Travis Resmondo got one for the thumb, but upstart Long Haul/Miken sure made the hall of fame sponsor’s team earn it.
Scoreless after two innings and trailing by five after three, Resmondo/Specialty Tank found its swing in a decisive sixth to pull ahead and hold off No. 3 Long Haul, 30-28, in the championship game of the 41st annual Smoky Mountain Invitational last Sunday at Sandy Springs Park.
The title for the nation’s top-ranked men’s major softball team was a record fifth for Resmondo, who, at 34, became the youngest ever inductee into the United States Specialty Sports Association Hall of Fame last fall.
Resmondo sponsored teams also claimed Classic championships in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008, with this year’s title breaking a tie with late Bell Corp sponsor Woody Bell, who passed away last winter.
Long Haul did anything but make it easy for the champs. Resmondo/Specialty Tank went quietly in its first two at bats, boarding only a single base runner on a double by soon-to-be hall of fame pitcher Andy Purcell.
In the interim, Long Haul got cracking with a two-run second and an eight-run third to put the champions in a 10-5 hole after three. Brett McCollum’s grand slam in the inning had proven a serious jolt.
Half an inning later, Resmondo/Specialty Tank began to take control.
“It’s all about getting loose,” Travis Resmondo said. “You’ve just got to deal with it, and you’ve got to be patient.”
Resmondo/Specialty Tank, despite having the nation’s top two home run hitters in sluggers Jeff Wallace and Greg Connell, respectively, did it with doubles and singles. Greg Connell, B.J. Fulk, Brian Rainwater and Don DeDonatis III all reached on singles, each later coming around to score. Bobby Hughes punched his way on with a double.
“Somebody finally stepped up and got a hit and got it rolling,” Fulk said. “Hitting is contagious.”
Dennis Rulli and Wallace would both homer as Resmondo exited with a 12-10 lead after 31/2 innings. The defending champions would add five more in the fifth, followed by the big, 11-run sixth.
“One thing about the guys is if we get down, we never give up,” Connell said.
Long Haul, which had eliminated second-ranked Dan Smith/Menosse earlier in the day, chipped away in its half of the fifth and sixth, making a strong push with eight runs in its last at bat to draw close. Resmondo’s 11-run sixth had simply been too much, Long Haul manager Ted Larson said. That, along with Purcell’s’ underrated skills in the pitching circle, he said, made the difference.
“They’re a real good team,” Larson said. “They play good defense, and Andy’s the best pitcher in the game. He’s tough, real tough.
“We played good ball, and we were right there with the top two teams in the nation. We were a play or two or a hit or two away.”
Seeing Travis Resmondo pass Bell for the record was bittersweet, Connell said. He’d helped Bell Corp claim its last title two seasons ago before the team disbanded as Bell’s health deteriorated.
“He was good guy and a great sponsor,” Connell said. “I think softball was what kept him going. He was a good guy. You won’t find a better one.”