Twins aim to take championship

August 10, 2007

Kitchener, ON

August 10, 2007
Canada has produced many of the planet's finest fastball players, though the red and white has gone a dozen years without a world championship at the club level.
And although a pair of Ontario rivals are in the mix at the 61st annual International Softball Congress world tournament, which opens today at Kitchener's Peter Hallman Ball Yard, they'll have to slug it out in a field that includes an assortment of top-flight American-based challengers whose rosters are fuelled by a host of international talent.
The fifth-ranked Kitchener Hallman Twins and the No. 3 Orillia Riversharks will be in tough at the 32-team event, said one fastball insider, ISC website director Al Doran, who predicts any one of three American teams could cart off the hardware when the tourney winds down on Aug. 18.
"I'm thinking it could be Patsy's, the Farm and possibly So Cal as a long-shot," said Doran, of Richmond Hill, Ont.
No Canadian team has won the ISC title since the Toronto Gators claimed it in 1995.
The Twins hope to improve on the fifth-place showing they posted at last year's worlds.
For the first time in decades, the ISC circuit is without a clear-cut favourite since the demise of the two-time defending champs, County Materials of Marathon, Wis., in the off-season.
So, there's no time like the present, said Twins coach Larry Lynch.
"This year, on any given weekend, there could be four or five teams that could step up. We hope we will be one of 'em"
To improve their chances, the Twins will need to stay on the winners' side of the bracket, thus maintaining their prime-time status in the schedule with the occasional day off and avoiding the two-games-a-day slog waiting for teams on the losers' side, he said.
Last year, the jittery Twins dropped their second game and faced an uphill climb.
"Going into a big tournament -- especially at home -- I don't think you can avoid the butterflies. You will always have that. But last year was a good experience for us. I think we'll be better prepared mentally," said Twins catcher Dave Bailey.
As for Patsy's -- who are emerging as the closest to a favourite this tourney can offer -- they hope to fly beneath the radar.
"We are trying to be humble. I don't want to load the gun for anybody," said Phil Rogers, a Wall Street lawyer who owns and manages the team.
"We don't want to rock the boat."
With so many teams in the hunt, one thing's for certain.
"You can count on some upsets," said Lynch.
The tournament also features a flight for intermediate teams, the ISC tournament of championships (affectionately known as the ISC IIs) which opens Tuesday at Kitchener's Budd Park and Kinsmen Park in Cambridge.
A midget-aged tourney will feature six under-19 teams. It runs Aug. 16-18 at Hallman Ball Yard.
Here's a look at The Record's favourites heading into the main event:
1. Patsy's -- Named for a previous sponsor, a New York City restaurant, this outfit boasts speed, power and pitching. Gained momentum through the latter part of the season, capturing both the American Softball Association title and the trophy from Allentown, Pa. Australia's Adam Folkhard, along with three-time ISC champ, Canadian-born Gerald Muizelaar, anchor the pitching staff.
2. The Farm -- Big bats and loads of big-game experience. The ace of the staff, Korrey Gareau of Victoria, B.C. is a seasoned veteran. Late-season surge saw the boys from Madison, Wis. battle through the losers' bracket at the U.S. club team championship all the way to the final. Roster notables include Canadian outfielders Colin Abbott and Paul Rosebush.
3. So Cal Bombers -- Dark horse entry from the Golden State has already won three major tourneys this season, including the Monkton Invitational. Still, the Bombers' pitching staff doesn't draw much respect from the fastball community. All that could change in Kitchener, especially if So Cal's usual booming bats and sparkling defence can keep games close.
4. Broken Bow Gremlins -- Armed with perhaps the finest pitcher in the game today, Aussie ace Andrew Kirkpatrick, the team based from Clifton Park, N.Y. enters the tourney ranked No. 1 in the world, though the Gremlins have battled demons of inconsistency.
5. Kitchener Hallman Twins -- Posted a 2-7 (won-lost) record against the world's top-ranked teams in previous tourney play this season, though none of those losses were by more than two runs. Have fielded perhaps their best hitting lineup in the team's four-decade history, adding American sluggers Todd Budke and Blake Miller in the off-season.
6. Orillia Riversharks -- Started the season ranked No. 1 in the world, but veteran squad has cooled off lately. Players to watch include Kitchener resident and national team catcher Sean O'Brien along with his younger brother Rob, a pitcher, who lives in Elora.
(All games at Peter Hallman Ball Yard; runs until Aug. 18)
Scarborough Royals vs. Thompson (Illinois) Area Merchants, 4 p.m.
Albaugh Inc. (Elkhart, Iowa) vs. St. Thomas Evergreen Centennials, 6 p.m.
Orillia Riversharks vs. Midwest Stampede (Des Moines, Iowa), 8 p.m.
Jarvis Merchants vs. Saskatoon Aspen Interiors, 10 p.m.
Circle Tap (Denmark, Wis) vs. Ekland (Pa.) Fastpitch, 9 a.m.
Quad City Sox (Davenport, Iowa) vs. Elmira Cubs, 9 a.m.
MinnDak Millers (Fargo, N.D.) vs. Rice Creek Lighting (Marshall, Mich.), 11 a.m.
Portland DeMarini (Portland, Ore.) vs. Dolan & Murphy (Aurora, Ill.), 11 a.m.
Farm Tavern (Madison, Wis.) vs. Innerkip Eagles, 1 p.m.
Midland (Mich.) Explorers vs. Napanee Express, 1 p.m.
So Cal Bombers (Palm Springs, Calif.) vs. Bloomington (Ill.) Stix, 3 p.m.
Vancouver Grey Sox vs. Peterborough Pros, 3 p.m.
Plangger's Furniture (Benton Harbor, Mich.) vs. Patsy's (New York City), 5 p.m.
Townline (Green Bay, Wis.) vs. Pueblo (Calif.) Bandits, 5 p.m.
Opening ceremonies, 7 p.m.
Kitchener Hallman Twins vs. Ashland (Ohio) Mets, 8 p.m.
Broken Bow Gremlins (Clifton Park, N.Y.) vs. Horse Lake (Alta.) Thunder, 10 p.m.

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