Lansing Local 333 Escapes Plumbers/NYC Local 1; Rolls To 21st Title In 38th Annual U. A. National “A” Finals At Expressway Park
Milford, Oh.— Lansing Local 333 pushed across four runs in the bottom of the 6th to break a 26-26 tie with Plumbers/NYC Local 1 and pull out a 30-26 victory in a second round game, then mercy-ruled New York Local 638 31-9 in the winners’ bracket finals and 23-5 in the championship game to complete a four game sweep of the class “A” division of the 38th Annual United Association National Tournament June 26-28 at Expressway Park.
Josh Simon singled home the eventual winning run in the bottom of the 6th against Local 1, then John Zocco cracked a three-run homer to close out the scoring. Pitcher Nate Morley pitched out of trouble in the top of the 7th with the help of a double play.
Lansing’s other victory also came via the run-rule, as they overpowered St. Louis Local 562 24-9 in their opener.
The four wins in elimination round play enabled the Michigan club to finish the weekend with a 9-0 overall record, as they also swept undefeated past five pool play opponents.
The United Association title was the 7th in a row for the champions and 21st overall.
Local 333 outscored their elimination round opponents by a combined 108-49 margin.
A .715 team batting average – Lansing’s line-up featured eleven players who hit .543 or higher, the pitching of Nate Morley, and solid defensive play by centerfielder Alex Davison helped carry Local 333 to the title, said player-manager Josh Onstott.
“Obviously our hitting was our biggest asset,” said Onstott. “When you hit that good as a team it’s pretty hard to lose a tournament.”
Ten of Onstott’s players hit .625 or higher, seven hit .730 or higher, and two – Jerry Hall and John Zocco – hit over .800.
“Jerry had a good weekend,” understated Onstott. “He hit .865 and had twelve home runs. That’s a good weekend any way you look at it. He had his home run swing down.
John Zocco also eclipsed the .800 mark with an .825 weekend.
“He’s our leadoff hitter and usually one of our top two hitters,” said Onstott. “Every weekend he does the right thing. He hits the home run when we need it or he hits it through the hole. He’s pretty much the closest thing to automatic we have.”
Troy Smith was also a big offensive contributor for the winners, said Onstott.
“He went 26-for-34 and had sixteen walks on the weekend. Out of the 26 times he was on base, sixteen were walks. That has to be some sort of tournament record.”
Defense and pitching were also keys to Lansing’s success, said Onstott.
“We had really good defense. Alex Davison played all nine games in centerfield and played really well out there. His defense was superb. And Nate Morley led us all weekend with his pitching. He had a really good tournament.”
Lansing and Morley held three of their four opponents to single digit scoring.
“Nate shared Most Valuable Players honors for his pitching and Alex for his play in centerfield,” said Onstott.
St. Louis took a short-lived 4-0 led in the top of the 1st in game one, but Lansing quickly erased that with six in the bottom of the 1st, then broke the game open with six in the 2nd and four in the 3rd, then invoked the run-rule with eight in the 4th. Josh Simon’s slammer capped off the 1st. Simon added a two-run single in the 2nd. Jason Broyles had a two-run shot, and Jerry Hall and Nate Morley each went solo in the 3rd. Jerry Hall launched a slammer in the 4th, then Simon followed with a three-run walk-off.
Hall, Troy Smith, and Simon were all perfect in four trips to the plate, while John Zocco, Brandon Bongard and Nate Morley each went 3-for-4.
Local 333 jumped out to a 10-6 lead over Plumbers/NYC Local 1 after two innings in game two, but in the top of the 3rd, New York exploded for fifteen runs to grab a 21-10 lead. Lansing chipped away at the lead with seven in the bottom of the 3rd and two in the 4th, then vaulted ahead 26-22 with seven in the bottom of the 5th. Local 1 answered with four in the top of the 6th to knot the score at 26-26, but in the bottom of the inning, Josh Simon singled home the go-ahead run, the John Zocco delivered a three-run bomb to close out the scoring. Pitcher Nate Morley gave up a lead-off single in the top of the 7th, but induced the next batter to hit into a double play. New York reached then reached Morley for a double before a ground out to 2nd ended play.
Zocco collected six hits, Morley and Jason Broyles shared ten, and Jerry Hall and Troy Smith chipped in four hits apiece.
That lifted Lansing into the winners’ bracket finals over New York Local 638, where they exploded for four runs in the 1st, eight in the 2nd and four in the 3rd to grab a 16-2 lead and never looked back in a 31-9 rout. John Zocco’s solo shot put Local 333 on the board in the top of the 1st. Dave Letters, whose two-run single capped off the 1st, cracked a two-run home run an inning later to cap off the eight-run 2nd. Jerry Hall contributed a two-run homer to highlight the 3rd. Lansing delivered the knockout punch with eight in the 4th, which featured slammers by Brandon Bongard and Letters, and a three-run blast from Zocco.
Jason Broyles, Hall, Josh Onstott, Letters, Shane Prince, and Zocco banged out four hits each for the winners.
Lansing met Local 638 again in the championship game, where they prevailed 23-5 in just four innings. Nate Morley’s grand slam erased a 2-1 New York lead in the bottom of the 1st and helped his club take an early 6-2 advantage. Jason Broyles belted a three-run homer and Jerry Hall added a solo shot to account for Local 333’s four runs in the 2nd. Lansing eventually put the game away with a dozen in the bottom of the 4th. Josh Onstott provided half of those runs with a two-run homer and a slammer to close out the scoring.
Brandon Bongard and Hall pounded out four hits each to power the champions. Dave Letters, Broyles, Morley and Onstott chipped in three hits apiece.
Was Lansing manager Josh Onstott worried when his team fell behind Plumbers/New York City Local 1 21-10 after two and a half innings in game two?
“Not really, because the home run differential was so much in our favor,” he said. “You always get a little worried when you’re down, but at one point they were ahead of us 8-2 on home runs, so they were out and we had six to hit. So I liked our chances.
“They jumped out on us in the 3rd inning and blew their home runs,” he noted. “They must have been up on us eleven or twelve runs at one point. But we gathered ourselves together and paced ourselves and saved our home runs. We chipped away at them, then used two in the 6th to take the lead.”
Despite winning their 7th straight tournament and 21st overall, Onstott said he cautioned his team to never take their championships in stride.
“We huddled together after we won and I kind of let the guys know not to take it for granted,” he said. “It’s always tough to win one of these and you never know when it could be your last.”
Onstott concluded by acknowledging the tournament committee for a job well done.
“We want to thank Expressway Park and Bob Owens (park manager) and all the guys that help out for a great weekend,” he said. “They did an excellent job with the fields and got it in despite the rain, and overall it was a good weekend of softball.”
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