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2022 World Championships - Session 4 Ends 2,116 Games of the Worlds

Oct. 1, 2022

By Donna McGuire

     Two Triple Grand Slam titles, three undefeated teams and an astounding 11-game win streak highlighted the fourth and final session of the 2022 Senior Softball USA World Championships, which concluded Oct. 2 in Las Vegas.

     Overall, a record 662 teams entered the largest slow-pitch tournament in the world. Pool and bracket play required the scheduling of 2,116 games across nine softball complexes. Two dozen directors, 74 umpires and a supportive office staff helped SSUSA’s leaders pull off the three-week event.

     The final four-day session drew 142 men’s 50+ teams, 24 women’s 50+ and 55+ teams, and six coed teams. Four men’s teams, two women’s teams and one coed team left the playing fields as World Champions.

Batter from International Co-Ed Team, Tips and Lips (CA), Mid-Swing

     One team likely needed extra recovery time following a grueling final two days.

     Big Hurt Softball 50/Maximum Precast of Illinois (photo below) played 15 games overall, including seven in a row on Sunday, to win the men’s 78-team 50+ AAA division.

     “That’s extremely rare and the first time it’s happened since 2015, when PDC of Michigan matched that Championship Sunday effort,” said Dave Dowell, SSUSA’s master scheduler and one of its national directors. “But what makes this one even more impressive to me is Big Hurt had to win four in a row late Saturday afternoon/evening just to get to Sunday.”

     The odds looked long Friday evening, when Big Hurt stood 2-2 overall. It had just fallen into the elimination bracket of the tournament’s largest division – a division so big that Dowell had divided the 78 teams into four pods for play through Saturday. On championship day, the 12 surviving teams would converge at Big League Dreams to settle matters.

     Using a steady offense that regularly churned out runs, Big Hurt kept winning. Despite being short on players. Despite a bloody injury on Sunday. Despite needing an extra inning to dispatch one foe by one run on Sunday morning.

     Its final two victories came against another Illinois team that had been undefeated until Big Hurt delivered two big hurts in a row.

     “It’s the most impressive bracket survival effort I’ve ever witnessed,” Dowell said.

     Joe Freiburger, the team’s manager, agreed.

     “I’ve never seen a run like that before, especially in a big tournament,” he said. “It was just one of those weekends.”

     Both Triple Grand Slam winners also celebrated special tournament runs.

     Unfazed (photo below), a Virginia team, won the women’s 50+ AAA Triple Grand Slam one year after going winless at the World Championships.

     “The whole team is so excited,” said Cynthia Nelson, Unfazed’s manager. “Last year, we lost every game. This year, we stepped it up and won everything.”

     Fattboyz/Prestige of California won the men’s 50+ Major Plus Triple Grand Slam by knocking off the team that had beaten it in the Worlds finals the previous two years.

Fattboyz/Prestige/Elite's Western National Trophy (left), USA National Plaque (right), and World Champions Trophy (center).

     “To be World Champions and win the Triple Grand Slam is just amazing,” Manager Anthony Garnica said. “We had some great team chemistry.”

     The key for Unfazed, Nelson said, was how well the women focused. Their attitude was: Let’s do this.

     “We’ve always pulled together as a team, but I think we pulled together even more for this tournament,” Nelson said. “There were no negatives. All positives.”

     Unfazed defeated Snap, Crackle, Pop of Washington in the USA game 15-3. The energy provided by winning the National Championship helped spark Unfazed’s undefeated run through the women’s 15-team 50/55+ Gold bracket, Nelson said. In the championship game, Unfazed pulled away late to win 16-10 and finish the tournament 6-0. The final out – a strikeout – showed how well Unfazed’s two pitchers performed all tournament, Nelson said.

     “Our defense was on point, our hitting was good, and our pitchers both did an outstanding job,” she said.

     On the men’s side, Fattboyz faced old nemesis Suncoast/Adidas of Florida in the 50+ Major Plus USA game. Suncoast trailed much of the game but fought back and took a 25-23 lead in the top of the open inning. The bottom of the inning ended with a one-out walk-off base hit and a 26-25 win for Fattboyz.

     “That gave us momentum and energy moving forward,” Garnica said. “It took the monkey off our back a little bit.”

     Great defense by infielder Todd Johnston, solid pitching by Robert “J.B.I.” Van Landingham, and an offensive show put on by Dennis Shrum lead an overall team effort, Garnica said. Shrum batted .897 for the tournament with 12 home runs while hitting third. He collected 26 hits in 29 at-bats.

Session Four Divison Results:

     Women’s 50+ Major: Old School of California started as the fifth seed in a nine-team bracket. It knocked off the first, second and fourth seeds enroute to winning the championship game 11-5 over Dynasty Girls/BSM of Florida. Stix With Impact of California finished third.

Champions Old School (CA) with Finalists (Dynasty Girls/BSM (FL)

     Women’s 50/55+ Gold: Unfazed, which won all three legs of the Triple Grand Slam, defeated Snap, Crackle, Pop 16-10 in the title game of a 15-team bracket. All Mix’d Up of Arizona finished third.

     International Coed: Tips & Lips of California defeated O & S (Old and Slow) of Nevada 7-6 in the finale after losing the first championship game 14-13. Slappin Gaps of California took third in the six-team division.

Champions Tips & Lips (CA) and Finalists O & S (NV)

     Men’s 50+ Major Plus: Fattboyz, which won all three legs of the Triple Grand Slam, defeated HTM of Idaho 33-27 in the championship game of the 10-team bracket. Deluxe Bakery of New Jersey finished third.

Champions Fattboyz/Prestige/Elite (CA) and Finalists HTM (ID)

     Men’s 50+ Major: Stadium of California (top photo below) was one of three teams to finish the fourth session unbeaten. Stadium, which went 8-0 overall, defeated 50 Degrees of Missouri 24-9 in the championship game after beating the same team 21-18 in the winner’s bracket finals. Both teams started as third seeds in their respective National and American pods. Lighthouse Lookouts of Georgia won six elimination games before falling 30-29 to 50 Degrees in the third-place game. In the USA game, Steves Sports/AJS of Connecticut (bottom photo below) defeated Junkies/Onyx/NVS of California 19-17 to win the National Championship.

     Men’s 50+ AA: Harford Financial Group of Maryland (photo below) went 5-1 overall, including a 19-14 championship game victory over A3/NW50 of Washington. Harford’s only loss was by one run in bracket play. Washington Ogs finished third in the eight-team bracket.

     Men’s 50+ AAA: Big Hurt double dipped another Chicago league team, Chitown Assault/Truly (photo below), 26-21 and 17-6, in the title games. Those were Chitown’s only tournament defeats. Big Hurt, meanwhile, averaged 22 runs a game in its seven Sunday victories while allowing an average of 13 runs. Vancouver Connection of Washington placed third. Damage, the Western National Champion, placed fourth overall and earned the National Championship by defeating Fat Chops/4 Seasons of Massachusetts 20-19 in the USA game.

     Most Big Hurt and Chitown players know each other from league play, and some are teammates in that league, Freiburger said. That made the finals special, he said.

     Losing early in bracket play on Friday angered his players, Freiburger said. They set a goal of making it to Sunday, which meant winning four games on Saturday.

     “People were hitting, which was good,” Freiburger said. “We got to Sunday and kept hitting.”

     Though the team arrived in Vegas with 14 players, it lost two to injury before Sunday play began. In the team’s second game Sunday, leftfielder Mike Gomez ran toward the Green Monster at Fenway chasing a fly ball. The ball caromed off the wall and smacked Gomez in the face, opening a big cut in his chin. He finished the final four innings on the bench but refused to go to the hospital for much-needed stitches after the team beat Miami Power 18-17 in extra innings. As Freiburger remembers it, Gomez said: “We just won the game. I’m staying.” Then he played the final five games with a big bandage on his head.

     Tim Pignato pitched all 15 games for Big Hurt. The team compiled a .712 tournament batting average, led by team MVP Victor Wogen. Hitting third in the lineup, he smacked 56 hits in 63 at-bats for an .889 average.

     The most memorable part of the tournament for Freiburger?

     “Playing that many games,” he said. “And the team pulling together and playing hard for 15 games.”

     And yes, everyone was “pretty tired” afterward, he said.

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