Woodstock Sentinel Review ISC and ISC II Preview

August 9, 2007

Kitchener, ON

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Trying to reach the top of the world

Beginning this weekend, the Innerkip Eagles will try to climb up the world fastball ladder at the International Softball Congress World championships while the Tavistock Merchants will defend their ISC II Tournament of Champions title — by Cory Smith

In their two losses at last year’s ISC world tournament, the Innerkip Eagles helped author their own demise thanks to a lack of fundamental fastball.
Those defeats came against the SoCal Bombers and the host Kitchener Hallman Twins — two of the best on the world stage.
So, it’s with some uneasiness and a shrug that the Eagles entertain The Farm Tavern in their first game at the world tourney Saturday in Kitchener.
“It’s not a great first-round paring,” Eagles skipper Jeff Whetstone said.
The Madison, Wis.-based team is ranked sixth in the world and is a perennial contender at the 32-team tournament. Whetstone knows the Eagles can’t repeat the same mistakes they made after going 2-2 last year.
If Innerkip fails to move runners over and play the type of small ball necessary to keep afloat, it will find itself swimming in the dreaded losing bracket the rest of the way.
“You need your top-notch game,” Whetstone said. “You gotta play an error-free game. You can only give them 21 outs, not four per inning or 25 or 26 in a game. One through nine they can hit the ball.”
It’s been five years since the teams last met, when The Farm won 7-5 in Eau Claire, Wis. A win would match the Eagles up against Portland or Aurora Sunday  at 2 p.m., while a loss would send them to the losing bracket against Midland or Napanee Monday at 9 a.m.
“In order for us to do it, we need good pitching, hitting and defence against them,” Whetstone said. “You need timely hitting. You have to sacrifice guys over from first to second and get timely two-out hits. If you score early that helps relax the pitchers.”
In 2004 and 2005, the Eagles compiled an 8-3 record and advanced to the playoff round. Last year, alternating wins and losses over four games, they were eliminated midweek following a 4-1 loss to the Twins.
“I wouldn’t say last year was a step back,” Whetstone said. “If you look at the teams we lost to, those are teams on paper that nine out of 10 times we’ll never beat.
“It’s just the (advantage) of money. Compare their budget to our budget and they should beat us. It’s like the Yankees versus a Single A team.”
That’s not to say Whetstone isn’t confident his squad can start the tourney off with an upset. In addition to four new players, the 20th-ranked Eagles welcome back Steve Running and Dan Skillings of Innerkip, and Woodstock’s Mike Pullin and Kevin Cassells.
The core of the team has been rock solid for a few years and has traditionally saved some of its best ball for mid-August.
“We’re going into the first game expecting to win,” Whetstone said. “It would be nice to play Thursday or Friday, slide into the playoffs and upset some teams.”


The Ingersoll Crush want to make an impression

By Darryl G. Smart
Sports Editor
INGERSOLL —  The rankings have them at the bottom but that’s not going to bother the Ingersoll Crush when they go to Kitchener for the Intarnational Softball Congress II Tournament of Champions.
The Crush, who have qualified for the ISC II ToC for the first time, will have a good mix of youth and veterans.
“I think our team chemistry is our biggest strength by far,” Crush manager Rob Deakin said. “We all eat, drink and hang out with each other. This is a real close-knit team and I think that will help us in a tournament like this.”
Having umpired in the ISC worlds several times, Deakin knows about the magnitude of the ToC, which is something he said the younger players will learn in a hurry.
“We have the veterans to calm the young guys’ nerves down. I know we’ve played a lot of these teams before and have done well against them. But this is the Tournament of Champions. The level of ball is raised, which something I want them to experience.”
The Crush have had a solid season thus far in the Tri-County Men’s Fastball League, but consistency has plagued them at times.
“I think if we play error-free ball and get rid of the mental errors, I think we could make it to the playoffs, where anything can happen,” he said.
And the Crush just have to look at the Tavistock Merchants for inspiration.
Ranked 22nd heading into last year’s ToC, the Merchants got on a roll and beat the 32nd-ranked Palermo Athletics in the final.
The 35th-ranked Crush will begin their quest to climb the ladder Tuesday against the Kingston Cowboys at 7:30 p.m. On Wednesday at 11 a.m., they will take on the Hoffman Rise and then the Elora Brewers at 5:30 p.m.The Crush will round out the round-robin with the Rockwood Rush Thursday at 11:30 a.m.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re going to play, every game’s going to be tough,” Deakin said. “But I really think we can  have a 2-2 record and maybe get into the playoffs. But the main thing is that our guys enjoy the tournament and take in the experience.”
Deakin said not only has the team been committed to doing well at the ToC, sponsors like Elgie Trucking have been important.


Tavi set to defend title

By Cory Smith
Sports reporter
TAVISTOCK — If the St. Marys/Tavistock Merchants have any hope of defending their ISC II world fastball championship, they’ll have to find the missing ingredients they used to win last year.
The Merchants started 2007 ranked No. 1 among ISC II teams, but a slow start in the South Perth Men’s Fastball League and a disappointing finish at the Ontario eliminations last weekend dropped the club to a top-five world ranking.
Hardly anything to be ashamed of, but the Merchants will have a bull’s-eye on them all week.
“We expect to be able to compete. With a little luck anything can happen,” Merchants manager Steve Kaufman said. “I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of teams gunning for us.”
First on that list will be the Kitchener Outlaws, who host the Merchants Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
“I don’t think expectations are going to be a problem,” Kaufman said. “We’ve had a lot of expectations for many years, going back to Fargo in 2004 when we got second. It was like a relief to win last year.”
Nearly everything went the Merchants’ way in Kitchener last August. Tavistock — before adding St. Marys to its name this season — went 7-1 over eight games and outscored its opposition 34-7.
The pitching staff — which hurled five shutouts, including a Ryan Cummings no-hitter — is back this year. There are some holes, such as the departure of shortstop Mark McKay, who scored the winning run in the eighth inning of last year’s championship, but Kaufman is confident that players brought in from St. Marys will mix with the returnees to form another formidable mix.
“We need good pitching and good hitting and timely hitting, that’s what it takes,” he said. “We have the ability to score lots of runs, but when it comes to playoffs and good teams it’s pitching and defence that comes through.”


Reds ready for action

By Cory Smith
Sports reporter
HICKSON — While their Oxford County rivals compete under the glaring spotlight of defending champions, the Hickson Reds will have no such distraction.
Prior to the 2007 season, the Reds weren’t even on the ISC II radar. By July 6, the Reds were ranked 29th. It was a modest but important blip on the fastball screen for the Reds as they prepare for the world championships in Kitchener.
Of course, that means the Reds will face the toughest competition in Pool F, beginning Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. against the No. 12 Port Elgin Blue Devils.
The Reds move on to face the Ashland Merchants in their second game, Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. In their third round-robin game Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., Hickson plays the Ottawa Team Easton, ranked sixth as of July 6.
The Reds close the prelims with a date against the No. 23 Waterdown Hammer Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Hickson sits in the middle of the Smith/Egli division of the South Perth Men’s Fastball League, but has fared reasonably well in tournament play thus far.
The Reds went 3-2 at the Canada East Softball Congress II qualifier in June, outlasting the Ingersoll Crush and Innerkip Orioles of the Tri-County Men’s Fastball League.
Their biggest highlight was a win over the second-ranked Elora Brewers. Mark VanVliet pitched a strong game to pick up the victory and the Reds hurler will be a main component for the club next week.
Led by hometown manager Al Harmer, the Reds are truly a local team, boasting 13 players from Oxford County.

Darryl Smart
519-537-2341 ext. 258

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