Text by Dale “DW” Weiser Photos by DW, Stacey Benzing, Pete Spatula
The 2020 USSSA Major World Series was the 50th edition of slow-pitch softballs most prestigious tournament. It was full of big upsets, near upsets, and great matchups right up until the final game which was a blowout. The tournament began on Wednesday morning October 7th at 9 AM at the Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida which is the headquarters of the USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association). This year due to the Covid-19 pandemic the field of teams was expanded from 18 to 20 which meant there were 4 “play in” games on the baseball fields in the red quad which have the same 335-365-385-365-335 home run fence dimensions as the stadium and they used the Dudley Stadium ZN ball with unlimited home runs. The weather was also really nice as it was not as hot and humid as it is normally when the tournament is usually played in September. In the “play in” games Riot Sports (FL-AA) beat the newly crowned ‘AA’ Champion Maroadi/SNI (FL-A) 19-10. Category5 (OH-A) beat ‘A’ World runner up Primetime (GA-A) 17-11. Classic Glass (CA-A) topped BaughFord (AL-A) 21-13. And Turnkey (NC-A) run ruled Cheap Suits (CA-A) 28-7.
Meanwhile in the Space Coast Stadium Premier (OH-A) upset Pure Sports (SC-M) 13-8 scoring 7 runs in the top of the 7th as Cody Pack had a homer and 4 RBI and Premier out homered Pure Sports just 2 to 1. Then the upsets continued as USSSA ‘A’ World Champion Sports Reach (KY-A) knocked off Smash It/Precision (IL-AA) 18-17 scoring 7 runs in the top of the 6th and holding Precision scoreless in the 7th. Robert Blackburn and Chris Scott each had 4 hits in the victory. #9 Xtreme (MN-AA) scored 5 runs in each of the 1st 3 innings against #8 Westpoint (IN-A) thanks in part to Curtis Stewarts 3 run homer in the 1st and 3 run homer in the 2nd innings. Xtreme won 23-12. Next in the 2:15 PM game in the stadium #5 Anarchy/MPT (NJ-AA) led the entire game in a 15-10 win over #12 WorkSteer (NC-A) as they got some nice defense out of left fielder Filip Washington and 3rd baseman John Williams who also pitched in with a key 3 run homer in the 1st inning. The #4 seed Bay Area Legends (CA-AA) beat fellow northern California team #13 Classic Glass (CA-A) 14-7 as sponsor Joel Gonzalez hit not one but TWO 2 run homers! In the 1st night game #2 Resmondo (FL-M) out homered Category5 and won 23-15 in a game where Category5 pushed them for 7 innings. At the 8 PM game #1 Dan Smith (FL-M) broke an 11-11 tie in the bottom of the 6th against #17 Turnkey (NC-A) when they scored on a misplayed popup which turned into 6 unearned runs and a 21-13 victory. Andrew Collins and Phil Matte were each 4 for 4 in the game and Dan Smith out homered Turnkey 11-4. And in the Wednesday night cap #3 Bad Draw (NC-M) grabbed an 11-4 lead in the 1st inning on #14 Riot Sports (FL-AA) and Bad Draw was hitting homers as Riot was hitting line drive base hits and Bad Draw won 22-10.
On Thursday play resumed in the loser’s bracket at 8 AM as WorkSteer behind some great defense and timely Brian Dezern and Pat Price homers made quick work of Baugh Ford 21-1 in 4 innings. Then Westpoint made short work of Cheap Suits 23-8 in 5 innings when Austyn Dawe hit a couple of big home runs. Then in a close game with some great defensive plays Smash It Precision held off Maroadi/SNI 18-17 when Maroadi went down in order in the 7th inning. One incredible diving catch by Precision center fielder Austin Andrews actually was the #4 play in ESPN’s “Top 10 Plays of the Day”. In the last loser’s bracket game of the day at high noon Pure Sports knocked off Primetime 23-11 as Primetimes defense opened the door and their bats went silent late in the game.
On Thursday afternoon the “Final 8” of the winners bracket began. #4 Anarchy/MPT traded homers with #5 Bay Area Legends for a couple of innings. Then in the top of the 7th trailing 19-18 Anarchy’s John Williams hit a backside 3 run bomb to give them a 21-19 lead and pitcher John Dombrowski snapped off a middle shot in the bottom of the 7th to hold Bay Area scoreless. In the 2nd quarterfinal Bad Draw over powered Sports Reach early and never let off the gas in a 31-5 victory as Buddy Wolf went 4-4 with 2 HR and 8 RBI. In the 3rd quarterfinal Dan Smith trailed Xtreme 16-13 after 4 innings but went up 21-17 on 2 run homers by Andrew Collins and Phil Matte and got a great diving stop by 1st baseman Jason Matusik to end the game 21-17. Collins, Matte, and Ben Dunn were all 4-4 in the game. And in the final quarterfinal game Resmondo out homered Premier 15-7 but did not really secure the 27-20 win until they hit 4 solo homers in a row in the bottom of the 6th.
Winner’s bracket action continued Thursday night with the semifinals. #5 Anarchy/MPT shocked the softball world as they led from start to finish against #1 seed Dan Smith getting out to an 18-7 lead and then weathering a 5th inning comeback to win 29-22 even though Dan Smith hit 7 homers in the bottom of the 7th. It was the biggest upset at the Major World Series since they moved the tournament from Disney’ ESPN Wide World of Sports to the Space Coast Stadium. Filip Washington was 5-5 and Chris Greinert was 6-6 in the game.
On Friday, the loser’s bracket really kicked into gear. At 8 AM Riot Sports Zack Smith hit a two run homer in the top of the 7th to give them the lead over Worksteer and Riot finished off the two out 5 run rally and held on to win 22-19. Then the 9:30 AM game was low scoring as West Points up and coming power hitter Austyn Dawe hit a walk off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 7th to win 8-7 over Category5. At the 11 AM game SmashIt/Precisions left handed power hitter Davis Bilardello hit 3 run homers in the 1st and 6th innings to beat Classic Glass 18-8. Precision scored in every inning. At 12:30 PM game Pure Sports put up the highest score of the tournament so far – 32 runs, and run ruled Turnkey 32-15 in just 5 innings as they scored 12 runs in the 2nd inning after scoring 15 in the 1st! At 2:30 PM Pure Sports played again, this time against Sports Reach. Sports Reach came out of the gate scoring 8 runs on 10 singles to start the game. But Pure Sports put up 13 on 5 home runs and then when Sports Reach put up a zero in the top of the 2nd Pure Sports came in and hit 4 more home runs and scored 15 pushing the lead to 28-8 and won in 4 innings by the mercy rule 32-12. Jason Branch was 5-5 with 2 HR and 7 RBI in the win as Pure Sports out homered Sports Reach 9 to 1. At the 4 PM loser’s bracket game Premier shut down SmashIt/Precision and cruised to an unlikely 17-6 win as Clay Norton, Jackie Corn, Cody Angus, and Cody Pack all homered. A similar thing happened at the 5:30 PM game as ‘A’ team Westpoint jumped out to a 13-0 lead on ‘AA’ Bay Area Legends and cruised to a 5 inning 22-3 win as Brandon Dillon, Canaan Baum, Josh Kirsten, and Austyn Dawe all hit 2 and 3 run homers. The 7 PM game was the last loser’s bracket game of the night between #14 Riot Sports and #9 Xtreme who were both ‘AA’ teams. Xtreme grabbed an 8-0 lead after 3 innings as Erik Kanaby hit a 2 run homer and extended the lead to 11-1 in the bottom of the 4th on a Chris Anninos 2 run homer. In the top of the 5th the Riot bats awoke as they scored 9 runs on 2 homers to pull within 1 run. In the 6th Riot made some nice infield plays and got the go ahead single in the top of the 7th by Mike Ortiz and they held on after a couple of errors in the bottom of the 7th to pull off an unlikely win 13-12 and make it to the Saturday “final 8”.
At 9 PM Friday night it was the winner’s bracket finals in front of a decent crowd of about 1,000 people. Usually this would be #1 vs #2 and a heavyweight battle, but in recent years upsets have pitted lower seeds against the #1 and this year was no exception. #5 Anarchy/MPT a ‘AA’ team who had upset #1 Dan Smith on Thursday night played #2 Resmondo. Anarchy got things started with solo homers by John Williams and Chris Greinert and rookie Brock Frentzel hit a 2 run single with 2 outs to make it 4-0. In the bottom of the 1st Resmondo’s Kyle Pearson and Greg Connell tied it with 2 run homers. In the 2nd inning Anarchy went scoreless and Resmondo’s Pearson hit another 2 run homer to make it 7-4 and they led 12-6 after 3 complete innings. In the top of the 4th Anarchy after 2 outs to start the inning played “small ball” as they base hitt their way to 6 runs and then Frentzel grabbed their first lead of the night with a 2 run homer to go up 14-12. After Resmondo grabbed the lead back 17-14 with a 5 run bottom of the 4th Anarchy responded with a 15 run 5th on homers by David Johnson, Frentzel, Filip Washington, John Williams, and Chris Greinert to go up 29-17! Both teams made each other pay for misplays and errors in the 6th inning and Anarchy had a 31-28 lead going into the 7th. But Anarchy put up a zero in the top of the 7th when Resmondo right fielder Brian Wegman made an incredible running catch towards the fence and Resmondo walked Anarchy down in the bottom of the 7th – Kevin Bazat single, Josh Riley hit a 2 run homer, Kyle Pearson singled, Jeremy Yates doubled, there was an intentional walk to Greg Connell, and Daniel Cayton hit a walk off single to win it 32-31! Resmondo had scored in every inning while Anarchy put up zeroes in the 2nd and 7th innings.
On Saturday, the final 8 teams returned to see who would be the 50th Annual USSSA Major World Series champion! The day began at 8 AM with the loser’s bracket game between #14 Riot Sports and #8 Westpoint. Riot was depleted because of injuries however Westpoint was on it again and grabbed a 9-5 lead on RBI singles by veterans Travis Dale and Brandon Dillon in the bottom of the 2nd and played small ball in the 3rd to grab a 17-5 lead and won by the run rule in 5 innings 24-9. In the 10 AM game #10 Premier led #7 Pure Sports 7-1 after a Cory Boothe 2 run homer and a Cody Angus 2 out 2 run double in the top of the 3rd. Pure Sports came back in the 4th inning scoring 6 runs as Donnie Hammonds hit a 2 run homer. Pure then took advantage of some Premier misplays and held on to win 16-12 when Premier only scored 1 run in the pouring rain in the 7th inning. Tommy Melton was 4-4 in the game for Pure Sports. The next game up was #8 Westpoint against #3 Bad Draw. Bad Draw homered their way to a 16-12 lead with Everett Williams hitting homers in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th innings. And Bad Draw was able to break open a 1 run lead in the 6th on a Buddy Wolf homer and a Brian Zirkle inside the park 2 run homer and held Westpoint to 1 run in the 7th when they turned a double play. At 2 PM it was the Major teams #7 Pure Sports against #1 Dan Smith. Pure Sports put up 11 runs in the top of the 2nd and held Dan Smith to just 1 run through 2 innings. But Pure sports scored zero in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th innings and Dan Smith out scored them 18-2 down the stretch and won 19-13. Andrew Collins and Ryan Harvey were each 4-4 in the game. At 4 PM it was the loser’s semifinal between #3 Bad Draw and #1 Dan Smith. Bad Draw put up at least 2 runs in each of the 1st 5 innings leading 17-15. Then Dan Smith scored 6 in the bottom of the 5th and held Bad Draw scoreless in the top of the 6th and Dan Smith finished off Bad Draw 26-19. Collins, Harvey, and Bradley Jones each collected 4 hits and 2 homers in the win.
The loser’s bracket finals then began after 6 PM Saturday with #5 Anarchy/MPT Rentals jumping out to a 6 run lead in the top of the 1st inning on homers by Chris Greinert and Brock Frentzel. MPT bumped their lead over Dan Smith up to 13-5 in the 2nd inning on homers by John Williams and Orlando Castillo. But Dan Smith answered with homers of their own from Ryan Harvey and Joe Joe Bennett. In the 5th and 6th innings MPT extended their lead to 28-21 but left the bases loaded on a pinch hit long fly out to the 360 foot mark just a few feet short of a grand slam. In the bottom of the 7th Dan Smith made a valiant comeback scoring 7 runs but coming up 1 run short 28-29 ending the game on a flyout to right center field with the game winning runs on base. MPT lead off man Filip Washington was 5-6 in the game with 5 runs scored and rookie Brock Frentzel hit 3 HR. MPT won even though they were out homered 13-9.
So the Championship had two unlikely opponents, #5 seeded Anarchy/MPT Rentals who was a ‘AA’ team, and #2 Resmondo who had only won 1 tournament all season long. MPT started on the right foot scoring 6 runs on two outs in the top of the 1st inning. Then Resmondo who had not played all that well all tournament long unleashed a 12 run bottom of the 1st getting home runs from Greg Connell, Travis Clark, Kyle Pearson, and Jeremy Yates. In the 2nd inning MPT’s Filip Washington hit a solo homer but some nice defensive plays by Resmondo middle man Kevin Bazat and 3rd baseman Bubba Mack held them to just 1 run. In the bottom of the 2nd a focused Resmondo team could smell blood and went off getting homers from Bubba Mack, Travis Clark, and Brian Wegman to start the inning. Then Kyle Pearson hit a 3 run homer followed by solo homers by Yates, Connell, Cayton, and Mack. Then they batted all the way around the order again and Cayton finished off a 20 run inning with a 3 run homer! A depleted MPT team knowing they cannot defend home runs came in and scored 2 but Resmondo won the game by the 30 run “mercy” rule in the bottom of the 3rd on a grand slam homer by Greg Connell to win the 50th Annual USSSA Major World Series 38 to 8! 38 runs was the highest score of the entire tournament and they did it in less than 3 full innings. Kevin Bazat the middle infielder for Resmondo who had a .750 on base percentage and scored 13 runs was named tournament MVP. Kyle Pearson the Resmondo 1st basemen was named Offensive MVP with an .800 on base percentage 12 home runs and 27 RBI. MPT left fielder Filip Washington who made a spectacular catch in the championship game was named Defensive MVP. You can catch all of the action from the USSSA Major World Series by watching the condensed games on the SW48 YouTube Channel or subscribing to USSSALive.com.