It was, quite literally, an all-American effort by the Vandalia Guaranteed Air Freight fastpitch softball team last week at the ASA Men’s Major National Tournament.
Ironically, the Freight was the only team at the ‘national’ tournament with a roster featuring all United States players.
‘All of the other teams had at least one foreign player, and most had many,’ Freight manager Rich Well said.
Unfortunately, that international flavor helped keep Vandalia out of title contention, as the Freight had to settle for a 1-3 record at the prestigious 17-team event held in Stevens Point, Wis.
‘It wasn’t a bad showing for the only team with Americans only,’ Well said.
The Freight was also the only team at the tournament with an all-American pitching staff – and it was a shorthanded one at that.
‘Alan (Meinhart) was not able to go with us,’ Well said. ‘…Not good for us.’
The Freight’s lack of pitching depth showed in a pair of its losses, and the staff finished with a 6.48 earned-run average for the tournament.
Vandalia’s offense rebounded from a tough last couple of games at the ASA State Tournament, however, finishing with a cumulative .273 batting average. Its defense was also solid, turning a tournament-best five double plays.
Patsy’s of New York City went on to claim its second-straight major national title, topping the Rivershark Twins from Pennsylvania.
The world’s top-ranked team – The Farm of Madison, Wisconsin – settled for a third-place finish.
The Freight finish the season with a 13-8 record.
Madison, Wis., 14,
The Farm lived up to its ranking, roughing up the Freight in each team’s tournament-opener.
Madison banged out 12 hits in a four-inning romp, holding Vandalia to just four hits.
Jeremy Curll, JD Arnold, Bob Nagel and Jeff Swaney had a hit apiece for the Freight.
Friday’s First Game
Denmark, Wis., 3,
The Freight suffered a heartbreaking loss in their second tournament game, as Denmark broke up a 2-2 tie in the top of the seventh and held on in the bottom of the final frame.
Vandalia scored both of its runs in the fourth, as Rich Well and Nick Casey had back-to-back singles with one out before scoring with two down on a passed ball and an RBI single by Tim Hatten, respectively.
Ray Reynolds took the tough-luck loss, surrendering just one earned run on eight hits and two walks in seven innings. He struck out three and walked two.
Friday’s Second Game
Green Bay, Wis., 9
The Freight broke into the win column by edging Green Bay in a wild extra-inning slugfest.
After playing to a 6-6 tie through nine innings, Green Bay looked to have sewn up a victory with a three-run rally in the top of the ninth.
But Vandalia countered with a four-run rally, capped by a walkoff RBI single by Arnold.
Swaney started the Freight’s furious comeback by leading off the bottom of the ninth with a single. Jeff Burnam followed with a walk, and a two-run double by Randy Clampitt cut Green Bay’s lead to 9-8.
Kurt Wiegartz then plated the game-tying run with a single, advancing to second on an error by the centerfielder. He moved up to third moments later on a wild pitch before Arnold’s game-winner.
Swaney led a 14-hit Freight attack by going 3-for-5 with two RBIs, while Clampitt and Arnold had two hits and two RBIs apiece. Mike Simmons chipped in two hits in four at-bats from the leadoff spot.
Friday’s Third Game
Jacksonville, Fla., 6,
Rick Smith struck out 12 Freight batters and scattered six hits, handing the Freight a rare shutout defeat.
Nagel and Swaney each went 2-for-3, but Jacksonville was in charge from the get-go, scoring two in the first and three in the third.
They’ll Be Back
The Freight considered folding up its tents after claiming its second national title last fall, but there will be no such uncertainty this offseason.
‘We are playing next year,’ Well said.
A big part of the Freight’s decision to continue at least one more season is the fact that next year’s ASA Nationals will be held just up the road in Decatur.