Mike Schenk 1998 USSSA Major World Series MVP.
Team TPS won the USSSA World Series the hard way, winning five consecutive games on Sunday (Sept. 20) at Daytona Beach, Fla., including overcoming a 20-5 deficit in the finals for a 22-21 win over Sunbelt/Dan Smith. The last team to come out of the losers bracket and win the USSSA World Series was Bell Corp./Easton in 1993, and that team won five games on the final day. Sunbelt finished runner-up in a third straight Grand Slam event, while Team TPS closed out the season with two titles in a row, including the NSA World Series the weekend before in Burlington, N.C. Team TPS was the preseason No. 1 after the merger of the Ritch’s-Superior/Tri-Gems/Beloli and Shen Valley/Taylor teams from last season. Team TPS won six tournaments during the first half of the season, but a tailspin started in losses to Sunbelt and Sierra/TPS in the Minnesota Classic and the Smoky Mountain Classic the late June and early July. Team TPS suffered an 0-2 fate in the ISA, then placed third in the ASA. Sunbelt drew three blanks in a row, then managed only one run in the top of the seventh. Team TPS trailed by 21-19 going into the bottom of the seventh. John Mello got on via an error and Brad Stiles turned a single into a double. After a sac fly by Todd Martin, Jeff Wallace was intentionally walked. Rusty Bumgardner came through with an RBI single before an intentional walk to Doug Kissane. With the bases loaded, the winning run came on a walk to Doug Roberson. Bumgardner’s grand slam home run started the Team TPS comeback in the fifth inning and Dewayne Nevitt had a solo in the sixth. Nevitt had an earlier home run and MVP Mike Shenk had two HRs. Team TPS forced an extra game with a 29-19 win, jumping out to a 23-5 bulge with a 10-run top of the third. Bumgardner and Kissane had homers in the inning. Wallace had two homers and pitcher Phil Jobe one. Wallace had four hits, Martin, Bumgardner, Nevitt, Shenk, Jobe, Randell Boone and shortstop John Mello three each. Shenk at third and Kissane in left were impressive on defense throughout the tournament, while Martin from his middle infielder position and Stiles from his center field spot turned in spectacular plays in a 23-22 win over Sierra in the losers bracket finals. Bumgardner’s 375-foot-plus solo ho me run gave Team TPS a one-run lead in the top of the seventh and Sierra did not score in the bottom half of the inning. Veteran Rick Weiterman came in to pitch that inning. Then he came in to put out an 8-run fire by Sunbelt in the sixth inning of the first game of the finals. He stayed in to pitch a scoreless seventh. And guess who was pitching in the finale when Sunbelt went 0-0-0-1 over the last four innings? You guessed it, Weiterman. Wallace had three home runs and six RBI, while Shenk had two homers for five RBI in the win over Sierra. Team TPS and Sierra each finished the season with 70-17 records. Sunbelt was 59-23, Lighthouse 56-20. With a 7-0 record vs. Sunbelt, Sierra, Lighthouse and Steele’s in the final two outings, Team TPS finished 16-12 in “Big Five” competition, compared to 21-13 for Sierra, 16-18 for Sunbelt, 12-14 for Lighthouse and 11-17 for Steele’s. Team TPS was 7-5 vs. Sunbelt, 4-3 vs. Sierra, 1-2 vs. Lighthouse and 4-2 vs. Steele’s. Sierra was 4-6 vs. Sunbelt, 7-2 vs. Lighthouse and 5-1 vs. Steele’s. Lighthouse was 3-2 vs. Sunbelt and 5-4 vs. Steele’s. Steele’s was 4-3 vs. Sunbelt. Wallace managed only 2-for-11 in the first two games after coming in leading the on-base percentage at .805. He led the tournament in home runs with 10 (in nine games) and but finished with a .77601 mark, slightly behind the .77624 of Wendell Rickard of Lighthouse, who sat out this final tournament with an elbow injury. Hank Garris of Sierra won the home run trophy with 196, 10 ahead of teammate Larry Fredieu. Lighthouse’s Carl Rose, who had nine home runs in five games, topped the home run frequency chart at 2.122. Teammate Rickard, the pace-setter the last two years, was second at 2.192. Robin Higginbotham of Lighthouse was the Offensive MVP with 22-for-26 for an .846 batting average. The Defensive MVP award went to Todd Martin, who played infield and outfield for Team TPS. Lighthouse, winner of the first two legs of the Grand Slam and the winner of the 1997 USSSA World Series, suffered a stunning 30-25 upset at the hands of Brandon’s in the first round, then won three games before losing to Brandon’s again — 23-22. Lighthouse scored 11 runs in the last inning to make it close. The surprising Brandon’s team wound up fourth in the 16-team tournament. Rain played havoc. The teams had to play through the night on Friday (and Saturday). The first loss for Team TPS was inflicted by Wessel/Hague/SoJern/TPS (23-18). One of the Team TPS victims in the losers bracket was Wessel (26-20). One of the wins for Team TPS was 16-15 over Long Haul/Grover/Mizuno when Dewayne Nevitt hit a solo home run against the wind over the 375 mark. The other Team TPS wins in the losers bracket came over Brandon’s 24-17. Team TPS had to go an extra inning to turn back Reece/SportsWorld/Chip’s/TPS 29-24 in the opening round. Sunbelt had dropped Brandon’s into the losers bracket (28-7), while Wessel was knocked into the losers bracket by Sierra 30-14. Sunbelt then outlasted Sierra 35-33 in the finals of the winners bracket. Herb’s nipped Reece 10-9 in an extra inning, then was bumped by Long Haul 11-7. Steele’s managed only a 1-2 record, losing to JWM 27-19, beating Gil’s and losing to O&S 35-24. Lighthouse wins in the losers bracket came over RPM 30-12, JWM 35-26 and O&S 37-14. Brent Rodes, one of the Team TPS coaches, said, “The team showed a lot of character. Our players responded well. Our defense was outstanding. I couldn’t believe some of the plays, especially with our players being so tired.” Rodes added: “We salvaged the season. It was a great season, although not spectacular. If we had won Minnesota and Maryville and at least one of the first two Grand Slam events, it would have been a spectacular season.” Rodes pointed out that pitcher Phil Jobe and shortstop John Mello were overlooked by the all-tournament voters in the last two tournaments — the NSA and the USSSA. “They are out there doing the job for us, but they never get recognized,” he said. Wallace had two low on-base tournaments — .412 at Kettering, Md., back in May and the .522 at the USSSA World Series. His other tournaments read: .952, .960, .720, .742, .857, .793, .816, .903, .816, .762, .853, .714, .765 and .818. The home runs for Garris added up like this: 9, 21, 14, 9, 2, 13, 15, 18, 11, 13, 26, 13, 12, 8, 6, 6. The 26 came in nine games in the Smoky Mountain Classic. Garris saw his three-year-in-a-row home run derby domination come to an end as he lost an overtime tussle with Scott Elliott in the semifinal round. Last year, Garris beat Elliott in a marathon OT round. This year, Doug Kissane was the winner, outlasting Larry Carter in the semifinal round and Elliott in the final round. Wallace and Tom White, teammates along with Brett Helmer with SoJern last year, tied for the best “true” batting average — .753. Rickard was at .749, Garris .744, Jason Kendrick .736, Shenk .729, Helmer .728, J.C. Phelps .726, Rusty Bumgardner .725 and Jason Fleming .722, Rose .717, Dewayne Frizzell .713, Doug Roberson .711, Jeff Hall .710, Todd Martin and Jimmy Powers .708, Phil Jobe .703 and Chris Lashley .702, Kerry Everett and Robbie Ergle .699, Tot Powers .698, Albert Davis .695 and Dennis Mendoza .696. A 380-foot-plus home run by Larry Fredieu with the bases loaded capped a 9-run third in Sierra’s opening 25-16 win over Adams/RSH/Worth. Sierra hit four consecutive HRs in the third inning and Fredieu added a 375-foot-plus 2-runner in the next inning. Mike Rodriquez had homers in the fourth and fifth. Garris had a 3-runner in the second inning. Pitcher Paul Drilling had three homers while going 4-for-4. The Reno-based club had 11 homers. The Mississippi team cut into the final deficit with six runs in the top of the seventh. Lamar Echols, an added player from Xtreme/Hinson/Worth, had a double, triple and 3-run HR for Adams, while Chris Gambrill had a single, double and homer. Sunbelt had 10 homers in a 30-24 win over Gil’s Arizona Heat, which saved face with eight runs in the top of the seventh. Big Curt Gleaton, a recruit from Georgia, had two homers for Gil’s, while Raith Adair had a 5-for-5 game. It was 8-0 after one. Jimmy Powers had Sunbelt’s only HR in the first inning. Jeff Hall wound up 3-for-3, plus a walk. He had two homers and a triple totaling six RBI. Britt Hightower had two homers, including the first . . . and only one of the tournament . . . over the 24-foot green screen at the 400-foot mark in dead center field. The other two-thirds of Sunbelt’s Texas connection — Shane Dubose and Bobby Gilbert — combined for nine hits. Long Haul dropped Backstop/Easton 13-8, moving out to an 8-0 lead in the first three innings. Backstop scored 2 in the fourth and 6 in the fifth for a shortlived 8-0 tie, but did not score in the last two innings. A double off the 30-foot screen in left field by Tim Magner and a double off the top of the screen by pinch-hitter Jason Fleming, an added player from Chase (he played for Long Haul in 1997), plus triples by Chaun Demars and Tom Maslowski, in the Minnesota team’s last two at-bats produced five runs and the win. That big screen, which stretched over 60 feet, saved many, many home runs. Demars had two home runs, including an inside-the-parker. Rob Darhower had an IP and two other hits. Jeff Franks led off a 4-run first with a triple and little shortstop Richie Aliotti had two hits that led to runs. Melvin Mallernee connected for Backstop’s only home run. He had three hits along with David Crawley. Wessel, the USSSA Class AA champion, bombed Herb’s/KCS/TPS, the NSA AA champ, by a 29-9 score. Tom White went 5-for-5, with two home runs. Wessel had nine homers, with Howie Krause hitting two too. Tim Linson had a triple, homer and single. Pitcher Jim Burbrink had three hits, shortstop Randy Vollmer a triple and single for three RBI. Dale Sensenig, Chris Lashley and Mike Much homered in succession. Jon Meyers, Ed Starcher and Danny Zenovka had homers for Herb’s. JWM’s upset of Steele’s saw a 9-run top of the third open up a 16-9 lead. Andy Alvis had a 3-runner, Larry Carter a 2-runner. Carter finished with three homers, Alvis and Brian Greer two each. Carter and Tim Jones each had five hits, Ed Martin, shortstop Brian King and pitcher Bill Messina four each for the California team. Steele’s, which did not score in the last two innings, had Rod Hughes go 4-for-4 with three homers. Big Randy Kortokrax had four hits, including a homer, while Jim Devine had a double, triple and homer. Minnesota’s O&S/TPS trailed California’s RPM/TPS most of the game before scoring six in the sixth on homers by Doug Berfeldt and Derrick Williams. Then when RPM did not score in the top of the seventh when Chad Prybil made a nice catch against the wall, O&S won it 14-13 on a 375-foot homer by Scott Logan, who started the season with Herb’s. Berfeldt had another homer. R.J. Olson and John Whaley also homered. Veteran pitcher Gary Yost had three singles. RPM did not have a home run. Team TPS scored 10 runs (on only one home run) in the top of the first, but Reece had an 8-run second on homers by Steve Dickey and Keith Brady. Big Ron Wilson had a 3-runner in the first. Team TPS had a 1-1-2 stretch and Derek Oliver had a 3-runner and a 2-runner, and it was 24-24 when Brady homered again in the seventh. Team TPS had a 1-2-3 top half of the inning, but big Rusty Bumgardner capped a 5-run top of the eighth with a home run to win it 29-24. Team TPS managed only four homers, including two by Todd Martin, who was 5-for-6. Brad Stiles had two triples, a double and two singles. Mike Shenk had four hits, including a 2-run triple in a 6-run sixth. Pitcher Phil Jobe had three hits, plus 2 walks. Veteran shortstop Larry Sauceman had four hits, plus a walk, for Reece. Brady and Kinny Hooper each had four hits. One of Hooper’s was a homer. Oliver added a double off the top of the screen to his two homers for a total of seven RBI. Brady had six RBI. Brandon’s stunned Lighthouse with a 12-run second and when Lighthouse did not answer the scoreboard read: 16-2. Seven of the 12 runs came after two outs, and all but three were unearned. Chris Graves had a 3-runner and Eddie Foust a 2-runner. And Jerold Smith was robbed of a homer by Robin Higginbotham. Jerold’s twin brother, Jeff, played for Herb’s; one bats righthanded and throws lefthanded, the other bats lefty and throws righty. Smith made a nice play at first to help curtail a 13-run Lighthouse uprising in the fifth inning. That pulled Lighthouse within 29-22, but the No. 1 team coming into the final event of the season drew a blank in the seventh and ended up on the short end of a 30-25 score. Little Chris Beck had a 5-for-5 game for Brandon’s, which was ranked 22nd before jumping to 15th with a tie for fifth in the NSA. Chris Absher also went 5-for-5, including three triples and an inside-the-park homer. Foust had four hits, including another homer that capped a seven-run top of the fifth for a mind-boggling (Lighthouse’s) 27-9 command. Brandon’s totaled a whopping eight triples. Beck, Slim Bryant, pitcher Andy Cook, Keith Roberts and Smith each added one to Absher’s three. Lighthouse hit 10 homers, including three by Carl Rose and two each by Dewayne Frizzell and Higginbotham. New grandfather Ricky Huggins had five hits. Frizzell also had five hits, two of them triples. The second round saw JWM succumb to Sunbelt 21-12, Long Haul roll over for Sierra 17-3, Wessel surprise Team TPS and Brandon’s keep on charging . . . past O&S 33-12. Sunbelt hit for 11 runs in the top of the first as Jimmy Powers had two homers for five RBI and owned a 17-1 margin after three and a half innings. Pitcher Greg Harding had a 6-for-6 game, including a home run. Bobby Gilbert had four hits, giving him eight in two games. JWM did not have a homer. It was 5-2 after four innings before Sierra scored fifth in the fifth and seven in the seventh. Mike Rodriguez had the only HR of the game. Hank Garris had a 1-for-5 game. Ron Parnell, who went on to top the 100 mark in World Series hits, had three hits along with Jason Kendrick and pitcher Paul Drilling. Long Haul had nine hits, with Jeff Franks accounting for three of them. Wessel’s upset of Team TPS saw the Ohio outfit explode for nine runs in the top of the third for a 13-0 lead. It was 16-5, 21-7. Team TPS scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh to get within 23-18. Tim Linson went 5-for-5, including a 2-run HR in the top of the seventh for a 23-13 margin. Dale Sensenig had two doubles, a triple and two walks. Mike Much had two homers, Tom White and Chris Lashley one each. Lashley’s was a 3-run in the 9-run third. Brett Helmer had four hits, including three doubles. Pitcher Jim Burbrink made a dandy play in the seventh. So did Joe Foley, who made a grab after a long run. Veteran Doug Roberson’s had two of the four TPS HRs. Brandon’s broke loose for eight runs after an O&S zip in the top of the first. The North Carolina club did not have a home run, but there were three triples — by Eddie Foust, Chris Calcutt and Slim Bryant. In fact, Brandon’s only home run was a 375-foot-plus 3-runner by Foust in the bottom of the sixth. Chris Calcutt had five hits and his brother, Randy, had two hits and two walks. Chris Graves had four hits. So did Tracy Logan, Bryant and pitcher Andy Cook. However, Brandon’s came back to earth against Sunbelt in one of the winners bracket semifinals. Sunbelt led 6-0 after one, 14-2 after four and 17-3 after five en route to a 28-7 rout. Brandon’s bright spot was a diving grab by left fielder Keith Roberts when Sunbelt failed to score in the third. Sunbelt had eight homers (Jimmy Powers, Greg Harding, Britt Hightower, Hightower again, JP again, Johnny McCraw and Jeff Hall) and two triples (Hall, Harding). Bobby Gilbert had four hits, giving up 13 in three games. Harding had two more hits, plus a walk. Brandon’s had three triples (by Chris Calcutt, Chris Graves and Tracy Logan) in one inning — a 4-run sixth. The other semifinal saw a runaway too — Sierra 30-14 over Wessel. A 12-run bottom of the sixth made it 30-11. Sierra had five homers (Mark Creson, Kerry Everett, Hank Garris, Greg Cannedy and Creson again . . . a slammer in the big sixth) and four triples (Garris, Everett and two by Dale Walters). Creson, Jason Kendrick and Everett each had four hits. Howie Krause homered three times for Wessel. Brett Helmer had four hits, including a homer. Sierra scored 10 runs in the first, 5 in the second and 11 in the third, but mustered only 8 runs in the last four innings. Sunbelt turned a 30-18 deficit into a 35-33 win. Sunbelt scored 10 runs in the fifth and seven in the bottom of the sixth for a 35-32 lead. Sunbelt sizzled with 12 homers, including two IPs, and six triples. Tot Powers socked four homers, Greg Harding three and Shane Dubose two. Harding, Jimmy Powers and Johnny McCraw each had five hits, Jeff Hall and Dubose four each. JP had two triples, Hall, McCraw, Bobby Gilbert and Curtis Williams one each. Britt Hightower and Todd Volkers had the inside HRs. For Sierra, Larry Fredieu was 6-for-6 with a double, triple and two homers. Jason Kendrick had five hits, including a double, triple, IP homer and 3-run homer. Hank Garris had four hits, including 2 HRs, and Mark Creson had four hits, including a long homer. The slender, swift Creson, who catches everything in the middle of a 3-man outfield, had a string of eight consecutive extra base hits, including three homers. Backstop opened losers bracket play with a 28-8 drubbing of Adams. It was 15-7 until Backstop broke loose for 13 runs in the top of the seventh. Judson Jackson had the only home run for Backstop. Kenny Pruitt, an added player from Xtreme, had an inside-the-parker. Jackson had four hits, Pruitt three. Chris Gambrill homered twice for Adams. Lighthouse had an easy time with RPM . . . after it was 12-12 after three. The final score: 30-12. Higginbotham, moved to the leadoff spot, went 6-for-6, including two doubles, two triples and a homer. Carl Rose and Scott Elliott each had two homers. Dennis Mendoza had five hits, Scott Striebel four. Rose and Dewayne Frizzell also had four hits. Playing manager Tim Millette had four hits for RPM. Bob Newman had two homers for five RBI. Herb’s 10-9 win over Reece came on Jeff Smith’s 2-run double in the bottom of the eighth. Jon Meyers had led off with a two-bagger. A leadoff home run by Ron Wilson gave Reece a shortlived lead in the top of the eighth. The teams combined for two runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Smith had two homers for Herb’s, Steve Ellis two for Reece. Steele’s sent Gil’s home in a 23-20 game that was decided by shortstop Dal Beggs’ bases-loaded home run with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Jim Devine, Rod Hughes, Jason McRae, Randy Kortokrax and Dennis Pierce homered earlier, while McRae homered again in the bottom of the seventh. David Hood had four hits. Steele’s had to play without center fielder Rob Schleede, who went out with a bad back. Big Curt Gleaton had four homers and nine RBI for Gil’s. He had six homers in his team’s two games. Ruben Gonzales, an added player from Hendu’s, had four hits. Herb’s meager scoring continued vs. Long Haul. Herb’s went scoreless over the first four innings, giving the California club three runs over an 8-inning stretch. Long Haul won 11-7 as Doug Johnson and Chaun Demars homered and Butch Smith had an IP. Jeff Franks again had three hits. George Sampson’s 375-foot-plus HR was Herb’s only thing to cheer about. Lighthouse piled up a 15-3 lead lead in the first four innings, then had to keep scoring as JWM came alive with 23 runs in the last three innings. The final score was 35-26 as Lighthouse scored 11 runs in the bottom of the sixth only to see JWM score 10 in the top of the seventh. Higginbotham, Rose, Striebel, Albert Davis and Robbie Ergle each had four hits for the LH crew. Rose failed to homer. Higginbotham had a double, triple and homer. Frizzell, Ergle, Huggins, Steve Craven and Kirk Stafford homered. Stafford’s was a grand slam in the sixth. Carter and Ed Martin homered for JWM. Little Dennis Rulli had five hits. So did big Andy Alvis. Shortstop Brian King had four. This game ended at 7:35 a.m. The regularly scheduled program was to start at 8. O&S pulled the other surprise on Steele’s, scoring nine runs in the top of the fourth for a 27-6 bulge. R.J. Olson’s 3-runner was the big blow. In fact, it was his second 3-runner of the game. Scott Brown and Lance Peterson earlier homered, and Tdd Lindgren had an IP. Final: 35-24. Peterson had another homer, Brown another also (this one inside the park). Lindgren had four hits, plus two walks; Peterson, Scott Logan and Derrick Williams four hits each, plus a walk. Rod Hughes doubled, tripled and homered for Steele’s. Jim Devine had four hits, including a triple. Jason McRae had three hits, including a long drive to right center that the speedy former linebacker turned into an easy inside-the-parker. Billy Byrd, who sat out most of the season with a knee injury, had a triple and a long homer. Pierce, Hood and Jeff Ott also homered. Team TPS jumped out 8-0, but slowed down and had to have another 8-run inning for a 20-6 lead after four and a half innings vs. Backstop. A 9-run top of the seventh led to the final of 35-12. Todd Martin, Rusty Bumgardner, Doug Kissane, Dewayne Nevitt and Mike Shenk each had four hits, with Martin getting an IP, Bumgardner a homer and two triples, one off the 375 mark in center, Kissane a homer and Shenk two. Jeff Wallace also had two homers. Judson Jackson and David Burch, the two former W.W. Gay players from Florida, each had two homers for the Indiana-based team. Lighthouse hit O&S for 15 runs in the first inning on four home runs, including a pair of 2-runners by Dewayne Frizzell. Higginbotham had a double and 3-run HR in the inning, Rose two doubles, Scott Elliott two hits, Albert Davis a triple and walk and Dennis Mendoza a single and walk. Huggins had a homer and Kirk Stafford a triple. Higginbotham went 5-for-5, plus a walk; Rose 6-for-6, including a slammer in the sixth. Frizzell added three hits to his two HRs. Lance Peterson had all three of the O&S homers. Long Haul was down 7-0 after one vs. Team TPS, but Team TPS went 0-3-0 and Long Haul edged back 4-1-5-4 for a 14-13 lead in the top of the sixth. Jason Fleming had two homers and a single and John Keigley and Jeff Franks had inside-the-park homers. Franks added two more hits and Chaun Demars had a homer and double. Rob Darhower had three hits, including a triple. Long Haul gained a 15-15 tie on pinch-hit double by Mike Brodzinski and an opposite field triple by Butch Smith in the top of the seventh . . . but Team TPS won it on Nevitt’s awesome homer. The inning before Wallace and Bumgardner had back-to-back homers. Randell Boone had two HRs, plus a single. Nevitt had two other hits, plus a walk. Chris Graves had a single, triple and homer, Jerold Smith a double and homer and Eddie Foust a single, double and triple in Brandon’s 23-22 elimination of Lighthouse. Andy Cook added a triple, while Chris Calcutt, Tracy Logan and Keith Roberts three hits each as 10-5 after two, 18-10 after five and 23-11 going into the top of the seventh. Rose had four hits, including three homers, and Frizzell had three homers for Lighthouse. Higginbotham continued his hot tournament with 3-for-4, including a homer. Wessel had an 8-0 lead after one and half innings vs. Team TPS as Brett Helmer homered twice and Howie Krause and Tim Linson once each. Linson wound up with four hits. But Team TPS exploded for 12 runs on four homers in the bottom of the second. Doug Roberson had a solo and 3-runner. Doug Kissane and Dewayne Nevitt each had two hits, including a homer, in the inning. Roberson had four hits, including another homer, and Nevitt had four hits, including two doubles and a triple. Mike Shenk had a double, triple and homer and John Mello a single, triple and homer. Kissane added another homer, single and walk. A 2-runner by Todd Martin gave Team TPS a 26-20 lead in the bottom of the sixth, and it stayed that way when Wessel drew a blank in the top of the seventh. Team TPS built up an 18-9 lead in the first five innings vs. Brandon’s, then made it 22-12 in the sixth. Team TPS had eight homers. Wallace had two, including a grand slam, plus a triple, while Kissane had two homers and a double and Shenk two homers and two singles. Nevitt was 4-for-4, including a triple and homer. Jobe had a triple and two doubles and Roberson a homer and double. Andy Cook homered for Brandon’s, while Chris Calcutt and Chris Graves had back-to-back IPs. Calcutt, Keith Roberts, Chris Absher and Gene Lewis each had three hits as Brandon’s cut the final deficit to 24-17. The 23-22 Team TPS elimination of Sierra, producing a 4-3 season edge, saw three homers by Wallace, two by Shenk and one each by Martin, Boone and Jobe before Bumgardner’s long tie-breaker leading off the top of the seventh. Sierra had a 6-3 lead after one. Dale Walters, Mike Rodriguez and Mark Creson homered in the first, Hank Garris in the second, Darrell Beeler in the fourth and Jason Kendrick (IP) and Garris in the sixth. But Sierra drew a blank in the bottom of the seventh . . . after a leadoff walk. Creson was robbed of a hit with two on in the fourth and Parnell was robbed of an extra base hit with the bases loaded in the fifth. The catches were made by middle infielder Todd Martin and center fielder Brad Stiles. The 29-19 Team TPS win over Sunbelt in the first game of the finals saw Team TPS jump out 11-1 in the first inning and a half and led 23-5 after 12 runs in the top of the third. Wallace, Bumgardner and Kissane had the only homers. Wallace and Bumgardner each had two other hits, while Roberson, Nevitt, Shenk, Mello, Stiles, Boone, Jobe and Martin each had two hits. Jobe and Martin had triples. Wallace added another homer. Jobe also homered. Sunbelt had an 8-run sixth to get back within 27-19, but went scoreless in the seventh. Each team drew a blank midway in the game. Hall and McCraw each had two homers for Sunbelt, while McCraw had two other hits. But Sunbelt managed only one more homer (by Harding). Team TPS had seven homers in the finale, including two long ones by Nevitt over the left center field wall. “One of them must have gone 475 feet,” pointed out Rodes. Shenk had two, one over the 375 mark and another inside the park. Martin, Bumgardner (a long slammer) and Kissane (another over the 375 mark) had the other homers. Martin added a triple with two on and Wallace, who was walked twice, had a 3-run double up on the screen. He finished one behind Rose in the RBI department (28-27). Sunbelt had only three homers, and one of them was an IP by Curtis Williams. Still, Sunbelt was enjoying a stunning 20-5 lead going into the bottom of the third. That’s went Sunbelt drew three successive blanks, with the lead melting to 20-11, 20-14, 20-18. Shenk’s diving grab of a hot line drive off the bat of Harding was the big play. Hightower singled and scored all the way from first in the top of the seventh for a 21-19 lead. He earlier made a diving grab after a long run to the left field corner against the left-handed hitting Weiterman. Sunbelt built its big lead on the strength of two hits each by Hall, JP, Harding (one a triple), TP (one a 3-run HR) and Dubose. Gilbert had a homer and walk. Steve Toth had a triple. The 43-year-old Williams had two singles before his IP. He batted .560 after batting well over .600 when Sunbelt was runner-up to Team TPS in the NSA. Team TPS had 59 homers in nine games. Following Wallace’s 10 was Shenk with nine, Kissane with eight, Martin with seven and Roberson and Bumgardner with six each. While Shenk was the team’s leading hitter for average at .684, Nevitt was at .649 and Bumgardner at .600. Stiles had 11 doubles, Nevitt 10. Stiles was fourth on the batting list at .581, followed by Martin at .579, Jobe at .552 and Roberson and Kissane each at .550. Sunbelt had 42 homers in six games. Lighthouse had the best batting average (.640) and 37 homers in five games. Sierra had 32 homers in five games. Lighthouse had 49 doubles, 14 triples (including 4 by Higginbotham; he also had 6 homers). The surprising Brandon’s team had 35 doubles, 19 triples. Team TPS had 75 doubles, 20 triples.