by Van Galeon, Contributing Writer

MANSFIELD, TX – Ten teams from across the Lone Star State reached the pinnacle of Texas softball by winning the ring that is coveted by all – the Lone Star Shootout Series Championship Ring.

The champions were Dirty Vegas/Marco from Beaumont in Men’s C; Hooliganz from Houston in Men’s D; BroSox/ArkFabrications in Men’s E; Powerhouse Sportz from San Antonio in Men’s 40 & Over; Texas Sports/Armor Gel/Mizuno from Spring in Women’s A/B; Texas Elite from League City in Women’s C; NTX Crush from Dallas in Women’s D; Too Live Crew from Houston in Mixed B/C and Amigos De Tu Mama from McAllen in Mixed D/E. Even a team from Oklahoma made it to the top of the podium, as Insidious from Tulsa won Men’s B.

The old saying goes, “Everything’s Bigger in Texas” and that certainly applies to the adult slow-pitch softball world. Last year, there were more USSSA teams registered in Texas than any other state. Texas USSSA registered 4,257 teams in 2017 which was almost 1,200 more teams than runnerup Michigan with 3,084. Rounding out the top five states were New York at 2,652, California at 1,617 and New Mexico at 1,392.

The Lone Star Shootout State Championship Series debuted in the year 2000 and is the premier adult slow-pitch softball program in Texas. Qualifiers began in early January and were held in every corner of the state on a weekly basis, culminating with the Grand Championship Battle For The Rings in late July.

Each tournament of the Lone Star Shootout Series is designated a Ring Qualifier, with the first place team receiving an Automatic Berth to the Battle For The Rings. The format enables teams from remote areas of Texas, even other states, to earn a trip to the Battle For The Rings without having to rely on qualifying at one of the State Finals. At-Large Berths are naturally hoarded by teams from Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio where it is much easier for them to play in multiple Qualifiers and thus accumulate more Lone Star Points.

There were plenty of At-Large Berths awarded this year to teams who did not win an Automatic Berth at one of the Ring Qualifiers or the North Texas State Finals (Mansfield), South Texas State Finals (League City), Southwest State Finals (San Antonio), Budweiser Softball Festival (Bryan-College Station) or North Texas Budfest (Mansfield). The end result was the turnout at the Battle For The Rings being larger and much more diverse. There were even qualified entries from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

In true Texas tradition, huge Super Bowl-style rings were awarded to members of the championship teams in each division. The piece features a prominent star surrounded by replica diamonds on the face of the gaudy ring. While some say it resembles the star on the side of the helmet of a popular pro football team in Dallas, it actually signifies the lone “Star” of the Lone Star Shootout Series.

The 2018 Lone Star Shootout “Battle For The Rings” was held over two weekends – July 21-22 and July 28-29 – at Big League Dreams in Mansfield, Texas which is located between Dallas and Fort Worth and has been named USSSA National Complex of the Year. The modern eight-field complex was selected due to its large number of fields and FieldTurf playing surfaces, which virtually eliminate weather-related issues that have plagued parts of Texas this year.

On the opening weekend, Men’s B, Men’s C, Men’s D and Mixed divisions were played, while Men’s E and Women’s A/B, Women’s C, Women’s D and Men’s Seniors were held on the second weekend. A record 221 teams played in this year’s tournament, breaking the previous record of 218 set last year.

Men’s C Champions Dirty Vegas (Beaumont, TX)
Men’s C Runnerups Whut It Dew (Austin, TX)

The Men’s C division featured the 27 best teams from Texas plus two from Oklahoma and one from Louisiana. Dirty Vegas/Marco from went 6-0 to claim the crown in Mansfield. They defeated Bayside Quack Attack (7-0), Famous/A3AS from DeSoto (24-7), Player Haters from Dallas (21-8), Big Apple/NYPD from Ft. Worth (20-11) and All Day/ESP Family from Dallas (25-11) to advance to the championship game, where they beat Whut It Dew from Austin (13-11) to win the Rings.

Whut It Dew came in as one of the favorites, having won 1st place in three tournaments this year, including the huge Budweiser Softball Festival. But they lost their second game to All-Day/ESP Family then had to battle all the way back through the loser’s bracket before settling for 2nd place with an 8-2 record. All-Day/ESP finished in 3rd place at 4-2, NTX Brewcrew from Weatherdord finished 4th at 4-2, while Big Apple/NYPD and Hittin’ Bottom from Longview tied for 5th both at 3-2.

The rest of the Top 10 included Player Haters and Maniacs from Houston, tied for 7th place, and Entourage/Kade Luke Insurance from Raceland, La., Oilers/Allstate/Mojo/Southern Barrels from Beaumont, GameOver/FindMyCompany from Austin and C.P.S. from LaPorte, all tied for 9th.

Jaime Rohlmeier of Dirty Vegas was named Most Valuable Player of the Men’s C Division, while the Gold Glove Award went to Clayton Masters of Whut It Dew. Other players named to the All-Tournament team were Brandon Cervenka, Coby Schumaker, Mike Martinez and Landon Wilkinson, of Dirty Vegas; Greg Perez, Brandon Cortez and Eric Queery, of Whut It Dew; Dennis Kelly, Brett Kelly and Brett Acosta, of All-Day/ESP; Taylor Carter, Nick Ludwig and Ryan Brosnan, of NTX Brewcrew; Ty Herrick, of Hittin’ Bottom; and Ryan Tomasi, of Big Apple/NYPD.

One of the most competitive divisions in the tournament was the 50-team Men’s D bracket, where multiple teams had garnered 1st place finishes at big tournaments during the regular season. 8th Wonder won the Budweiser Festival, Fully Loaded won NTX Budfest, Lonestar Twins won North vs. South, Bad Apples won NTX State Finals, and Plan B won 4 titles including the Stockyards Shootout.

Men’s D Champions Hooliganz (Houston, TX)
Men’s D Runnerups Hard Luck (Corpus Christi, TX)

But it was the Hooliganz from Houston who saved their best for last. The scrappy bunch had won 1st at the Ryan Harvery Shootout back in early February, then went 7-2 to take 3rd at the Budweiser Festival. They were runner-ups at the Last Chance Shootout, then won 1st at the Lone Star STX State Finals. A month later, Hooliganz went 6-0 to take the crown at Battle For The Rings.

Hooliganz defeated Tacabron/Cowtown Express from Grand Prairie (17-12), Team Ill from Houston (15-14), Thundercats Gang Reloaded from League City (21-10), Lonestar Twins from Corpus Christi (15-14) and H-Town Knockers (25-0) to advance to the championship. That’s where they met Hard Luck from Corpus Christi, who rallied from a quarter-final loss to Chunk Deuce to make it all the way back to the championship game. But Hard Luck ran out of gas and the Hooliganz took the title (12-2).

Hard Luck settled for 2nd place with a 7-2 record; H-Town Knockers finished 3rd at 4-2; Chunk Deuce from San Marcos was 4th at 5-2; and Lonestar Twins and What Bout Us from LaVernia tied for 5th. The rest of the Top 10 consisted of Team Run It/GMB from Houston and 8th Wonder/BaaBaaBrew/The Company from Richmond tied for 7th place; and The Select Few from Galveston, Money City Mallards from Austin, STX Disciples/Team Tayden from Katy and Thundercat Gang Reloaded, all tied for 9th.

Javier Gutierrz of the Hooligans was named Most Valuable Player of the Men’s D Division, while Jalen Longoria of Hard Luck was the Gold Glove winner. Others named to the All-Tournament team were Chris Camp, Jordan Nolan, Kyle Kubasik and Santos Saldivar, of the Hooliganz; Roland Resendez, Devin Benes and Kevin Darilek, of Hard Luck; Carson Erwin, Tim Emery and Geoffrey Brocato, of H-Town Knockers; Segio Marques, Dillon Sanderson and Francisco Casarez, of Chunk Deuce; Matt Ortega of What Bout Us; and James Rodriguez, of Lonestar Twins.

The smallest division of the opening weekend was Men’s B. A couple of Conference USSSA teams were exhausted and saving themselves for the stretch run there so they sat out, while some of the in-state B teams folded due to lack of success during the year. But there were still five outstanding teams to compete for the crown at Rings.

Men’s B Champions Insidious (Tulsa, OK)
Men’s B Runnerups Wood Law (Dallas, TX)

Insidious/BSA/Lasting Impressions went undefeated at 4-0 to take the Rings back across the Red River to Oklahoma. Insidious defeated NTX Brewcrew from Weatherford (17-12), Wood Law from Dallas (20-11) and GVMS/Old School/Steel/24-7 from Houston (30-11) to advance to the championship game, where they beat Wood Law again (18-16) to win the title. Wood Law took 2nd place with a 4-2 record, GVMS/Old School came in 3rd, NTX Brewcrew finished 4th and C&R Express/Dudley from Mesquite took 5th.

Insidious pitcher Chris Lopez was named Most Valuable Player of the Men’s B bracket, while Taylor Albrecht of Wood Law was the Gold Glove winner. Other players named to the All-Tournament team were Tyler Ervine, Cody Roton, Ross Borkowski and Brad Nolen, of Insidious; Gabriel Garcia, Nick Dotson and Jason White, of Wood Law; Aaron Neal, Kyle Tomlinson and Dalton Cross, of GVMS/Old School; and Ross Blondin, Zachary Cavanaugh and Wade Hath, of NTX Brewcrew.

Mixed B/C Champions Too Live Crew/VSP (Houston, TX)
Mixed B/C Runnerups Tha Outsiderz (Sugarland, TX)

The other two divisions held on the first weekend of Battle For The Rings were Mixed B/C and Mixed D/E. In Mixed Upper, there were 16 teams and Too Live Crew/VSP from Baytown went undefeated at 5-0 to win the Rings for the second year in a row. Too Live Crew defeated previous two-time champion Coed Connection from San Antonio (5-4), R3/3Xtreme Sports from Van Alstyne (17-11), DreamCrushersSteelSports from Abilene (9-8) and Tha Outsiderz from Sugar Land (9-8) to advance to the championship game, where they beat Tha Outsiderz again (14-11).

Tha Outsiderz settled for 2nd place with a 4-2 record, R3/3Xtreme came in 3rd with a 5-2 slate, DreamCrushers was 4th at 3-2, and Team Quince from San Antonio and Escobar Body Shop from Carrollton tied for 5th. The rest of the Top 10 consisted of New Era from Red Oak and GTX-Hustle from Galveston tied for 7th, and Coed Connection, LaOnda from San Antonio, The B Team from Arlington and U2/UH Family/OSS from LaFeria all tied for 9th.

James Wooster of Too Live Crew was named Most Valuable Player of Mixed B/C, while Larry Juarez of Tha Outsiderz was the Gold Glove winner. Other players named to the All-Tournament team were Alexis Joseph, Joe Brown, Ethan Maresh and Ricky Demann, of Too Live Crew; Arizabeth Ruvalcaba, Cat Ansbach and Salvador Rios, of Tha Outsiderz; Amanda Reyna, Caleb Escobedo and Johnny Valle, of R3/3Xtreme; Peter Traveras, Branden Mermella and Maria McGee, of DreamCrushers; Megan Pulido of Team Quince; and Diana Pirada, of Escobar Body Shop.

Mixed D Champions Amigos De Tu Mama (McAllen, TX)
Mixed D Runnerups Slap Pitches (San Antonio, TX)

There were also 16 team in Mixed Lower and Amigos De Tu Mama of McAllen made the long trip from the Rio Grande Valley and went undefeated at 5-0 to claim the championship. ADTM defeated Faith Ain’t No Joke from Dallas (11-4), Facebook Famous from Temple (24-6), Slap Pitches from San Antonio (13-9) and Stay Flipp’n from Lajitas (15-2) to advance to the championship game, where they beat Slap Pitches again (13-6) to take the title.

Slap Pitches came in 2nd place with a 5-2 record, followed by Stay Flipp’n in 3rd at 3-2, Texas Twisted from Hill Country in 4th at 4-3, and PhatCat from Round Rock and Faith Ain’t No Joke tied for 5th. The rest of the Top 10 consisted of Overlooked from Stafford and H4B from Stockdale tied for 7th, and X4 from D-FW, New Era from Irving, Stixs$chicks from Houston and Facebook Famous, all tied for 9th.

Rosalio Rosales of Amigos De Tu Mama was named Most Valuable Player of the Mixed D/E division, Aerica Verble of Slap Pitches was the Gold Glove winner. Other players named to the All-Tournament team were Mauricio Garcia, Sage Martinez, Noe Calvillo and Francisco Martinez, of ADTM; Matthew Blackwell, Jesse Soto and Sarah Soto, of Slap Pitches; Jordan Lirette, Jonathon Lord and Candy Lopez, of Stay Flipp’n; Tu-car Speller, Abby Prinz and Johnny Cardenas, of Texas Twisted; Layton Dworaczyk of PhatCat; and Lacy Fenn of Faith Ain’t No Joke.

Men’s E Champions BroSox/ArkFabrications (Burleson, TX)
Men’s E Runnerups CTX Cash/Berserk Athletics (Austin, TX)

The second weekend of Battle For The Rings included the largest division of the tournament, which was Men’s E with 64 teams. In the top half of the bracket, BroSox/ArkFabrications from Burleson defeated Country Boyz from El Campo (12-3), 3U3D from Brownwood (8-4), No Clue from Missouri City (14-3), Manac USA from Alvin (15-11) and MoneyBall from Waller (13-12) to advance to the finals of the winner’s bracket.

On the other half of the bracket, CTX Cash/Berserk Athletics from Austin defeated T.A.P.S. from Houston (9-2), Peloteros from Houston (10-5), New Blood from Cypress (13-10), Black Ops from Tomball (12-4) and Home Grown from Waxahachie (14-9) to also make the King Seat game.

In the all-important winner’s bracket finals, BroSox blasted CTX Cash (21-7) to advance to the championship game. CTX Cash dropped to the lower’s bracket and eliminated Home Grown (16-2) to get another shot at BroSox in the title game. It was a back-and-forth contest before BroSox held on to take the Rings with a narrow victory (16-15).

BroSox finished the tournament with a perfect 7-0 record, while CTX Cash was the runnerup at 6-2. Home Grown, who started the year slow before a late-season run of success, was an impressive 3rd at 6-2, followed by MoneyBall in 4th at 5-2, and Manac USA and Pistoleros from San Antonio tied for 5th at 7-2 and 5-2 respectively.

North Texas Illusion/BRA from North Richland Hills and Wackos from Victoria tied for 7th place at 6-2 and 5-2, while Team Controversy from Dallas, Throwdown/TM from Dallas, Texas 2 Step from Hurst and Black Ops all tied for 9th. Others finishing strong were SmasHers/GSG from San Antonio, FTP from Killeen, No Clue from Missouri City and Los Mismos from San Antonio, all tied for 13th place; and Deal With It from Houston, Infamous from Copperas Cove, Latin Breed from D’Hanis, New Blood from Cypress, Ellis County Outlaws from Ennis, Ricky Bobby’s Sports Bar from San Antonio and Space Monkey Mafia from Baton Rouge, La. and Peloteros all tied for 17th.

Cody Petters of BroSox was named Most Valuable Player of the Men’s E division, while Nicholas Nelson of CTX Cash was the Gold Glove winner. Other members of the All-Tournament team were Ty Buis, Alex Corbit, Chuck Caldwell and Dewayne Sullins, of BroSox; Garret McCulley, Gareth Hutton and Damon Traxler, of CTX Cash; Cameron Bowden, Thomas Wheeler and Logan Wehmeyer, of Home Grown; Derrick Washington, Stephen Breedlove and Mario Morua, of MoneyBall; Ernesto Veliz of Pistoleros; and Michael Johnson of Manac USA.

Men’s 40 & Over Champions Powerhouse Sportz (San Antonio, TX)
Men’s 40 & Over Runnerups Frank’s Country Store (Bryan, TX)

Eight teams entered the Men’s 40 & Over division and the old-timers turned in some of the most exciting games of the weekend. Powerhouse Sportz from San Antonio won their first game over Strangers by forfeit (7-0) before getting upset by RCM from Dallas (23-16). That sent Powerhouse to the loser’s bracket, where they scored consecutive wins over R&L Sports from Houston (15-7), Front Row from Beaumont (18-5) and RCM in a re-match (19-17) to advance to the championship. Powerhouse then double-dipped previously unbeaten Frank’s Country Store from Bryan (25-12, 37-20) to win the Rings.

Champion Powerhouse Sportz finished the tournament with a 6-1 record, while Frank’s Country Store was the runnerup at 3-2. RCM came in 3rd place at 2-2, followed by Front Row in 4th also at 2-2, and Weekend Warriors and R&L Sports tied for 5th.

The Battle For The Rings offered three Women’s divisions this year. The Women’s A/B bracket featured the top six women’s teams from Texas along with one from Missouri and one from Tennessee. Texas Sports/Armor Gel/Mizuno from Spring had fielded one of the most successful women’s team in Texas for a decade. Manager Kenny Scobee’s team won Battle For The Rings back in 2013, but have been coming up short ever since. In 2014, they finished 3rd and the following year they took 4th. In both 2016 and 2017, the Mizuno-backed team was runnerup behind Bryant Express from Arkansas.

This year, Texas Sports opened with wins over KC Sker’s from Kansas City, Mo. (16-6) and Lady Brokers from Carrollton (3-2) to make it to the finals of the winner;s bracket, where they were upset by Famous Freaks/Powerhouse Sportz from Denton (7-5). Texas Sportz dropped to the loser’s bracket and defeated the Lady Brokers again (11-1) to get to the championship. Scobee’s team defeated Famous Freaks (9-5) to set up a winner-takes-all “If” game and Texas Sports won again (6-5) to take the crown.

Women’s A/B Champions Texas Sports/Mizuno (Spring, TX)
Women’s A/B Runnerups Famous Freaks (Denton, TX)

Champion Texas Sports/Mizuno finished the tournament with a 5-1 record, while runnerup Famous Freaks was 3-2. Lady Brokers took home 3rd place, Traders Reloaded from Colliersville, Tenn. came in 4th, and Lady Top Dog from Beaumont and Hit Cartel from Midland tied for 5th.

Mizuno pitcher Mya Truelove-McRae was named Most Valuable Player of the Women’s A/B bracket, while Brianna Aguilar of Famous Freaks was the Gold Glove winner. Other players named to the All-Tournament team were Catrina Ansbach, Kimberly Potter, Courtney Rigamonti and Wesley Guerrero, of Mizuno; Destani Linamen, Ashley Dorsey and Jennifer Hull, of Famous Freaks; A’Laeshia Adams, Dee Barker and Kiamisha Goynes, of Lady Brokers; Jordan Jones, Tab Smith and Brooke LaRue, of Traders Reloaded; Stephanie Rendon of Hit Cartel; and Michelle Cox of Lady Top Dog.

Women’s C Champions Texas Elite (League City, TX)
Women’s C Runnerups Karma/KMA (Brownwood, TX)

Eight teams also battled in the Women’s C division and Texas Elite from League City went undefeated at 4-0 to take the title. Texas Elite defeated Silent Assassins from Arlington (5-3), Do Work from San Antonio (7-6) and Karma/KMA/Dynasty G&A from Brownwood (13-4) to advance to the championship game, where they defeated Karma again (10-0) to win the Rings.

Champion Texas Elite finished the tournament at 4-0, while runnerup Karma was 3-2. Silent Assassins came in 3rd place with a 3-2 mark, Do Work was 4th at 2-2, and Suicide Squad from Yoakum and VooDoo Dolls from Ft. Worth tied for 5th.

Hannah Hoffman of Texas Elite was named Most Valuable Player of the Women’s C bracket, while Christal Garcia of Karma/KMA was the Gold Glove winner. Other players named to the All-Tournament team were Shelby Fetters, Sommer Salamanca-Blazek, Kasie Jo O’Meara and Heather Kicklighter, of Texas Elite; Courtney Clark, Anna Pyburn and Macy Pruitt, of Karma/KMA; Lindsay Fallen, Kelley Cheesman and Carla Thompson, of Silent Assassins; Celes Zaragoza, Amy Cerda and Melissa Mendiola, of Do Work; Toni Twomey of Suicide Squad; and Tessa May of VooDoo Dolls.

Women’s D Champions NTX Crush (Dallas, TX)
Women’s D Runnerups Lady YNK (Richmond, TX)

There were 18 teams in the Women’s D division and NTX Crush from Dallas went undefeated through five games to win 1st place. NTX Crush defeated Outrage/Branded from Abilene (12-0), Fully Loaded from Seagoville (9-3), Hottmess from Corpus Christi (4-1) and Lady YNK from Richmond (6-5) to advance to the championship game. Lady YNK dropped to the loser’s bracket and beat the Rockford Peaches from Arlington (12-2) to get another shot at NTX Crush in the championship. But NTX Crush held on to win (11-4) and take the title.

Champion NTX Crush finished the tournament at 5-0, while runnerup Lady YNK was 4-2. Rockford Peaches came in 3rd place at 5-2, while Aces from San Antonio took 4th at 3-2, and Lady Hard Shots from Houston and Hottmess tied for 5th. The rest of the Top 10 consisted of Bat $hit Crazy from San Antonio and Fully Loaded tied for 7th, and Petty Pitches from Abilene, High Rollerz Lifestyle from McKinney, Lady Rejects from Waco and Lady Blue Jays from San Antonio, all tied for 9th.

Gemma Lappa of NTX Crush was named Most Valuable Player of the Women’s D division, while Heather Wooten of Lady YNK was the Gold Glove winner. Other players named to the All-Tournament team were Brianne Wojtowicz, Taylor Bowers, Lindsey Rios and K.D. Cartwright, of NTX Crush; Courtney Cox, Gabriela Cano and Deb Wernecke, of Lady YNK; Martye Ferguson, Mesha Moffett and Katie Hale, of Rockford Peaches; Elizabeth Phillips, Genevieve Ryan and Leigh Maloy, of Aces; Sage Martinez of Hottmess; and Jordan Garza of Lady Hard Shots.

The two weekends of this year’s Battle For The Rings were the most successful ever held. Big League Dreams in Mansfield was the perfect venue, where general manager Brad Brewer and his staff were hospitable hosts. Lone Star comptroller Roy Dean anchored the operations from the Lone Star trailer, while Scott Duffy served as Tournament Director and Phillip Wheeler, Jeff Neill and Ben Templeton were the UICs.