Tournament of Champions, Auburndale, Florida, February 7th-9th, 2014
After over 3 months of cold and snow, Integrity Builders left for Florida the week of February 3rd to complete in the National Tournament of Champions event. This tourney is restricted to teams who captured at least one major qualifying tournament in 2013. Integrity Builders, made up of a majority of Nebraska Senior Softball players, qualified by winning tournaments in Kansas City and Colorado.
The TOC started with three seed games before bracket play began. Nebraska got off to a good start in the first two innings of game one by having the first 14 batters reach base with no outs recorded and carried a 10-2 lead into the top of the 3rd against Palm Springs, California. It was a tough battle the rest of the way with the California team coming back to record a 17-15 win.
Little did Integrity Builders know that this close contest would typify what occurred the rest of the tournament.
In the remaining two seed games, the Nebraska squad knocked off the Chiefs of Illinois by a score of 15-14 and then the Grey Geese of Florida in another nailbiter, 22-21. In both games, the Builders won the game in the bottom of the 7th inning.
Integrity was seeded 6th in the tournament due to tie breaker rules.
In the opening game of bracket play, New Mexico played tough defense and limited Nebraska to 9 runs and claimed a 12 to 9 victory sending the Builders into the loser’s bracket and must wins the rest of the way. Facing elimination, the team played Alabama in an early evening affair and bested the Bama’ boys by a score of 9 to 8 (again winning in the bottom of the 7th inning) and sending the southern boys home.
Moving to Sunday, Integrity Builders once again faced the Central Illinois Chiefs and for the 4th time in the tournament, won a game in their last at bat securing an 11-10 victory. Next up, the Silver Rays of Tampa, Florida came over and in an extra inning affair, Nebraska claimed a 14-12 win to move to the semi-finals.
Revenge is sweet and next up was the team from New Mexico who had pushed the Builders into the loser’s bracket on Saturday. In yet another tight game, and for the 5th time in the tournament, Nebraska eliminated a tough New Mexico team by a score of 11 to 10.
The Builders moved to the championship game with a dramatic series of wins and came back to face the warm weather boys from Palm Springs again. It was the 4th game of the day for Integrity and the 2nd for California. Nebraska once again jumped out to a 10-6 lead after two innings but hit a cold streak and were outhit the rest of the way in a 21-11 loss.
Integrity Builders were saluted by the fans, tournament director, and the California squad for playing tough, being a class act, and having the best fans at the tournament and took home the 2nd place award.
Chuck ‘Lou’ Cantoya, Roger Hein, and Ted Bliss were named to the all-tournament team. Cantoya posted a blistering .850 batting average for the 9 game tourney and was a unanimous choice of his teammates for the award.
California 17 Nebraska 15
Nebraska 15 Illinois 14
Nebraska 22 Florida (Grey Geese) 21
New Mexico 12 Nebraska 9
Nebraska 9 Alabama 8
Nebraska 11 Illinois 10
Nebraska 14 Florida (Silver Rays) 12
Nebraska 11 New Mexico 10
California 21 Nebraska 11
Nebraska State Championship, August 10th, 2013
Playing under the Prudential sponsored name, the 55s captured their 2nd consecutive title in the 2013 Nebraska State Championships. The team posted a perfect 4 and 0 record and the defense was stingy by allowing only 22 opponent runs (5.5 RPG) while scoring 80 runs themselves. The defense turned in 7 double plays during the day. Each of the players contributed offensively with several key hits sparking big innings. The 55s are currently riding a nine game winning streak.
Midwest National Qualifier, July 19th-21st, 2013
Executing some revenge, the 55 Integrity Builders squad bested Sports Image of Springfield, Missouri by a score of 18 to 9 in the championship game and claimed the Midwest Tourney title with a perfect 5-0 record. In 2012, the Omaha team pushed Sports Image to the ‘if’ game of the championship before falling short.
The 55s piled up 102 runs in 5 games with a team batting average over .650 Highlighting the team defensive effort was a count of 8 infield double plays and three outfield assists from the strong arms of Mike Hale and Ted Bliss.
The championship results in an automatic invitation to the Tournament of Champions event in Fort Myers, Florida in February, 2014.
Players voted Chuck Cantoya, Rod Chambers, Ted Bliss, Mike Hale, and Chuck Grubb as their tourney MVPs.
Quad Cities Classic, June 22nd-23rd, 2013
Rock Island, Illinois was hospitable but the diamonds were unfriendly to Omaha teams this past week.
The 55 Integrity Builders team lost two one-run heartbreakers to keep them away from their 3rd straight championship and will regroup before heading down to the Midwest Championships tournament in Shawnee, Kansas in mid-July.
The Chicago Prime and Central Illinois Chiefs played the NSS boys tough and managed to hang on for the slimmest of victories.
Team MVPs were Roger Hein (NSS Athletics) and Mike Hale (Des Moines). Mike hit a blistering .857 for the tournament (18 for 21).
Cornbelt Classic, June 1st-2nd, 2013
Claiming their 2nd championship of the young tournament season, Integrity Builders 55s compiled a 4-1 record culminated by a thrilling come-from-behind victory over MI Sports of Colorado in the championship tilt.
Despite putting up 10 runs in the first two innings, the team found itself in a 20 to 10 hole in the bottom of the 6th after being shut out in innings 3 through 5. However, the team put together another 5 spot to close the gap to 5 and then held MI Sports to just one run in the top of the 7th.
Needing 6 to tie, Integrity sent 10 men to the plate without an out being recorded and pushed across the winning 7th run on a sharp single to right center by Dennis Steinhauser with the bases loaded scoring Doug Finley with the winning run.
With the title, the team now qualifies for the national championship tournament to be held in Las Vegas this Fall.
Kansas City Open, April 6th-7th, 2013
Integrity Builders claimed the Championship for the 55 age division at the Kansas City Open in Shawnee, Kansas on April 6th and 7th. The team, consisting of many NSS players, compiled a 4 – 1 record and won by coming from behind with 4 runs in the bottom of the 7th inning. Rod Chambers delivered the game winning hit scoring Dennis Steinhauser.