TAMPA — A state championship wasn’t enough for the players on Team Flagler, the 60AA traveling softball team from Flagler County.
A national championship is, though.
Team Flagler, the competitive slow-pitch team, captured the 2014 International Senior Softball Association World Tournament of Champions Jan. 24-26, in Tampa, going undefeated in six games.
The quest to the title began in seeding games on Jan. 24. Team Flagler won its first game over Spring Ford 60s (Birdsboro, Pa.), 16-4, and its second game over the Maumee Bay Raptors (Oregon, Ohio), 21-9.
Team Flagler headed into Saturday’s play as one of the two No. 1 seeds.
In the first game on Saturday, Team Flagler cruised to a 13-6 win over the Chicago Silver Hitmen, from Secor, Ill. Tom Baker, Team Flagler’s third baseman, tallied four hits, and catcher Jim Jividen knocked in three RBIs.
The second game on Saturday was much closer, as Team Flagler faced Flip Dow Bonding (Gastonia, N.C.). Flagler jumped out to an early 10-4 lead, but Flip Dow Bonding stormed back to take a 13-12 lead.
Team Flagler rallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, though, and blanked Flip Dow Bonding in the top of the seventh to win, 15-13. Flagler was led by outfielder Tom Knott (three hits, double, triple, 2 RBIs) and pitcher Jim Zgorzelski (three hits, triple, 3 RBIs).
The final game on Saturday brought Team Flagler up against the only other undefeated team left in the bracket: HME 60s, from Alpharetta, Ga. — the team that eliminated Team Flagler in the U.S. championships back in October. This game was a slugfest with things looking poorly for Flagler, as they fell behind by seven runs entering their final at-bat.
But there was no quit.
Team Flagler sent 12 men to the plate in the top of the seventh, rallying for nine hits, including Baker’s two-out double to plate two runs and give his team a 24-23 lead. Team Flagler’s defense shut down the HME 60s in their final at-bat to finish Saturday as the lone undefeated team.
Because the tournament was double-elimination, Team Flagler would have two opportunities to beat Sun City-Hilton Head (Bluffon, S.C.) for the championship. Flagler only needed one, though, winning 28-15 in six innings.
As icing on the cake, four Team Flagler players were named to the ISSA World All Tournament 60AA Team: Baker (.619 BA, 12 RBIs), Knott (.696 BA, seven doubles, two triples, 13 RBIs), second baseman Billy Martin (.600 BA, 13 runs), and Zgorzelski (five wins, .708 BA, 11 RBIs).
Jim Ganci was named Manager of the Year. Jividen also won MVP of the tournament, with a .708 batting average, seven doubles, two triples, one HR and 17 RBIs, to go along with one win pitching and one save as a relief pitcher.
The national title capped off a successful 2013 for Team Flagler, which also won state and regional titles.