- Updated: July 13, 2015
Classic champs proof big-time softball no longer just power game
Bryson Baker owned the Smoky Mountain Classic this weekend. The Smash It Sports bomber won the home run derby on Thursday, the tournament home run title and most valuable player honors on Sunday. Photos by Jolanda Jansma
By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row
It’s there in last season’s year-end statistics.
Big-time softball at the Conference USSSA level has all but completed the shift from a game where power ruled to one where speed and defense play an equal, if not greater, role.
It was there in championship game of the 47th Smoky Mountain Classic on Sunday morning at Sandy Springs Park. Smash It Sports evidenced plenty of power in run-ruling Precision/Easton, 29-9, in four innings to leave Maryville with one of the game’s most prized trophies.
The champs lifted 15 home runs into a threatening sky the first two innings to open an 18-6 lead, never looking back. Home run derby champion Bryson Baker finished the afternoon as the tournament’s home run champion overall, going deep 23 times over the classic’s three days.
More telling was what Precision didn’t do the first two innings.
Smash It retired Precision up three-up, three-down the first half inning, highlighted by leftfielder Brian Wegman running down a sinking fly ball just back of the infield for the third out.
Precision pushed a pair of runs across to open its half of the second, only to see Smash It tighten the defense to allow no more in the frame, retiring three of the next five batters. Two were left stranded after a remarkable stop on a bullet-fast ground ball at second.
By the time light rain became a steady drizzle an inning later, the champs were well clear.
“We hit it when we needed to,” Baker said.
Neither Smash It nor Precision, which knocked out seven-time defending champion Resmondo earlier Sunday, have offenses built around power. It doesn’t work with the Conference USSSA national schedule.
The Smoky Mountain Classic is the only tournament on the schedule where unlimited home runs are allowed. After an imposed limit is reached in all others, every following home run is an out.
The key lies in first putting runners aboard. There, Smash It owns the game.
Resmondo’s Bubba Mack III and Lee Powers, 102 homers each, finished one-two nationally last season, with teammate Greg Connell, 97, third.
Smash It, under Laservision sponsorship last season, was certainly no weakling when it came to the long ball, with Dale Brungardt (93), Baker (90), Chris Larsen (90), Wegman (89) and Steven Lloyd (85) occupying spots six through 10. The bigger story was how well the classic’s new kings did at scoring runs.
There, Baker (302), Wegman (299) and Lloyd (257) paced a dominant club that owned eight of the top 10 spots, including the first six.
Travis Clark led Laservision and the nation with 17 triples in 2014, Luis Reyna second at 15, Lloyd fourth with 12. Paced by Wegman (67), Kevin Bazat (64) and Baker (61) in the first three spots, Laservision had eight players finish in the top 10 in doubles a year ago.
Three guesses who finished last season’s national RBI king:
Scott Kirby, Laservision, 267.