Wranglers hosted 39-team men's fastpitch tourney
Don’t let the lack of fanfare confuse you; men’s fastpitch softball is alive and well in Michigan.
Two weeks ago, the Schaefer & Bierlein Wranglers team hosted the 16-team Spagnuolo/Schwab Memorial Tournament in Heritage Park, making it the largest men’s fastpitch tourney in the state. The tournament took place at the same time as the Frankenmudder and Jeep Fest, making Heritage Park a busy place.
A total of 39 games were played over the long, three-day weekend, with teams from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario, Canada competing for the title. By Sunday afternoon, Mickey’s Sleds of Midland took home the hardware.
Mickey’s players Chris VanVolkenburg was named the Most Outstanding Pitcher and Dane Devereaux was selected the Most Valuable Hitter.
Three local teams, all members of the Thumb Fastpitch Softball League, also fared well. The host Wranglers were 3-2, making it to the semifinal of the 𠇊” bracket. Tiffany’s Food & Spirits went 2-3, reaching the 𠇋” bracket semifinals, and the Frankenmuth Brewery finished 1-4, making it to the 𠇌” quarterfinals.
“We were very excited to host this tournament for the 16th year, Tournament Director Dave Lach said. “Mike Spagnuolo and I ran this tournament together for the first 14 years before his untimely passing last spring. Spag was an avid softball player (including MVP pitcher of the inaugural 2002 ISC II tourney in Kitchener, Ontario), a family man, and a good friend. Whether you are a player, a coach, a family member or just a fan, we thank you for coming to Frankenmuth and enjoying competitive men’s fastpitch softball in Spag and Pete Schwab’s honor.”
During the weekend of July 21-23, the Wranglers traveled to Moline to compete in the MASA Class B State Tournament. The Wranglers finished the weekend with a 2-2 record, which was good enough for a third-place finish – an improvement from fourth place last year.
The local fastballers opened the tourney by defeating the Marshall Lightning, 3-0. Pitcher Zach Lach started off the game with 11 consecutive strikeouts. Next, S & B corked the Frankenmuth Brewery, 10-2, before falling to the eventual champions, the Michigan Snappers. They ended with a loss to the Brewery, with Brewery pitcher Jon Gwizdala tossing a no-hitter.
Four All-Tournament players came from local teams. Lach, Gwizdala, and the Brewery’s Eric Johnson for first-team choices and Tiffany’s Kyle Gnatkowski was honorable mention.
“Our area has had a reputation of producing great players and we are continuing that reputation as we move towards having a younger group of players,” Wranglers pitcher Zach Lach said.
The Wranglers and Reese A’s (this year’s Thumb league champs) came into the league at the same time, with their rosters made up of 18-22-year-old players.
“This year, I have seen a lot of new faces with Tiffany’s, young guys playing a lot of innings and improving throughout the year. Our league is in good hands. Reese, Tiff’s and ourselves have a great core of young players . . . it should be a very entertaining matchup for years to come,” Lach stated.