Saturday, December 31, 2005

Click here to Visit Our New & Improved Morning Brief

We have a new and improved Morning Brief. Click the title to this post to jump over and take a look. We're in the process of moving the old postings to the new site, so if you are looking for something and can't find it here, it's been moved to the new site. Try out the new search engine at the new site. It makes finding things as easy as Google. Lastly, we've added a link at the new site for the "Old Morning Brief", to help you find your way back in case you need to during the migration.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Jr. Men in Camp Today, Corona CA for the weekend

Head coach Tim Lyon and assistants Scott Standerfer and (So Cal's) Gary Mullican have the USA Jr. Men's team in camp this week, at the Olympic training facility in Chula Vista, CA (near San Diego, by the border with Mexico) for it's second summer camp in preparation for next year's international competition at Prince Edward Island. The team will travel to Corona, California this weekend, to compete for the second time against teams in the ASA So Cal Alliance league, which consists of ASA "C" level teams. The Jr. Men's team competed in an earlier tournament in Lancaster, California last month, finishing the week of play with an admirable 3-2 record. This weekend, the team will feature a couple of "favorite sons", literally, with the offspring of Jerry Leavitt and Paul Castillo vying for spots on the team. Jerry, as many of you know, anchored the ISC World Champion Camarilo Kings, catching Hall of Fame pitcher Mark Smith in the early '80's. Paul Castillo continues to play in the local So Cal leagues, after retiring as a teammate of the editor, on the El Segundo Rounders. We wish both of them well. (Click here to view photo of Paul's son, Kevin, playing for USA Jr. Men in So Cal ASA Alliance tournament.)

The team's games this weekend are 9:45am, 11:30am and 3:00 p.m. For the complete schedule of games, click the title of this story above. For a map or driving directions to the fields in Corona, click here.

For more on the team, visit our Jr. Men's team pages by clicking here.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Al's Fastball Escribe is Back!

Friday, July 09, 2004

Traveling to Fargo by Way of Wisconsin

The "Boys of Summer" that author Roger Kahn wrote about learned to play baseball during the 1930s and 1940s in such places as Reading, Pennsylvania; Anderson, Indiana; Plainfield, New Jersey; Woonsocket, Rhode Island. They went on to to become the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950's, in the game's golden era.

The games at the "Boys of Summer" being held in Denmark, Wisconsin this weekend (July 9-11, 2004) are admittedly different than those played at Ebbetts Field. But look a little further and you might find some similarities between the two, and enjoy finding a bit of the past right here in the present.

Like the original "Boys of Summer" that played in those small towns and eventually made the big time, the players converging on Denmark Wisconsin this weekend are chasing their own dream, of becoming champions in their sport, of reaching that final game of the ISC World Tournament. Sometimes that journey takes them to out of the way places, where the local folks delight in a chance to see future greatness, where the teams and their players can discover a bit of America that they had not had the chance to enjoy, and perhaps even a bit about themselves in the process.

One such town for the fastpitch world is Denmark, Wisconsin, which will host its 4th annual "Boys of Summer" tournament starting this evening, and will be run in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus Branch in Denmark, WI. The Knights of Columbus ran the tournament from 1970-1997, and has been revived after a short hiatus by the Circle Tap Fastpitch Association in 2001. The Circle Tap Diamond is located behind Circle Tap Bar and Grill just two miles west of Denmark. It offers fastpitch fans several of the best vantage points from which to watch a game. You can view the games outside on the bleachers or sit at one of the tables on the deck off the bar, or you can also watch the games from inside the bar through the huge windows.

This year's lineup of teams might be the most competitive in the four years that the tournament has been held. Four of the teams are members of the ISC's Top Ten, including the host, Circle Tap, whose #4 ranking puts it right on the heels of #2 County Materials and #3 The Farm. The latter two teams have both beaten the current #1 Broken Bow during the past month, with County emerging from another world class roster of teams with the championship trophy at Monkton last weekend. County boasts living legend Darren Zack, who, like Roger Clemens, still has Hall of Fame abilities into his 40's. Rod Petersen's Farm team has been among the top handful of teams for more than a decade, and will include a player some say is among the best pure hitters in the game, California's own Todd Budke. Houston Houston H.I.S. currently #8 in the world will be there as well, fresh from their tournament victory in San Antonio Texas at the Glowworm Tournament, with Robert Florencia continuing to lead the way.

Three more teams in the "Boys of Summer" find their name in the ISC's Top 20, and will arrive in Wisconsin this weekend with a shot at knocking off one of those top 10 teams and making a name for itself. # 11 Imaging Systems Knights, who added perennial All World pitcher Michael White in their quest for an ISC World title before the home town fans in Fargo North Dakota this year. RWP of Minnesota with Team USA's Chad Boom recently took over the #17 spot in the ISC Rankings from Team Rainey -- as Rainey advanced up the ladder to #15, after victories over 4 higher ranked teams this year.

Team Rainey will be making the trip to Denmark for the Boys of Summer for the first time this year. Most of Rod Rainey's crew will take off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, where they will meet up with the rest of their contingent from Northern California flying out of San Francisco. You won't find Dodgers and Giants sharing the same dugout in Roger Kahn's book. But on Team Rainey, the all stars from the north have been greeted with open arms, including Mike Butler, who impressed Rose Cup fans with three home runs this year, one against Broken Bow and two more against Victoria, and Nate Devine, who also homered against Victoria, and just missed one against Broken Bown when Rose Cup MVP Ryan Wolfe ran through the portable fencing to rob him of another in the title game. After facing #1 Broken Bow in Rose Cup twice, including the championship game, Team Rainey finds themselves in the same pool as #2 County Materials, who may well rise to the #1 spot in the next set of rankings. Rod Rainey says that he expects "to compete and make a good showing, with the goal of making it to Sunday".

In 2004, the road to Fargo takes many a turn, this weekend, winding through Denmark, Wisconsin, where some of the best fastpitch teams in the world gather, and where men can once again become....."the Boys of Summer".

(Games begin this evening, with the three top Wisconsin teams, County Materials, the Farm, and host Circle Tap all seeing action) For more information, click here.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Not Quite Nostradamus

In the recent "Predict the Rose Cup Final Four" poll, voters were 2 for 4 on the weekend. No danger of becoming a Nostradamus quatrain, but a pretty good showing nonetheless. By the time the first pitch was thrown on Saturday morning by Meraloma Clubs' Fabian McCarty to Team Rainey's Jesse Duncan, voters had predicted the following Final Four (with vote totals shown):

1) Broken Bow (139)
2) Victoria (116)
3) Vancouver (98)
4) Team Rainey (97)

On Sunday afternoon, when Broken Bow's Rhys Casley squeezed the ball for out number three of the championship game, the official Final Four order was set:

1) Broken Bow
2) Team Rainey
3) tie-Portland DeMarini and Castlewood, UT

The predicted order of finish followed the ISC rankings as the teams entered the weekend, with Broken Bow the obvious #1 choice. Victoria was ranked #6, Vancouver #10, and Team Rainey #17. (Voters apparently noting that Rainey had beaten Portland over Memorial Weekend) The voters were actually pretty close in that they pegged Portland to finish 5th, earning 49 votes, and had Castlewood at 7th, though with only 12 votes. But ranking are just that - rankings, and often replaced by what actually takes place on the field. That's what makes them so much fun to follow, and the games so interesting to watch.

Upsets at the Rose Cup were aplenty, with the #9 Vancouver Grey Sox Sunday morning elimination loss to #24 ISC-II ranked River City Rockers of Sacramento among the more notable. Many expected to see either Victoria or Vancouver in the finals with Broken Bow. Saving ace Nick Underhill, Vancouver was eliminated even before the quarterfinals. River City took a 7-3 lead into the 7th inning against Vancouver as players and fans alike drifted over to the catch the end of the game, double checking the scoreboard to see if they had heard it right. The Grey Sox finished with a flourish, nearly pulling it out of the fire with a double-double-homer to cut the lead to 7-6. But the Rockers made a timely pitching change and hung on for the upset victory.

A couple hours later, it was the #6 Victoria Travellers Inn, picked as the most likely finals opponent of Broken Bow coming up short against #17 (now #15) Team Rainey. Despite being a good margin apart in the ISC rankings, these two teams seem pretty evenly matched. More surprising than the outcome perhaps, was the final score: 10-2 in 6 innings. Korrey Gareau and Travis Price were knotted up at 2 in a good pitching duel, til a discussion over an illegal substitution led to a 15 minute delay which seemed to hurt Gareau. When play resumed, Rainey exploded for 8 runs, hitting 4 home runs on the day. Mike Butler got his second homer of the tournament in the 4th, then came back and hit another in the 6th, a walk off run rule homer in the 6th. It was the first and only game on Sunday for Travellers' Inn. Like Vancouver's Underhill, Victoria's Collin McKenzie, who tossed two perfect games the day before, never threw a pitch.

Team Rainey, the eventual runner-up got knocked off by #30 Morgan Transfer of Olympia. An upset on paper, these two appeared evenly matched, with Bricklin Anderson outdueling Tony Peeples 1-0, suggesting more that Morgan Transfers' #30 ranking was too low, than the other way around. In fairness to the ISC rankers, Morgan Transfer is a new team for 2004, actually a bolstered Bucknell Park team with Bricklin Anderson one of the notable additions that have already taken Scott Meyer's team to the next level. Next to Broken Bow's aces, Muizellar and Cox, and the two perfectos by Collin McKenzie, Anderson turned in the most impressive pitching performances of the tournament.

Morgan Transfer/Olympia (ISC #30) suffered an upset loss themselves, dropping their tournament opener to ISC-II #7 ranked CR Adidas, 7-6. (Olympia perhaps looking ahead to their other two pool play games against Broken Bow and Team Rainey)

Host (#14 ranked) Portland DeMarini bounced back on Sunday with a couple of wins, but suffered an upset loss of their own, falling in to ISC #42 Bodle Chiropractic in a pool play game Saturday.

Meraloma Club knocked off the highly regarded Linus Software Stealers, in the "Battle of British Columbia". Linus was a top 10 ISC-II team until their pitching staff made them ineligible. The Stealers were one of only four teams in the Rose Cup to post winning records on Saturday, finishing with a 2-1 record.

Castlewood's 3rd place finish marked the second major in row where they made the Final Four, with Red Rock being the other. Impressive for a team that came in among the ISC II teams, ranked #21.

In a separate poll, FPW poll voters did accurately predict Castlewood (ISC-II #21) as the top finishing ISC-II team (probably noting the final four finish at Red Rock). They were a narrow choice over the Fullerton Leafs, and CR Adidas, who owned a higher ranking, ISC-II #7. Castlewood exceeded expectations in finishing third, while voters predicted the top ISC-II team would finish no better than fifth place.

Can Anyone Beat Broken Bow? After watching Broken Bow dismantle the competition at Red Rock, the question was whether anyone would give them a run for their money at Rose Cup.

Current #9 team Vancouver got a chance early Saturday and came up short, losing a 8-0 game. Fans at the tournament were anxious to see how Nick Underhill's collarbone had healed. He surrendered 4 earned runs through 5 innings, but his defense added two free runs, so this one was over early.

Current #30 Morgan Transfer of Olympia WA (a bolstered Bucknell Park team) made its case for an even higher ranking, losing to Broken Bow by a 3-1 score, and actually outhitting them along the way, 5-4, with Bricklin Anderson on the mound against Gerald Muizelaar. What made Anderson's performance even more impressive was that it came on the heels of a 1-0 shutout of Team Rainey. Muizelaar proved to be the difference maker in this one though, striking out 13, and getting outs when he needed them.

Current #15 Team Rainey got the Bow in the final game on Saturday, losing 4-1 in a well pitched game by Frank Cox and Travis Price. Price avoided the big inning that Broken Bow so often has, but Mike Butler's home run proved to be Rainey's only offense.

Sunday proved easier for Broken Bow, cruising to easy victories, 8-0 over Morgan Transfer in the quarters and 12-2 in 5 innings over Portland in the semis.

Rainey got another shot in the finals, but this one was not as close as Saturday's 4-1 margin, with the Spirit winning this one, a three-hit, 6-0 shutout by Frank Cox. Cox was masterful, with pinpoint control "living on the edges" [of the plate] as someone noted after the game. Despite the 6-0 deficit though, Rainey did not go quietly, with Nate Devine sending eventual MVP Ryan Wolfe running through the portable fencing with a near home run, and then loading the bases against the Spirit in the 7th inning, bringing home run hero Mike Butler to the plate. Team Rainey players and fans, listening to the live audio no doubt recalled Butler's home run against Cox on Saturday, (and two against Victoria earlier on Sunday. And wondered. And hoped. But Cox closed it out, as he and Muizelaar did all weeekend long, sealing the shutout win.

Better competition for the Bow? Yes. Beat them? Not this weekend. Of course, The (3# ranked) Farm knocked them off at Amsterdam a couple weeks ago. And #2 County Materials will take them on in the Friday night feature at Monkton Ontario tonight.

No telling what Nostradamus is predicting for that one......

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Postscript on "The Next Generation" (USA Jr. Men)

For those of you who have been asking about the games played last week and weekend by the USA Jr. Men, they finished up with 3 wins and 2 losses:

12-5 vs san diego suns
9-0 vs rebels
15-1 vs primos

8-1 vs masters
6-2 vs santana concrete

Head coach Tim Lyons said that "Overall, it was a real good experience and start for the boys".

They will be back at the Olympic Training Facility in Chula Vista at the end of July, in further preparation for the international competition slated for Prince Edward Island next July.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Next Generation is Not a TV Show

Remember when that ball got past poor Billy Buckner in the '86 World Series? Well, the players now stocking the roster of USA Jr. Men's Fastpitch team don't. More than half weren't even born by then. But they have come a long way, and now represent the next generation of fastpitch. The future is now, as they prepare for international competition in the Jr. Men's World Championships in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada, June 22 to July 1, 2005.

The USA Jr. Men's team is comprised of the best teenage players in the country, hailing from towns like Atascadero, CA, Sioux Falls, SD, Cameron, WI, Templeton, CA, Aurora, IL, Amboy, MN, Harrisburg, SD, Lehi, UT, Chester, IA, Cushing, WI, Mapleton, MN
San Luis Obispo, CA, Battle Creek, MI, St. Johns, MI, Prairie Du Chein, WI, Cedar Hills, UT, Lime Springs, IA, South Jordan, UT
Aliso Viejo, CA, and Charleston, IL. To learn a little more about the players, we invite you to peruse the USA Jr. Mens' roster. and the online photo gallery at fastpitchwest.

I don't know what they are feeding kids these days, but I don't remember too many ballplayers at my high school that were 6'4" 215 lbs. like USA Jr. Men's third baseman Mike Bowden, or 6'6", 230 lbs, like pitcher/first baseman Tyler Kelly of Battle Creek, Michigan.

And like major league baseball's family bloodlines (the Griffeys, the Bonds, the Bells, etc), this team shares some genes with its talented predecessors. Skim over the roster and you'll spot a few familiar names like Sleep and Hunoff.

At present, for head coach Tim Lyon and assistants Scott Standerfer and Gary Mullican, the sights are set on next international competition, in Prince Edward Island, Canada, in 2005. In preparation for that, two summer camps are scheduled, where the kids will gather at the Olympic Training Facility in Chula Vista, California.

The first of those is this weekend, the second, at the end of next month. While they are in California, they will have a chance to test their skills against some Southern California Men's teams, starting with an exhibition game this evening (Thursday, June 23, 2004) against the San Diego Suns, at Presidio Park, a short drive from the Olympic Training facility. The San Diego Suns are a local city league team started by Rich Markham, of Ohio during the time that he lived in So Cal. Rich was always good about trying to get young players involved in the game, and the team lives on, even with him back in Ohio. Mitch Mendenhall of the El Segundo Rounders took over when Rich left, and added San Diego veterans like former Vista Bomber battermates Russ Snow and Joe Verbanic to help the young players along.

For anyone that wants to get a first hand look at the USA Jr. Men's team, Presidio Park is located at 2811 Jackson Street, San Diego, CA, 92110. This is the all dirt field right off highway 8 in Old Town. They'll be playing a 9 inning game starting at 7:00pm. If you are coming up highway 805, go west on highway 8 and exit on Taylor Street. Go back over the freeway and turn right. You will run into the park about a half mile down on the left hand side. You can see the park from the freeway.

This weekend (June 26-27, 2004), the USA Jr. Men's team will venture a bit further north to Lancaster, California, an hour or so north of Los Angeles, to play in the So Cal ASA Alliance league, at the Big 8 Complex. From Los Angeles: Take Interstate 5 Freeway north to 14 Freeway north (approx. 25 miles into Lancaster). Get off at Avenue L and go right. First signal is 10th Street West, go left. Park entrance will be on left. The team will play at 11:30am, 1:15pm, 4:45pm and 6:30pm against the So Cal Masters, So Cal Rebels, Santana Concrete and Primos, respectively.

It's easy to say that there are no good young players coming into fastpitch these days, but you'd never know that after being around this talented group of youngsters. We tip our cap to Tim Lyon, Scott Standerfer and Gary Mullican who give so much of their own time and energy to making sure that the next generation of fastpitch players will be ready when the baton is passed. We encourage you to support their efforts, and the fine crop of youngsters that will be wearing "USA" across the front of their uniforms next summer in P.E.I.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Terminal II

About this time of the year, many teams are looking to pick up that third pitcher, or a good hitting utility player as they prepare for nationals. For Rod Rainey, a good travel agent might prove more important, as Team Rainey prepares to hit the road for one of the most ambitious summer schedules that I have ever seen for a So Cal team. During the months leading up to the ISC World Tournament (Aug 13-21), Team Rainey will be taking on the best teams in the fastpitch world. And when I say the best in the world, that's no hyperbole.

Team Rainey opened the year as the #17 team in the ISC World pre-season rankings, with the ISC generally regarded as the top level of play for men's fastpitch. That ranking was right on the money, considering that they narrowly missed making the Sweet 16 at last year's ISC World by one (playoff) game. The team has already knocked off two teams ranked above them and are looking to move up on the pack.

To this point in the season, Team Rainey has played in four tournaments, coming away the winners in three. They started off the year with a win in Norwalk, CA at the Panteras Valentine tournament with a win over a tough So Cal Bombers team. (at a time when many top flite teams back east were still waiting for the snow to melt). In May, they travelled to St. George Utah, for the Red Rock tournament, where they won their pool, making the Elite 8 before being upset in the quarterfinals, but not before knocking #9 Houston H.I.S. (the team that coincidentally beat them in that playoff game in last year's ISC World). Over the Memorial Day weekend, they brought home the championship trophy from the California International Tournament in Fresno, California, beating #13 ranked Portland Demarini twice. A week later at Santa Fe Springs, CA, they claimed the California Area ISC tournament title, and with it, a berth to the 2004 World Tournament in Fargo, North Dakota.

But this is really just the beginning of that ambitious schedule. On Friday evening after work, (June 18), they will jump on a plane for the Decatur Shootout in Decatur Illinois. The Shootout is a well established midwest tournament for some of fastpitch's best. This year, it includes ISC #4 ranked Circle Tap, a much improved team from last year, #7 ranked Midland Michigan, #9 Houston H.I.S. and #19 St. Louis Lafayette Pub. Adding Team Rainey to the mix, that's 5 of the top 20 teams.

A week later, Team Rainey will jump on planes headed for Portland, Oregon for the Portland DeMarini Rose Cup Tournament, where they will compete against the reigning ISC World Champion and current #1 ranked team in the world, Broken Bow Spirit of Amsterdam, New York, with the field of teams including #6 ranked Victoria Travellers Inn, #10 ranked Vancouver Grey Sox and the #13 ranked host Portland DeMarini Merchants. Again, that's 5 of the top 20 teams in the world.

Still not impressed? Stay with me then. On July 9-10, 2004, Team Rainey will catch planes to Denmark, Wisconsin for the "Boys of Summer" tournament, which will feature #2 ranked County Materials, #3 The Farm, #4 Circle Tap, #9 Houston H.I.S., #11 Imaging Systems Knights of Fargo, #15 RWP, MN, and #23 Bar on the Avenue.

So by late July, Team Rainey players might start feeling like the Tom Hanks character in his new movie, "The Terminal", (a story about a visitor to New York from Eastern Europe trapped in an airline terminal) [A good movie, BTW]

But not done yet. For their final act before the World Tournament, Team Rainey will travel to Allentown, Pennsylvania, a town steeped in fastpitch tradition, for the Bob Walsh Memorial Tournament - an invitation only affair limited to eight teams that has already stirred up some controversy by leaving a couple of Pennsylvania teams off the list) Who are the other seven teams in this one? Oh, how about #1 Broken Bow, #2 County Materials, #3 The Farm, #4 Circle Tap, #8 Fedlock, #9 Houston H.I.S. and #12 Heflin Builders.

And all of that as the run-up to a final trip August 13-21, 2004 to Fargo, North Dakota for the ISC World Tournament.

One could hardly accuse Team Rainey of ducking the top teams. If you were keeping track, by the time they get to Fargo, they'll have competed in tournaments with the #1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,15,19,20,21 and 23rd ranked teams in the world.

This kind of schedule requires tremendous dedication by the players and a equally strong commitment to find the financial wherewithal required by it. It's been a long time since fastpitch fans here in Southern California have had a chance to watch one of their own play this caliber of schedule. (We'll be doing our best at fastpitchwest to provide coverage of their travels, in particular at the Rose Cup, which we will be attend, and hopefully get them on the internet radio broadcasts from that tournament)

We wish you well, Team Rainey, as you head to LAX tomorrow for the first leg of that adventure. Win, lose or draw, we know you will compete and are proud to have the opportunity to follow a local So Cal team play with the best in the world.

If you wish to comment, or drop Team Rainey a note, you can click the "comments" link at the right.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

ISC II June 2004 Rankings

The ISC II rankings for June 2004 were just released. The ISC II rankings are new for 2004, the brainchild of ISC II director, Blair Setford. Setford, 35, is a former NAFA Director for Ontario where he was very active in the administration of that organization including initiating the popular Ontario Intermediate Rankings. He has been involved in the game of fastball since 1977 as a player, manager, and administrator. He is the marketing manager for CI Funds, a mutual fund company in Toronto.

The ISC II rankings will be released again in July, and finally, in August, with the August rankings being utilized for seeding purposes for the ISC II "Tournament of Champions" to be held August 15-20, 2004 in Fargo, North Dakota, alongside the ISC World Tournament. ("Tournament of Champions" was the winner of a "name the ISC II tournament" contest held earlier this year) ) Fastpitchwest will be joining Blair Setford to produce live, streaming audio broadcasts of a number of the games at the ISC II tournament.

The ISC II is the "intermediate" division of the ISC, roughly equivalent to NAFA "AA" and ASA "B". The ISC held its first ISC II tournament in Kitchener in 2002, with twenty teams in attendance, won by the Alvinston Indians of Ontario, Canada, with West Michigan Merchants of Zeeland Michigan taking second.

Last year, at Kimberly, the top three finishers in the 24-team ISC II tournament were from the Ontario province of Canada, a hotbed for fastpitch. (or "fastball" as they call it north of the border) The Harriston Mercury's of Harriston Ontario, Canada won the ISC II championship, with the Kemptville Thunder, of Kemptville, Ontario second and the Waite Brothers of Shedden, Ontario Third. The top U.S. team was fourth place Marquette Fence of Marquette, Michigan.

For several years, the Ontario teams dominated the top spots at the NAFA "AA" World Series, unseated last year by champion Bucknell Park of Olympia, Washington and runner-up Quaker Riversharks of Pennsylvania.

Without further adieu, here are the current top 10 teams for the ISC II, with their preseason ranking shown parenthetically. Once again, the Ontario, Canada teams dominate the top spots, with the Orr Park Knights of Orr Park, Ohio getting the nod for the #4 spot. Orr Park has pitcher Jimmy Yates, who some of you may remember pitched for the Florida Suns at this year's AAU International tournament.

1 (1) Kemptville, ON Thunder
2 (2) Harriston, ON Mercurys
3 (4) Alvinston, ON Indians
4 (5) Orrville, OH Orr Park Knights
5 (3) Tavistock, ON Merchants
6 (12) Anderson, IN Jaybirds
7 (9) Portland, OR CR/Adidas
8 (6) Marquette, MI Marquette Fence
9 (10) Reasnor, IA RPMs
10 (9) Elkhart, IN Duncan Bullets

Click here for the complete June 2004 rankings of some 68 teams.

If you're looking for west coast flavor in the rankings, here's what you'll find:

# 7 - CR/Adidas, of Portland Oregon, moving up from #9 in the preseason rankings. This squad has had the ageless Mike Trotter, who at age 63 was still busting the radar gun at 70mph. For 2004, they've added a number of the former Seattle Hobnobber's Tavern team, so they should be stronger still. We'll get a look at them later this month when they compete at the Portland Rose Cup tournament in their own backyard, where they will face both ISC level and ISC II teams.

# 21 - Castlewood, from Pleasant Grove, Utah, which was unranked in the pre-season rankings. Castlewood had a great tournament at Red Rock last month, knocking off two of So Cal's best teams, the So Cal Bombers, and Team Rainey. Castlewood went on to finish in the final four of that tournament, being eliminated in a close game against eventual runner up, Pueblo Bandits, a top 20 ISC team. Looks like the rankers took notice and ran them all the way up to #21. Like CR/Adidas, Castlewood will be at the Rose Cup tournament later this month. We hear they have added a few players from Page Brake, so they should be solid for that one.

#24 - River City Rockers, from Sacramento, California. The Rockers finished 3rd in the 2002 NAFA "AA" at Salem (losing to Team Rainey), and then second in that year's ASA "B" National, so these guys can compete on the big stage. The Rockers did not fare too well in the Cal Int'l Memorial Day tournament in Fresno, but then again, their opponents were mostly ISC level teams. The team's big bat, former CCASA MVP Rob Penticoff suffered an early season ankle injury but is on the mend. The Rockers will compete at Rose Cup too, making it a trio from the top 25 ISC II rankings. We hear that Penticoff is not back to 100% yet, but a big game player, look for him to will himself ready for Rose Cup.

#37 - Captain Dan's, from Lakewood, California. Personally, I think this ranking is way too low. Chalk this ranking up to the fact that teams east of California don't get to see much of this squad. The Dan finished third in the ASA "B" a couple years ago, one slot behind the Rockers, and ran into not one but two Ontario Canada teams at last year's NAFA "AA", losing two tough, close games. The Dan has shown an uncanny knack for playing UP to the competition, going toe to toe with Team Rainey, So Cal Bombers and Mexicali (all ISC level teams) in the local So Cal league, and more than holding their own. This year, Captain Dan's were the only team at Red Rock to take the #1 team in the world, Broken Bow the full seven innings in the championship bracket.

#59 - Leafs/Sun Devils, Sunland, California. While we're on the subject of teams ranked way too low, here's another. In fairness to the ranking committee, the Leafs are a new team of sorts, merging the Sun Devils with some of the Blackhawks players. Until the recent California Area ISC tournament June 5-6, 2004, no one really had a fix on how strong they might be. They were not listed on the pre-season rankings, and barely a blip this time around. Keep an eye out in July for this team to make a serious jump, following their outstanding showing at the California Area ISC tournament, where they finished second, with a 4-1 record, losing only to ISC #17 ranked Team Rainey (a team they also beat earlier in the tournament). Troy Parker and company showed they can do more than just compete. Granted, they will not have Sonny Perkins, who is ineligible to pitch in the ISC II, but with the Barker Brothers they will still be a team to reckon with. They'll be at the Rose Cup, sans Sonny, so we'll have a better idea how they stack up by month's end. The Leafs have already accepted the bid to represent the California area at the ISC II Tournament of Champions in Fargo, North Dakota.

Have a comment? Click the "Comments" link at the lower right of this column and post away. Anyone can post.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Team Rainey Headed to ISC World Tournament in Fargo, ND

Be sure to catch all the coverage from this past weekend's California Area ISC Tournament. Congratulations to the champions, Team Rainey, who are now headed to the ISC World Tournament as the California area representative, August 13-21, 2004. It is the second time in two years that Team Rainey will compete in the World Tournament.