The 11th Annual S.W. PA 'All Wood Bat' BWP Fall Classic Sunday Reports Part 1

September 4, 2007

Mt. Pleasant, PA

** Update**
   Sunday, the Fall Classics 'Final' Day proved to be one of the most exciting battles wagered at the Classic.  Sunday's opening game posted Burgtown, taking on Maxwell's Big Bucks out of Atlasburg, PA and as always the road through the losers bracket starts off with a bang.  In the first inning Burgtown posted a 5 run first inning (the largest run count of an inning in the event), however it was just the first shot of a war.  Maxwell's Big Bucks came to life in the bottom of the third to post its first runs and rallied each inning to stake a tie game by the bottom of the seventh.  With the international rule not in effect in the "Classic", the short game took over.  In the Top of the Ninth, Burgtown mustered a 1 out, line drive off the fence to score the go ahead run, but with the crack of the bat in the bottom of the ninth, Maxwell's Big Bucks placed two men on with no outs.  An Excellent Job of pitching closed the door on Maxwell's Big Bucks to end the game.  "This was one of the toughest games we've played all year", said Dave Balmer Manager for the Burgtown Team, "These wooden BWP Bats and the Metal Wood Bats force a team to hit the ball, field the ball and throw the ball.  There's NO GIMMIES!  It's the way the game was meant to be played". 
      PA Stocks out of  Eastern, PA had fallen to WV Diamonds out of Fairmont, WV in the Saturday Nightcap, sending PA Stocks into the battle from the basement. But, PA Stocks had to sit and wait it out as the Silverbacks began one of the longest climbs towards the finals for a team since the Fall Classic began back in 1995.
      Burgtown had set the pace for playing 'hard nosed' in the first game on Sunday and seemed to be an ideal focal point made clear for Carson's Tavern, out of Scottdale, PA as well.  Of course a Hometown battle was to take place.  "Bragging Rights" were at stake as well as a last shot to make the finals.  Ron Hribal took the mound for the Silverback opening with a shaky start allowing Carson's Tavern to strike first blood in the top of the 1st.   Dave Nickelson, pitching for Carson's Tavern, was flawless until the third inning when Silverbacks shortstop, Doug Cramer, linedrived the fence at the 245 ft mark and opened the inning with a triple.  Silverbacks powerhitter, Tim Brettz, scored Cramer from third with a deep fly ball to right field.
     Carson's Tavern's 2B, Gary Muscovich posted his fifth hit in the "Classic" in the top of the eighth, scoring the go ahead run from second, but as all good stories have it... The Silverbacks rallied in the bottom of the 8th to tie the game.  Nickelson turned over the pitching duties to Rocky Younkin for Carson's Tavern, while Hribal remained glued to mound for the Silverbacks.  In the top of the tenth inning, Carson's Tavern took advantage of a pass ball and a fielding error to put runners in scoring position. A perfectly executed bunt moved the lead runner to third with 1 out.  Mike Edwards, Carson's Tavern's centerfielder, answered with a flyball out to right and scored the go ahead run again.
     Like the cat the won't die, the Silverbacks came to the plate in the bottom of the tenth.  Denny Tate opened the inning reaching first on a throwing error, but after a failed bunting attempt, Tate was stranded one first with one out.  Ron Funk, one of the Silverbacks top hitters popped up to make it 2 outs.  Down to their last out, Doug Hood worked the count to draw a walk placing the winning run on first.  Billy Brettz, Brother of Tim Brettz, took his place at the plate.  Younkin served up a beautiful rise ball but Brettz drove it to the gap.  A stand up double in the Bottom of the tenth scoring two for the win.  "Exciting? It's more than that." said Hribal "It was a thing of beauty.  Players having to let it all hang out.  Making plays behind the bag to keep you in the game and to watch a batter work the count to 3 -2 and then on the last pitch see the winning runs cross the plate... This what every player hopes to be part of... A win under the gun!"  It was a big win for the Silverbacks, but the cheering soon faded as the Silverbacks were slated to take on Burgtown in the Semi Finals.
     The Semi-Finals was in no ways a pushover for either team.  This time Billy Brettz would take the mound for the Silverbacks.  Dave Balmer's troops were fastened to taking their shot a the WV Diamonds, who where watching and waiting to defend the title once again. 
     The Silverbacks and Burgtown battled back and forth through the first three innings, with neither team gaining the upper hand. But, in the top of the third the Silverbacks took advantage of a hit and run with two on to take the first lead of the game.  Brettz seemed to have his targets locked in retiring batter in the 5th and 6th inning.  Burgtown, in the seventh inning, reverted to the old adage if you can't hit'em bunt it.  With two well placed bunts a blast, Burgtown finally cracked the stonewalls of the Silverback defense.  Another extra Inning game in the making.
    Extra Innings are the hardest things to watch as a spectator.  Teams play so much above themselves that you just hate to see one of them make a mistake.  With the game tied heading into Ninth inning, a mistake marked the end of Burgtown.  Again, it was Billy Brettz coming through that set the pace forcing an error the allowed the winning run to score. 
     In Williamsport, PA  the Little League Playoffs officials were counting pitches, but in Scottdale, PA,  the Silverbacks were counting innings.  Nineteen straight innings and still counting.  Every one thought that the Silverbacks were about to retire for the weekend as PA Stocks readied to take the field against them. It would be Scott Miller taking the mound for PA Stocks, while Edward Pirl, the 5' 2" righty was ready to answer the call.
     Inning 20 for the Silverbacks looked like they had never stopped play from the last game.  Several well placed shot gave the Silverbacks a strong foothold and a 4 - 0 score going into the top of the second inning.  Miller showed signs of struggle and after allowing a 2 run triple, Miller pulled himself from the game.  Steve Banasick entered the game to slow the silverbacks rally to a standstill.  A stand still that also sparked a rally which tied the game in the bottom of the seventh inning and again the Silverbacks found themselves playing extra innings.  Neither side would budge, although PA Stock loaded the bases in the eight and ninth innings, Billy Bretts relief efforts in the eight inning was holding up.  In the tenth inning a strike three call eluded the PA Stacks catcher allowing a runner to reach 1st base.  On the attempt to throw out the runner the ball was over thrown and the Silverbacks now had a man in scoring position.  On the very next batter, a grounder to Pitcher seemed to be out number three, but when the 1st baseman could not find the bag, the runners were safe all around.  There's nothing routine in fastpitch and even on the best days things go wrong.  With 2 outs and runners on the corner, a slow dribbler to the shortstop proved to be Murphy's law, as the ball bounced away from the 1st baseman reach.  PA Stocks gave it the good ole' college try but could not find the hole in the infield to get a runner home.  Rocky Younkin had this to say, "Banasick pitched a great game not allowing a single earned run in relief... for that matter he had only allowed two hits in relief.  And, with this type of softball, that's a huge thing.  The idea of turning back the hands of time and going back to wooden bats has completely changed this game to what it once was and a pitcher can challenge a batter again... and not have to challenge those rocket launchers call bats... A great thing."
     After 29 innings in only three games, the Silverbacks had truly earned their shot at Fairmont.   Fairmont took notes while waiting through the losers bracket with attention focused on the Silverbacks.  Fairmont opened the first inning of play with 4 bunts in a row and taking the early lead.  Ron Hribal, pitching for the Silverbacks, worked double duty, pitching out of the inning while fielding a barehanded snag on the mound to end the inning.  Greg Armon, pitching for the WV Diamonds, opened strong and tallied 9 consecutive outs holding the Silverbacks to only one hit going into the 4th inning.  The tired and worn Silverbacks were not about to go silent into the night.  In the 4th inning the Silverbacks rallied with three beautiful bunts and a blast, scoring 2 runs to cut the lead to a 5 - 2 score. 
     In the 5th inning again the Silverbacks marched around the bases to again cut the lead to a 2 run defecate.  Fairmont became a little off end in the bottom of the 6th, when the Silverbacks again mounted a charge towards the plate, but outstanding fielding from Fairmont's, Jeff Rizor in centerfield, ended the late charge chasing a sharp hit to the fence for the third out.  West Virginia shuffled the pitching staff in the bottom of the 7th to try to throw off the Silverbacks growing tempo, but a leadoff single, and a successful hit and run put players on the corners bringing the go ahead run to the plate.  It would seem that the Cinderella story was going to happen, but with the infield in Fairmont closed off the plate for out 1, then took advantage of an infield pop up. for out 2.  It wouldn't right if the story didn't have an exciting ending and wouldn't you know?  With two outs and runners in scoring position a blast off the bat sailed into the left center gap.  Rizor again went deep into the gap, full throttle and made an over the head snag to end the game.
    After 36 innings of Fastpitch Softball, the Silverbacks had found themselves as a runner up in the 11th Annual 'BWP' SW PA Fall Classic.  Tired and sore, they held their heads high.  Fairmont made claims to the prize.  Crowned Champions of the 2007 Fall Classic.  Fairmont claimed the new BWP Wood Bats for each of the players on the team, a Grand prize trophy and $200.00 travel expense money.  Rob Vasch, BWP Bats, LLC Rep was on hand to award the teams their winnings.  "This is the first time that BWP has entered into something such as this and I can see a strong future in this type of play.  We at BWP Bats are very proud to be part of such an event and look forward in making next years event even bigger."
   Jim Sovel from Metal Wood Bats  attended the event awarding each of the teams participating a new Metal Wood Bat.  "We at Metal Wood Bats have been looking for a solid way to introduce our product into the mainstream of softball... We couldn't have found a better avenue.  I can only hope that more teams become involved next year and I can assure you that Metal Wood Bats will be here.  This is the most fun that I've had all summer and what a way to end it."
     A Special Thanks to A1 Sports from Mt. Pleasant, PA., They were set up supplying teams with equipment and specialty items all weekend long.  They also supplied the awards for the top three teams in the event.  A Special Thanks to Jim Flanagan from for the helping hand and the involvement of Route 66 Klubs.  A1 Sports presented Fairmont, WV the Championship trophy, while Silverbacks from Scottdale, PA claimed the Runner- up.  PA Stocks captured the third place trophy with Joe Myers from PA Stocks claiming the Top Hitter Award and prize from Route 66 Klubs.  Joe posted over a .700 batting average for the event while claiming a Golden Glove at second base for PA Stocks.
   One last note...  There is a good possibility that the SW PA Fall Classic will be NAFA Tied in 2008, so, keep your eyes and ears open for more information.
 Steven L. Banasick