’s best and hardest throwing pitchers was a big challenge, but one he embraced.

    “I faced Adam Folkard (Most Valuable Pitcher for the tournament champion United Hill Chiefs), Sean Cleary (second-team, all-world pitcher for runner-up Toronto Gators), and Juan Potolicchio,” said Salazar, who also plays and pitches for Those Guys of Long Beach. “Playing against them is fastpitch at it’s best. The ISC World Tournament is the major leagues of fastpitch. I learned that I can compete against that kind of pitching.”

    Click to continue reading “Around the ball yard at the SCIFL Alliance Tournament”

    Those Guys Bringing Young Guys Into Fastpitch

    Wednesday, April 13th, 2016
    Those Guys fastpitch team of Long Beach, Calif., has five high school players on its roster, along with a good veteran core. In early April, the team finished runner-up to J & B Painting (an ISC caliber team) in a So. Calif. Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL) tournament. Courtesy photo / SCIFL

    Those Guys fastpitch team of Long Beach, Calif., has five high school players on its roster, along with a good veteran core. In early April, the team finished runner-up to J & B Painting (an ISC caliber team) in a So. Calif. Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL) tournament. Courtesy photo / SCIFL

    LONG BEACH, Calif. – In the late 1970s, Paul Castillo and a few of his fastpitch buddies decided to start a team. But what to name it? How about Those Guys, suggested Castillo.

    Approval was given, and now almost 40 years later, Those Guys are still playing the game they love in So. Calif.

    In the early years, veterans made up a good share of the roster. But over the past several years, Castillo has made a concerted effort to bring young players into the fold.

    Most ball clubs prefer veterans over untested rookies. After all, there’s no training involved with proven veterans; whereas with many rookies, it can be a struggle to learn the nuances of a new sport.

      GIVING THE KIDS A CHANCE

    And besides, Castillo, now 58, remembers as a teenager he was given the opportunity to play.

    “When I was 18, I was given a chance to play,” said Castillo. “It’s the reason I give my young guys a chance. There’s teams that want all veterans, but we’ve got to develop kids (for the sport to grow), and they need somewhere to play.”

    Click to continue reading “Those Guys Bringing Young Guys Into Fastpitch”