Day 1 – Exceeding Expectations

With 32 excellent teams gathering in Appleton for the 2008 ISC II Tournament of Champions, there were high expectations on the part of most for this year’s ToC to be the best ever. While it’s still too early to make that judgement, it’s certainly shaping up that way as things got off to an explosive start in the first round of games and kept going all through the day.

I didn’t get to see every game, but did get to see parts of most and here’s some standout moments from Day 1.

Bob Gillow of the Elmira, ON Cubs launching the first home run of the tournament, a 290-foot shot to right field that dinged a car in the first row of the parking lot. With all of the fences at 275 feet, many were awed by this one. A couple of innings later, teammate Shawn Detzler hit one a little further and dinged a car a little harder. Elmira would roll to a big 7-0 win over Perkasie, PA Hoffman Rise and looked very formidable in doing so as Casey Halstead tossed a tidy 1-hitter.

The Bulyea, SK Rustlers were an unknown commodity coming into the ToC. They have won the Regina Fastball League five straight years and took a 4-1 lead over the Sioux Falls, SD Sox into the 7th inning. But that’s when this game got interesting. Sioux Falls rallied for 4 runs in B7 to complete the comeback and get an important win in Pool B.

Two of the most talked about teams in the weeks leading up the ToC have been Waterdown, ON Hammer and Wilkes-Barre, PA Keating’s Fitness. Both have had recent successes as the Hammer won the Cubs Classic and Keating’s the Mid-Atlantic Fastpitch Travel League. Wayne Wells for the Hammer and David Stokes for Keating’s hooked up in a good old-fashioned pitching duel that left things knotted at 1 heading into B7 when Matt DaSilva singled through a drawn in infield to score Kyle Davis and give the Hammer the walk-off win.

Chicago, IL Fastpitch banged out 10 runs in six innings against a tough Waverly, MN Herda & Sons team as they just kept pushing runs across and served notice that they will have to be reckoned with in Pool H.

Carp, ON I4C Victory Consulting finished 0-4 at last year’s ToC but earned their first win in 2008 with a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire 1-0 victory over Winterset, IA A’s. Carp then dropped a tough 1-0 decision to Ashland, OH Stockpack, but showed that they will be much tougher this year.

Salt Lake City, UT Innovative Communications and Mascoutah, IL Pete’s Blues were scoreless for about four innings before Pete’s edged ahead 2-0. Innovative tied it at 2 before the Illinois state champs tacked on another two runs and held on the for the 4-2 win.

Bakersfield, CA Taylor Farms LumberKings were in a tight battle with Wyevale, ON Tribe, leading 2-0 into the 6th when Marcus Tan changed everything. Tan turned around a rise ball from Jason Giffen and drove it about 277 feet on a line for a Grand Slam to put the game out of reach for the top ranked LumberKings.

Bridgeport, ON Braves gave the defending champions South Lebanon, TNT all they could handle, nursing a 2-0 lead into the 6th, but four straight singles, including a controversial 2-RBI bleeder by John Lechtel that glanced off the leg of a base-runner tied the game and an RBI single by Mike Rohrer in B8 gave the champs the walkoff win.

Bill Hillhouse entered the ISC II record book with 20 strikeouts in his debut as the New York, NY Knights took 8 innings to beat Sun Valley, CA Rude Pac 6-2. John Rozitch belted a pair of home-runs, the first travelling an estimated 352 feet.

Corey Costello got the start for Ottawa, ON Team Easton Thunder against St. Paul, MN ASB Villard and the ISC II Strikeout King didn’t disappoint. Despite limited action this season, Costello tossed a no-hitter and struck out 11 in Ottawa’s 2-0 win.

Eric Steinbeck and Lee Cose hooked up in a pitcher’s duel in one of the last games of the night, combining for 27 Ks as Steinbeck’s Hermann, MO Black Gold scored 2 runs late to defeat the host squad Appleton, WI The Bar of Appleton Athletics 2-0.

Opening ceremonies went off without a hitch and featured Carrie and Kate, the Ballpark Radio girls, who were a big hit with the players and fans.

With the weather at a gorgeous mid-70s, the field in great shape, and technology cooperating all the way around, I have to say that Day 1 at the ToC certainly exceeded my expectations.

On to Day 2.



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