Splittin' Gaps/Edward Jones made a series of narrow escapes on its way to winning the 2012 Weed Carnevale Softball Tournament July 22 at Bel Air Park in Weed. The tournament was a fundraiser for Weed High School's baseball program
By winning the 2012 Weed Carnevale Softball Tournament, Splittin' Gaps/Edward Jones completed what they're calling the Triple Crown.
A team of players mostly from the Redding and Yreka areas, Splittin' Gaps rallied to defeat Brew Crew, 22-21, in the first extra inning of the Carnevale championship game July 22 at Bel Air Park in Weed.
Earlier this summer they won two other legs of that crown on the same field, the Jimmy Jackson and Nacho Escatel Memorial tournaments.
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Travis Brenner, better known as Hippie, slid head first across home plate in a cloud of dust to score the Carnevale winning run just ahead of a tag attempt by Brew Crew catcher Bobby Banos.
Flying around the base path faster than a spinning carnival ride, Hippie scored runs at an inflated rate throughout the weekend, as the undefeated Gaps made shrewd use of the tournament's unlimited courtesy runner rule.
Tournament director Josh Oates, Weed High School's baseball head coach, deemed Splittin' Gaps the pre-tournament favorites, but felt four of five other teams in the field had a chance to win it all.
True enough, the Gaps were on the ropes nearly every time they took the field, but nobody could finish them off.
Sons of Pitches had a chance to send the Gaps to the losers bracket early in a second round game Saturday afternoon. The Weed father-son team of Wests, Hagartys and Mosers, with help from grandfather Mike Carpine and College of the Siskiyous basketball coach Tom Powers, lost to the Gaps, 7-4. Sons of Pitches got their chance by loading the bases with nobody out, but then hit into a triple play.
The Sons also took advantage of the courtesy runner rule, replacing older generation base runners with young blood. But that wasn't enough to prevent them from making an early exit with just one win on the board.
The Banquet Boys, undefeated this summer in the Southern Siskiyou Men's Softball Association regular season, lost a late lead against Splittin' Gaps in a third round game Saturday night. The Gaps rallied to win it by the same 22-21 score.
Brew Crew, another top SSMSA team, won a pair of games before facing the Gaps in Sunday morning's winners' bracket final.
Brew Crew started fast, but again the Gaps, led by Offensive MVP Rich Henson and all-tourney picks Peter Rohrich and Mark Madron, prevailed and advanced to the championship round without a loss.
Callahan Emporium from the Scott Valley lost to Brew Crew Saturday evening then knocked off both Budweiser and Banquet Boys Sunday. Then they faced Brew Crew again with a berth in the championships awaiting the winner.
Led by all-tourney players Chai Perlman and Buck, Callahan Emporium helped its cause by turning a fifth inning triple play that went from shortstop Troy Haden to Kevin Krueger at first, then Isiah Williams at third.
Brew Crew stroked four consecutive singles during a three-run sixth inning rally to boost their lead to 17-12, but Callahan cut the lead to 17-15 going into the seventh.
Brew Crew's bats were silent in their final at-bat, and Callahan had a runner at first and the tying run at the plate with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh.
A 6-4-3 doubleplay turned by all-tourney pick Darren Reed at second base gave Brew Crew breathing room. The game ended when third baseman Blake Powers tagged out a runner trying to stretch a double into a triple.
Still two wins away from the title, Brew Crew scored four times in the first against Splittin' Gaps and built a 16-6 lead with a seven run rally in the top of the fifth, a frame that featured a home run by all-tourney outfielder Ryan Jackson.
The Gaps narrowed that divide immediately with seven runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth.
Brew Crew led 21-15 with three outs to go, but couldn't finish. The Gaps scored six in the seventh and, after Brew Crew went scoreless for a second straight inning, came to bat needing just one run to complete one final escape act.
Rohrich, Splittin' Gaps big catcher, led off with a single, and Hippie took his place on the bag.
He stayed there when Cooper Tatom hit a line drive right at Brew Crew first baseman Eric Degraffenreid for the first out.
Everybody watching could see what was coming when the next batter slugged one into the gap.
Watching from behind the backstop, Weed City Council member Ken Palfini said Hippie went from first to home in four seconds, an estimate that was only marginally hyperbolical.
By the time Banos got the ball just in front of home plate and turned to make a tag, Hippie's legs were nowhere to be found as he skidded on his belly toward the backstop.
There was a brief question as to whether or not he touched the plate, and Hippie started to plead his case. Umpire Bob Hall gave the safe call. Hippie and his Gap mates bounded into their bliss.
Later, Hippie was one of several Gap players who greeted Brew Crew's veteran pitcher Dave Schmidt, the Carnevale tournament's Defensive MVP for the second year in a row.
With word spreading that this might be Schmidt's final year, Hippie told him, "You play like you're 20 years old."
"I hope I can ball like that dude when I'm that age," said Gap shortstop Jay Martinez, who was also in the running for Defensive MVP honors.
"That's awesome," Schmidt said when he saw his name on the tournament's perpetual plaque. "I'm honored."
"He's the best," Oates said of Schmidt's skills as a fielder. "They don't get any better around here."
"It's the self-defense award," Schmidt said with a smile.
Tatom said Splittin' Gaps likes to play in mountain tournaments in the north state, and especially memorial tournaments that are benefits for a good cause.
They're planning to host their own tournament in Yreka in August in memory of Ben Foster.
No all-tourney awards were available for players on teams that finished out of the top three, but Oates said JJ Cascarina's offensive performance for the Banquet Boys was deserving of recognition. Cascarina hit 3 or 4 balls out of the park and made only four outs in four games.
Asked about Splittin' Gaps knack for winning close games, Cascarina said, "You can't make errors against them. If you make errors, they make you pay."
Oates said the number of fans and beer sales were both down significantly from a year ago, but "it was a great tournament overall... The umps are great; the players are great; I can't thank them enough. We had a last minute cancellation, but everybody was cool about it... it's nice to have a lot of local teams."
He confirmed that umpires Dale Anzo, George Whitmer and Bob Hall all donated their pay back to the Cougar baseball program.
"It's for a good cause," said Hall.
As for the tournament continuing to allow an unlimited number of courtesy runners, Oates said that could change in the future. "We may need a Hippie Rule," he said.