New Zealand men’s fastpitch

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Circle Tap taps international market for top talent

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Marty Kauffman, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
12:22 p.m. CDT August 3, 2016

DENMARK, Wisc. – The Circle Tap Dukes are a powerhouse in the fastpitch softball circuit, year in and year out. Not just in Wisconsin or the United States, but the world.

And their roster reflects that.

The Dukes, based out of Denmark, were ranked ninth to begin the 2016 season by the International Softball Conference after finishing seventh last season at the ISC World Tournament. Circle Tap has placed seventh or better in the world dating to 1996, including third- and fourth-place finishes in 2004 and 2005.

Being a successful team has helped Circle Tap draw many players from outside of Wisconsin and the United States. This season, Circle Tap’s roster has eight international players from Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, while also having players from Illinois and Minnesota.

According to Circle Tap general manager Dean Kane, the addition of international players began years ago when the team was looking for pitching.

“We’ve always brought pitchers in from New Zealand and Australia because they start playing the game at a young age,” Kane said. “There’s not many American pitchers, so in order to compete with the big teams you have to bring in foreign pitchers, and it steamrolled from there.”

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Those Were The Days: Rex Giberson shares memories of a great bygone era of men’s fastpitch

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

HOUSTON, Tex. – For those who may doubt that fastpitch softball can take a ball player to far places and great heights, Rex Giberson would beg to differ.

Giberson started playing as a teenager in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Men’s League and went on to enjoy a 29-year career playing in the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

But it was that inauguration in the Lancaster league that jettisoned him on his way.

“I started playing at 15 in (that) tough Lancaster League,” he said. “Many considered it the best league on the East Coast.”

    STRING OF CHAMPIONSHIPS

In 1976, 1980 and 1981, two of the league teams won ASA Class “A” national championships. Millersville, Penn. won the first one, with SH Good taking the last two.

Those times were some of the fondest of his career.

“We went undefeated to win the national tourney in Hamilton, Ohio (1976),” said Giberson. “In 1980 with SH Good we beat Jimmy Moore (ISC Hall of Fame pitcher.) in the finals. Jim, as you know, went on to be one of the all-time greats with Seattle Pay ‘N Pak.”

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Mark Sorenson enters the ISC Hall of Fame

Monday, June 10th, 2013


Mark Sorenson, Class of 2010 ISC Hall of Fame, and ISF Hall of Fame in 2009.

NEW ZEALAND – For 18 years the New Zealander boarded a plane and flew halfway around the world. His destination, the United States. His mission, win another International Softball Congress World Tournament championship.

And Mark Sorenson has certainly won a few of those.

During that 18-year span, Sorenson’s teams won four ISC World Tournament championships, along with eight runner-up, and a third place finish. And he was selected ISC All-World 12-times – second only to Cleo Goyette’s 16 in the 62 year history of the World Tournament.

But after the 2004 season Sorenson, just 37, retired from the sport he began playing as a five-year-old in 1972 in the Lower Hutt Valley Leagues.

But come August, he’ll once again board a plane bound for the U.S. His destination, Midland, Michigan where he will be inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame during World Tournament ceremonies.

“Making it into the ISC Hall of Fame is the ultimate honor,” he said. “I was fortunate to come to the U.S. during the mid to late 1980s when the game was really prospering and talented teams were everywhere.”

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Canada and New Zealand hitters feast in an ISF world championship classic

Monday, March 4th, 2013

nz.haka
The New Zealand Black Sox perform the haka during the ISF World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo By Ben Campbell / World Softball Championships

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – Fastball purists, those who relish a masterfully pitched, low-scoring game, would have turned away in disgust. But for those fans who delight in seeing softball bats smashing a yellow sphere all over a ball diamond – as well over the fence – they would have loved this classic matchup.

And numbers crunchers would have glowed over these stats.

The Canadian and New Zealand men’s national fastball teams combined for 26 hits, 16 runs, and five home runs on Monday night in the 13th International Softball Federation World Championship. See Box Score

And when the bats were finally set-aside for the night, Canada had outslugged New Zealand 9-7 to win a marquee matchup at Rosedale Park in Albany.

As for the pitching?

It was a game of survival, of weathering a tornado of hot hitters. Eight pitchers toed the rubber – four on each side.

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USA must begin developing “Made In America” men’s fastpitch pitchers

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012


Can the U.S. develop its own Made In America pitching such as New Zealand, Australia, or Canada does with Canadian pitchers like Sean Whitten, shown here pitching for the California A’s.

YUCAIPA, CA – Name a couple of American-born fastpitch pitchers capable hurling the USA Men’s National Team to the championship in the 2013 International Softball Federation World Championship?

Stumped? I couldn’t name any either. That’s because the U.S. doesn’t have any.

I looked at Team USA’s roster and found pitchers Gerald Muizelaar and Travis Price listed. Both are Canadian born and now living in the U.S. And both are respectable pitchers, but capable of pitching the U.S. to a title? I hope so, but I don’t think so.

Muizelaar pitched very well in the 2012 ISC World Tournament, earning a spot on the All-World second team with a 3-1 record, 1.09 ERA, while leading the Fargo Kegel Black Knights to fifth place. So of course, he’s a welcome addition to the USA squad.

But I wonder about Price. He’s a USA team veteran, but really, he’s at the most a mid-range Major pitcher and top Intermediate pitcher. Sure, he can beat some of the lesser world’s teams. But Canada? New Zealand? Australia? I think that’s expecting too much.

So unless there’s a later addition of some world-caliber pitcher we don’t know about, USA Head Coach Peter Turner will be handing the game ball to Muizelaar most of the time.

In the 2009 ISF World Championship in Saskatoon, Canada, the USA squad finished fourth behind Canada, runner-up New Zealand, and Gold Medalist Australia.

One stat in particular stands out about Team USA 2009. In runs allowed, they gave up 45 in 10 games (7-3 record). In comparison, Australia allowed but 12 runs (9-1), New Zealand 26 runs (9-2), and Canada gave up 28 (8-2).

In fact, among the 16 teams entered, Team USA finished seventh in runs allowed. Teams such as Japan, which finished sixth, allowed 43 runs; Argentina 42. Even the Czeck Republic and the Philippines allowed fewer runs than the U.S. squad with 36 each.

This means of course, that a big part of the runs allowed problem is due to pitching. I’m not knocking the guys toeing the rubber for Team USA. But the pitching stats don’t lie. And they often tell why a team wins or loses against the best in the world.

None-the-less, Men’s National Team selection committee member Warren Jones stated on the USA Softball website:

“I think we’re going to have a really competitive (2013) team. We’ve got some new, young faces that have made a name for themselves in the fastpitch softball world and we’ve got some older guys who have been around and know the ropes.”

Unfortunately for U.S. men’s major fastpitch those new, young faces that Jones refers to don’t include U.S. born pitchers.

So how do we turn around our problem of a lack of “Made In America” pitchers?

First of all, I think it’s critical that the USA National Team become the top priority for everyone involved in the sport. And that includes the three organizations governing men’s fastpitch in the U.S.: the Amateur Softball Association (ASA), the International Softball Congress (ISC), and the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA).

The three organizations should form a joint pitching committee with one overriding priority – identify gifted athletes and get them on the rubber. That means any talented fastpitch (or baseball) athlete with the physical tools needs to be steered to the rubber (hogtie and force the shy types if need be).

Here’s an example: Let’s say a team has an outfielder – big, strong and blessed with a powerful throwing arm – on its roster. He’s content to bat third in the lineup, content to hit home runs and drive in runs, and earn his All-World awards.

I would say, “Sorry young man, but your country needs you. And it’s not in the batter’s box. It’s in the circle.”

Some of you are muttering, “you can’t force an athlete to become a fastpitch pitcher; they have to want it!”

True, desire is absolutely a critical attribute to becoming a pitcher. But think for a minute. I bet most of you can recall a pitcher or two, who started at shortstop (Anyone remember ISC Hall of Fame pitcher, Jimmy Moore?) or the outfield, or behind the plate, who when encouraged, took up pitching.

Another ISC All-World pitcher comes to mind – Darwin Tolzin, who pitched St. Paul All-American Bar to the 1976 ISC World Tournament title. I believe he started as a position player and only took up pitching when his team at the time needed a pitcher.

No doubt, U.S. men’s fastpitch is in a serious decline, losing more teams each year. So as far as that goes, all LEVELS of TEAMS should be targeting its top athletes and encouraging, demanding, pleading – whatever it takes – to get them in the circle.

Sure, it’s going to take a few years before our pitching prospects develop to the best of their ability. But at this point, what do we have to lose by trying to cultivate “Made in America” pitching? The only other alternative is to hope that top foreign pitchers take up residence in the U.S. like Muizelaar and Price. But what does that say about our fortitude to develop our own talent?

So to USA Softball, the ASA, ISC and NAFA we ask:

“Can you set aside any differences you may have and form a joint pitching committee that identifies the sport’s best athletes and targets them for the circle?”