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Ohio Red Birds Upend Kentucky Fillies 11-8, 26-0 In USSSA Women’s Masters 45-Over World

Gallatin, Tn.–The Ohio Red Birds battled back from a second round loss to win five straight games and capure first place in the USSSA Women’s Masters 45-Over World Tournament September 16-18 at Triple Creek Park.

        The Red Birds went 2-0 in a position round, then 6-1 in the elimination round en route to the championship, double-dipping the Kentucky Fillies 11-8 and 26-0 in the finals.

       The Golden Girls had saddled the Red Birds with a 10-3 setback in the second round, forcing the champions to march through the losers’ bracket to claim the title.

        Jane Eltzroth hit a red hot .730 to pace the winners offensively, followed by Shirley Cummins at .753, Barb Bleser at .640, Brenda Ryan at .600 and Celia Fritz at .592.

        Eltzroth, Cummins, Fritz and Pat Barnhorst were named to the All-World team.  Brenda Ryan was selected the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, and Barb Bleser the Outstanding Offensive Player.

        Ohio Red Birds’ manager Colleen Needham credited the tournament championship to Ryan’s leadership.

        “When things got nerve racking, we brought her in to pitch in the first championship game and she had a calming influence on the team,” observed Needham.  “But even when she had been in the outfield, she took on a leadership role from the standpoint that we had a number of people who had never played together before and she became our quarterback.  After we lost Brenda talked to the team about a lot of things we weren’t doing right and things we needed to do better, and we didn’t lose from that point on.”

        Another USSSA Hall of Famer also stepped up when the Red Birds got into trouble, noted Needham.

        “Besides Brenda’s leadership, we had Sharon Graham,” said Needham.  “Her defense and her leadership role in the infield were a big plus, and obviously when we got beat, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy and we took it more seriously after that.

        Sharon covers a lot of ground at 2nd base,” added Needham.  And she played with three different 1st basemen and two different short centerfielders on either side of her,” added Needham.

        “Barb Bleser’s pitching was also a key,” continued Needham.  “And she had some big hits for us when they were walking Celia Fritz.”

        The Red Birds also got a boost on defense from right centerfielder Becky Beekman, said Needham.

        “She played very well, and covered a lot of ground,” recalled Needham.  “When Brenda went in to pitch, she moved to left centerfield and tracked down a lot of balls.”

        The Red Birds waltzed past two pool play opponents, flattening Sunny Beaches 14-1 in four innings and the Golden Girls 14-2 in six.  Brenda Ryan banged out three hits against Sunny Beaches, while Sharon Graham, Barb Bleser, Jane Eltzroth and Sue Garnier each went 3-for-3 versus the Golden Girls.

        Barb Bleser tossed the first of three shutout wins in the opening round of elimination play in a 12-0 blanking of Sunny Beaches.  A three run Celia Fritz bomb capped a four run first.  The Red Birds added three in the 3rd and five in the 4th with the help of a Jane Eltzroth two run triple to seal the win.  Fritz collected three hits for the winners.

        But then the Golden Girls ambushed the Red Birds 10-3, and suddenly the Ohio club had their work cut out for them.

        The Red Birds got back on the winning track in another Barb Bleser shutout, disposing of the Tennessed Stars 16-0 in three innings.  A two run single by Pat Barnhorst capped off a five run 1st.  Then Melissa Harney connected on a three run single as the Birds erupted for nine in the top of the 3rd to seal the win.

        Brenda Ryan was perfect in three at bats.

        West Michigan Storm drew first blood with a apir of runs in the top of the 1st in game four, but Barb Bleser held the Michigan club scoreless over the next three frames as the Red Birds roared back to quiet the Storm 16-2 in four.  Jane Eltzroth swatted a three run home run, and Becky Beekman added a two run double as the Red Birds exploded for ten runs in the bottom of the 2nd to overcome the 2-0 deficit.  Celia Fritz went 3-for-3 to pace the offense.

        That lifted the Red Birds into the losers’ bracket finals against the Golden Girls, who threatened to slap yet another loss on the Ohio club as they took an 11-9 lead into the top of the 7th.  But consecutive singles by Shirley Cummins, Celia Fritz, Barb Bleser and Jane Eltzroth knotted the score at 11-11, then a sac fly by Lisa Kroger produced an eventual 12-11 victory, as Barb Bleser shut down the Golden Girls one-two-three in the bottom of the 7th.

        Bleser also turned in a big offensive performance with four safeties.  Jane Eltzroth and Shirley Cummins chipped in with a 3-for-4 effort.

        The Red Birds trailed late again in the first finals, falling behind the Kentucky Fillies 8-6 after four.  But in the top of the 5th, the Red Birds struck for three unanswered runs to take a 9-8 lead, then put up a pair of insurance runs in the 6th to emerge with an 11-8 victory.  Brenda Ryan’s two run double knotted the score at 8-8 in the 5th, then Celia Fritz drove in what proved to be the game winner with a sac fly.  Sharon Graham’s two run triple accounted for both of her club’s runs in the 6th.  Becky Beekman went 3-for-4 to lead the offense.

        The championship game was effectively over after the Red Birds struck for ten runs in the top of the 1st.  They added insult to injury with seven more in the 2nd and nine in the 3rd to stun the Fillies 26-0 in only three innings.  Shirley Cummins had a two run single and Jane Eltzroth a two run double in the 1st.  A two run double by Melissa Harney and a two run triple by Shirley Cummins highlighted the 2nd.  Jane Eltzroth delivered another extra base hit, this time a two run triple, in the 3rd.  Cummins, Harney, Barb Bleser and Pat Barnhorst combined for twelve hits for the champions.

        Red Bird manager Colleen Needham, who also was managing the 55-over Red Birds to a U-Trip world title on the same day and at the same site, said she had “plenty of help” from coaches M. J. Ranz and Karen Rueckert.

        “M. J. coached 3rd base on Saturday, and she plays on our 35-over team, and Karen coached 1st and helped get us organized and made sure we were at the right field at the right time,” said Needham.

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Posted by on Sep 17 2005.
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