Mt. Healthy, Oh.—The Diamond Foolz fended off Powerhouse/Remax/NAPA 8-5 in the second championship game to capture first place in the 85th Annual Schuetzenfest USSSA “D” National Qualifier July 21-22 at Kolping Park.
Powerhouse/Remax/NAPA had forced an “if” game in the 20-team event by upending Diamond Foolz 12-11 in an eight-inning first finals.
The Diamond Foolz had previously disposed of Chi.Town/Cornerstorne Flooring 10-9, Rivercity/Ken’s Beverage 18-17, Cincysoftball/Buffalo Joes/Willies 16-15, and Homie Jokers Softball 17-2.
The champions played three extra-inning games and four one-run games en route to a 5-1 mark. The 17-2 spanking of Homie Jokers was the Diamond Foolz’ only contest decided by more than three runs. The Independence, Ky. team outscored their opponents by a combined 78-60 margin.
Diamond Foolz took home 15 beer steins, $500 cash and a paid berth to the USSSA Great Lakes “D” National Tournament Labor Day Weekend in Milford, Oh.
The pitching of veteran Doug Murphy, defense, and the offensive punch provided by Ryan Gribble and Andrew Steenken helped carry the Foolz to the title, said player-manager Brandon Rikson.
“Every game starts this year with our pitcher, Doug Murphy,” said Rikson. “He have a lot of confidence in our pitcher. He leads us. We play behind him. Our pitching was definitely the biggest key to winning the tournament.”
Solid infield play was another key, said Rikson.
“Our whole infield played solid the entire weekend,” said Rikson. “There were a couple balls that we didn’t field due to the hard infields. With there not being any rain the infields were pretty hard. We turned ten to fifteen double plays on the weekend, including one to end the last game. Our whole infield played well and our outfield always plays good.”
Ryan Gribble anchored the outfield, said Rikson.
“Ryan plays centerfield and he pretty much can go get it,” said Rikson. “He got tired in the later games and his arm was bothering him a little bit. But once a team sees his arm, there aren’t a lot of teams that will try to take extra bases on him.”
Gribble also led the Diamond Foolz in hitting with a .714 average.
“He’s really started hitting the last month or so,” remarked Rikson. “He’s one of the top hitters in the city. Nobody knows about him. He’s pretty under-rated. He weighs 145 pounds soak and wet. He’s really got quick, smooth, fluid hands, and for as small as he is, he hits as good as anybody in the city. He’s really under-rated.”
Pitcher Doug Murphy (.565, 17 rbi’s) was named tournament MVP.
“He had the second most rbi’s on the weekend and keeps us in every ball game,” said Rikson. “He doesn’t walk too many people – maybe one person a game.”
Andrew Steenken (.545) led the Diamond Foolz in rbi’s with 24 and had two game-winning hits.
Other hitting leaders included Josh Kinnett at.692 and Brandon Rikson at .500 with six rbi’s. Brandon Killion chipped in with eleven rbi’s.
The Diamond Foolz won their first three games by one run, with two of those victories coming in extra innings.
In game one the Kentucky club escaped with a 10-9, nine-inning win over Chi.Town, pushing across the game winner in the top of the 9th on Andrew Steenken’s two-out rbi single to right-center. Chi.Town had rallied for three runs in the bottom of the 7th to force extra innings. Both teams put up goose eggs in the 8th, setting the stage for Steenken’s big hit in the 9th.
Josh Kinnett banged out four hits, Steenken and Brad Schalk went 3-for-5, and Brandon Killion, Chris Froehlicher and Charlie Riley added two hits apiece to pace the offense.
Next the Foolz outlasted Rivercity 18-17, using a seven-run outburst in the bottom of the 5th to overcome a 13-10 deficit and take the lead for good at 17-13. Brandon Rikson doubled in two runs to trim the deficit to one at 13-12, then Ryan Gribble plated the tying run with a sac fly. Doug Murphy followed with an rbi double to drive in the go-ahead run. Josh Kinnett, Brandon Killion and Chris Froehlicher added rbi singles as the lead swelled to four. Rivercity answered with a run in the top of the 6th, but Andrew Steeken’s sac fly offset that in the bottom of the inning. Rivercity threatened in the top of the 7th, scoring three runs with no outs. But pitcher Doug Murphy retired the next three batters to preserve the win.
Ryan Gribble was perfect in four trips to the plate, Rikson, Brad Schalk, Kinnett, and Chris Froehlicher each went 3-for-4, and Steenken and Murphy had two hits.
In game three the Diamond Foolz outscored Cincysoftball 8-1 in the 6th and 7th to overcome a 10-3 deficit and force extra innings, then had to answer a four-run Cincysoftball outburst in the top of the 8th before finally pushing across the game winner in the bottom of the 9th. A two-run Brandon Killion double with two outs in the bottom of the 7th capped off a five-run rally. Then Josh Kinnett had a clutch two-out single to drive in the tying run and cap off the four-run 8th. Finally in the bottom of the 9th, Chris Froelicher had a lead-off single, and was replaced by pinch-runner Nick Burris. Charlie Riley singled and Brandon Rikson walked to juice the bases, setting the stage for Josh Keener to single home Burris with the game-winner.
Keener collected five hits in all, Doug Murphy added four, and Andrew Steenken and Kinnett had three each.
That lifted Diamond Foolz into the winners’ bracket finals, where they jumped out to a 17-0 lead with four in the 1st, eleven in the 2nd and two in the 3rd, and went on to mercy-rule Homie Joker Softball 17-2 in five. Andrew Steenken’s two-run double put his club on the board in the bottom of the 1st. The 2nd featured a three-run Steenken bomb and a two-run double by Brandon Killion. Chris Froehlicher’s rbi double was the big hit in the 3rd.
Ryan Gribble banged out three hits and Josh Keener, Steenken, Doug Murphy, Brad Schalk, Josh Kinnett, Killion, and Charlie Riley shared fourteen.
In an all-West Virginia losers’ bracket finals, Powerhouse then sent Homie Jokers packing 23-14 to earn a berth into the finals, where they derailed Diamond Foolz 12-11 in eight to force an ”if” game.
Powerhouse was poised to make it five in a row after taking an early 5-3 lead over the Diamond Foolz in the top of the 2nd. But Diamond Foolz knotted the score with a run in the bottom of the 2nd and one in the 3rd, then erupted for three unanswered runs in the 5th. A two-run double by Andrew Steenken to center and an rbi single by Doug Murphy to right highlighted the inning.
Steenken pounded out four hits, and Murphy added three to power the champions. Ryan and Randy Gribble chipped in two hits apiece.
Diamond Foolz manager Brandon Rikson said that getting past Chi.Town in game one proved to be the pivotal game of the weekend for his club.
“Things could have gone a totally different way if we had lost to Chi.Town,” said Rikson. “We won because of a bad call by the umpire in the bottom of the 9th.”
Rikson said his team wasn’t concerned after losing the first finals to Powerhouse.
“We knew we didn’t play our best game against them,” said Rikson. “Also we could tell they were getting tired because they had played more games than us.
“The key to the whole weekend was timely hitting and solid defense,” summed up Rikson. “The hitting came through at the right time.”
For final standings, tournament game scores and all-tournament team, please paste the following url into your browser: http://www.usssa.com/sports/Tournament3.asp?TournamentID=873630