LAS VEGAS — Station Casinos/Mizuno (Las Vegas) used a torrid offensive weekend to roll through the 20-team USSSA Far West Budweiser B NIT with an undefeated 5-0 record March 31-April 1. With the win, Station Casinos earned its berth to the USSSA Mens B World Tournament in Blaine, Mich. in September.
Led by MVP Robert Martinez, Station Casinos/Mizuno averaged 34 runs a game and posted a collective team on-base percentage of .704 for the tournament. Martinez batted .962 for the weekend with four home runs and 27 RBI — and pitched the final five innings of the championship game against Ill Street/DeMarini (Arizona) — to earn his well-deserved MVP award.
Station Casinos’ toughest game of the weekend came straight out of the blocks against Plumbers and Pipefitters of Michigan in their first game of the tournament. In a game that featured six lead changes in the first four innings, Station Casinos finally pulled away with a 10-run fifth inning and rode that rally out to a 33-27 victory.
“We know the Michigan teams are always tough,” said Station Casinos manager Don Goldstein. “Larry (Quaney, co-manager) and I knew going in this wasn’t an easy draw. The lead changed every half inning until we turned a big double play in the bottom half of the fourth inning to shut them out and change the momentum of the game. We used that to get ourselves some breathing room in the next inning and took control of the game from there. But that one required maximum effort.”
The Mizuno team followed that up with a five inning, 37-5 demolition of Kopp Funds (Minnesota) and a six-inning, 41-23 run-rule win over Brown & Brown (Arizona) in subsequent games on Saturday.
“We had the Minnesota team overmatched right from the get-go,” said Goldstein. “Brown & Brown made us battle for what we got and that game was a lot closer than the final score indicates. We pulled away in the final two innings, but that game was a war for the first four innings. We ran late and didn’t get out of the park until 11 p.m., and with the daylight savings time change Saturday night it was really midnight to us. I was a bit concerned with how much energy we had spent on Saturday to get through those three games and with the guys getting enough rest for Sunday. But it worked out OK.”
In the other half of the winner’s bracket, Ill Street/DeMarini continued their impressive early season run by defeating two local Las Vegas teams — Mash, 29-7 and Big Daddy’s, 26-24. Ill St. advanced to Sunday’s undefeated game against Station Casinos by closing Saturday out with two run-rule wins over Team Alpha (Oregon), 28-12, and Team Reflex (Colorado), 32-17.
“I thought to myself, ‘Oh boy, here we go again,’” said Goldstein. “This was the third time we played Ill Street in the undefeated and championship games in three outings so far this year. We got them twice at the Gold Glove in Phoenix in February, but they got us twice at the first NIT in Lancaster two weeks ago. So this was sort of like a rubber match between us.Our guys knew we couldn’t afford to let them get us twice in a row in so short a time span and responded with a strong effort.”
In the undefeated game, Station Casinos pitcher Jeff White controlled Ill St. from the mound for the whole game as Station built up a double-digit lead in the top of the third inning and held that margin for the remainder of the game, earning a 25-13 victory.
Ill St. regrouped to defeat Drai’s, another Vegas team, in the loser’s bracket final to force a rematch with Station Casinos in the championship round. Drai’s finished third with a 6-2 record, rebounding admirably from a first-round loss.
The championship game saw Ill St. run out to a 22-16 lead after three-and-a-half innings, but a 13-run outburst by Station Casinos in the bottom of the fourth turned all of that around and staked the champions out to a 29-22 lead that would never be relinquished. In yet another hard-fought battle between the two teams, Station Casinos won by a final of 34-27.
In addition to MVP Robert Martinez, Station Casinos/Mizuno All-Tournament awards included Ronnie Salcedo (.800 obp), Dan Arevalos (.742), Curtis Horger (.758), Bart Hakeman (.677), Chris McDaniels (.688), and Tony “Rocket” Garay (.633). Dan Schneider also chipped in with a .733 on base percentage and pitcher Jeff White with a .640 obp. White also provided a strong effort from the mound.
“The offensive numbers this past weekend were way above our normal output,” said Goldstein. “Sometimes you just have to take the good when it happens and not ask any questions about it.”
Station Casinos/Mizuno runs its record out to 20-4 for the season (dating back to the Toys for Tots tournament in Palm Springs last December) with two first places and two second places in four outings.
“I’m getting a little sick of seeing Ill St. so much,” joked Goldstein. “Seriously though, the games between us so far this year have been what softball is supposed to be all about. Good, hard, clean, back-and-forth battles between two class outfits in games that have been a joy to see — win or lose. Neither team asks for any quarter and neither team gives one. We all know that any time we take the field against each other it’s going to be a tough game.
There hasn’t been one incident or any malice between the two teams yet in six hard-fought games. T’s nice to see that kind of mutual respect, brotherhood, and sportsmanship both on and off the field and it says a lot about the people involved in both programs. I tip my cap to everyone involved. The game could use a lot more of the example set by this type of player. The players on both sides are a credit to the game.”
Budweiser USSSA B NIT at Las Vegas
1. Station Casinos/Mizuno (Las Vegas) 5-0
2. Ill St./DeMarini (Phoenix) 5-2
3. Drai’s After Hours (Las Vegas) 6-2
4. Team Reflex (Aurora, CO) 4-2
5t. Brown & Brown (Phoenix) 3-2
5t. Big Daddy’s (Las Vegas) 3-2
7t. Sunnyvale Valve/Easton (Sunnyvale, CA) 2-2
7t. Bully’s (Reno)
9t. Plumbers & Pipefitters (Lansing, MI) 2-2
9t. Kopp Funds (Champlin, MN) 1-2
9t. Team Alpha (Grants Pass, OR) 1-2
9t. Classic Glass (San Jose) 1-2
13t. American Eagle (Minnesota) 1-2
13t. KVB Sidewinders (Eudora, KN) 1-2
13t. All-Pro Mortgage/EAS (Greeley, CO) 1-2
13t. Dehn’s Garden (Anoka, MN) 0-2
17t. Mash (Las Vegas) 0-2
17t. TG Auto (Las Vegas) 0-2
17t. Kelly Sports/Equity Bonds (Minnesota) 0-2
17t. Nevada Sports (Las Vegas) 0-2