The 39th annual First Ward Falcon Club Fastpitch Softball Tournament concluded Sunday with a thrilling finish as Dempsey & Baxter-Lil MaGill's rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning to down the previously undefeated Toronto Batmen, 3-1.
Dan Bertollini led off the top of the seventh with a triple to right field and looked to be stranded as Batmen pitcher Caleb Keeshig retired the next two hitters. But Dustin Nitkiewicz worked a two-out walk and later stole second base. Then, No. 9 hitter Jordan Fargiorgio, who was down to his last strike, laced a line-drive single to center field to chase home Bertollini and Nitkiewicz with the game-tying and eventual game-winning runs.
"It was pretty exciting," Dempsey & Baxter first baseman Brian Dewey said. "We hadn't touched (Caleb Keeshig) all day and obviously we didn't have any runs and our No. 9 batter was up with (runners on) second and third and we were one strike from the tournament being over and he just crushed the ball up the middle to give us the lead. It was just a great effort on his part."
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib Snyder III
Pictured are members of Dempsey &?Baxter-Lil MaGill’s, which won the 39th annual First Ward Falcon Club Fastpitch Softball Tournament, on?Sunday, 3-1, over the Toronto Batmen, at Promenschenkel Stadium, in Dunkirk.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder III
Pictured is Dempsey & Baxter-Lil MaGill's pitcher Duane Weiler delivering a pitch during the title game of the 39th annual First Ward Falcon Club Fastpitch Softball Tournament, at Promenschenkel Stadium, in Dunkirk.
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib Snyder III
The Toronto Batmen’s Travis Jones takes a swing during the championship game of the 39th Annual First Ward?Falcon Club Fastpitch Softball Tournament.
Fargiorgio eventually scored the third run on a throwing error by the Batmen's catcher.
"The thing about this tournament is, if you make mistakes, it can cost you the game," Dewey said. "Your heart is pumping, your blood is flowing, you're into every pitch, everything matters and that's the way it is at the national tournament. So that's why we wanted to get into this tournament in the first place."
Starter Duane Weiler, who worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh, picked up the win in the circle after allowing a run on five hits. He struck out six, walked one and hit two batters.
"I think what I like the most about (Weiler's performance) was that he was just a horse," Dewey said. "He went the last 14 innings straight. He threw a shutout against the (Westerville) Capitals and he came down (to Promenschenkel Stadium) and held them to one run. He was just a horse (Sunday). He was unbelievable."
Keeshig suffered the loss, as he allowed all three runs on four hits. He struck out 11 and walked three while Gowan Stuck provided the Batmen's lone run on a double down the left-field line in the bottom of the fifth inning.
"I would say that the fact that we came in this year with three pitchers instead of two," Dewey said when asked what he thought helped his team win the title this year. "Last year, we had two fastpitch pitchers and we're a modified (softball) team, so we don't have one of our own. We came in with a couple of our friends from back east that had played with us in a couple of tournaments and that helped us a lot to spread it out.
"To be honest with you, last year some of our guys had never seen fastpitch (pitching) before," Dewey continued. "They had no idea what to expect and this year, with a year of experience, we hit it better."
It was Dempsey & Baxter's first tournament win in just its second try, having played in the tournament for the first time last year. A modified team by nature, Dempsey & Baxter will continue to prepare for the Amateur Softball Association of America national tournament, which will be held in Fond du Lac, Wis., over Labor Day weekend.
"I don't see why we wouldn't," Dewey said when asked if his team would be back next year to defend its title. "To be honest with you, as far as the atmosphere here, it's probably the only thing that rivals our national tournament. My estimation was there was a few hundred (spectators) here. The whole fence was surrounded by people and I'm estimating there were 400 or 500 people here. The atmosphere was unbelievable. And it really does help us get better for our tournaments that we go to."
Dempsey & Baxter began the day with a 7-2 win over First Ward Falcon Club I-Dunkirk Fastpitch in the pre-quarterfinals, before defeating AJ's Landscaping, 9-1, in the quarterfinals. Then, in the semifinals, Dempsey & Baxter snuck past the Westerville Capitals, 2-0.
"We had guys come through in the clutch all day long and that is a result of playing last year," Dewey said.
The Toronto Batmen, the only team to win all three of its pool-play games, defeated Erie Budweiser, 3-2, in the quarterfinals and the NY Bombers, 5-2, in the semifinals.
Erie Budweiser 7, Nappanee Merchant Express 0
Big John's 7, Miller's Dynasty 3
Dempsey & Baxter-Lil MaGill's 7, First Ward Falcon Club I-Dunkirk Fastpitch 2
NY Bombers 6, Jordan Jays 1
Toronto Batmen 3, Erie Budweiser 2
Westerville Capitals 5, Big John's 2
Dempsey & Baxter-Lil MaGill's 9, AJ's Landscaping 1
NY Bombers 8, Owen Sound U-21 Selects 2
Dempsey & Baxter-Lil MaGill's 2, Westerville 0
Toronto Batmen 5, NY Bombers 0
Dempsey & Baxter-Lil MaGill's 3, Toronto Batmen 1