DALTON, GEORGIA - Florida’s Double L Roofing 60 Majors team participated in their final tournament in that age bracket by winning the SPA Nationals in Dalton, Georgia.
SIX members of the team (Tols Mihailoff (68), Terry O’Donnell (65), Juan Alicea (67), Bob Conrad (66), Jim Causier (66) and Ed Lee (67)) have all reached the 65 year plateau and is was just a matter of time of waiting until the others made it to the 65 mark. The 2011 season they will play as 65’s.
“We wanted to wait until everybody was ready to make the jump to 65’s,” manager Ed Lee said. “Most of us have played together since we were a 50’s team, so we want to move up together.”
However, Double L Roofing will not leave the 60 Major group empty-handed. The Orlando/Naples squad won the most competitive age group of the Dalton Nationals and also their first senior softball National championship.
The ten-team Division’s 19 games in the double-elimination tournament had 11games decided by four runs or less. Double L Roofing went 5-2 in the group’s pool and tournament combined play.
In pool play they beat Texas 60’s 23-17 and lost to D&K Softball 15-14. In the double elimination bracket they knocked off Time Bandits 22-13, Wild Bunch 13-12 and Jim&Joe’s 21-19. They were knocked from the undefeated ranks 21-19 by D&K Softball setting up the “if” game for the 19-14 championship win.
“That was the best and most balanced tournament we have ever played in,” Lee said. “Anybody could have won the tournament; we just got hot at the right time and made big plays when we needed.”
Probably no defensive play by Double L Roofing was bigger than the one made by third baseman Don Lesher in the championship game against D&K Softball (California).
Lesher entered the game in the sixth inning as a defensive replacement and an inning later would turn into a tournament hero. In the bottom of the seventh D&K trailed 19-14 and had the bases loaded with only one out. The D&K hitter nailed a rocket heading to left field, Lesher went left and to his knees, grabbed the hard hit grounder and fired to second for the start of a game ending and tournament winning double play.
“That was one of the best defensive plays I have seen,” Lee said. “But that is the type of play that our defense pulled off the entire tournament. We only hit three home runs in seven games and only batted in the .650’s as a team but we sure played great defense and Lesher’s play was one of the best.”
The Roofers rely a lot on balanced hitting and average around 15 runs per game but put the major emphasis on defense.
“Defense is the key for us,” the manager said. “If you don’t allow teams four outs in an inning and you can average two runs an inning, you will win most of your games. In this tournament we averaged 15 runs and made the defensive plays.”
The team was so balanced with heroes, Lesher didn’t even make the All-tournament team, although according to Lee, “everybody should have made the all star team, it was just a great team effort.”
Two “Roofers’ were awarded the tournament MVP Award and both were original members of the team. Mihailoff pitched all seven (5-2) games and batted .725 while short stop O’Donnell, who looked like the second coming of Ozzie Smith in the field hit .725 for the seven games.
Selected to the All-Tournament team were five more originals in the person of infielder/outfielder Alicea (.683), outfielder Conrad (.664), Gary Chambers (1B, .660, Ed Haney (OF, .670), Mike Henderson (OF, .652) and “ newbie” Stu Casterline (IF/OF, .655).
Also contributing great to the championship run were three more originals Frank Lott (C/INF, .557), Causier (OF, .543) and Dennis Schroeder (2B, .590). Lee was also honored, receiving his first SPA Manager of the Year Award.
Double L Roofing has been sponsoring the team the past two years and Lee thinks this year’s team is just a tremendous group of individuals.
“They are great people first and great ballplayers second,” the sponsor/manager said. “There are absolutely no ego problems on this team and we all get along so well. It is just a total pleasure to be associated with them.”
The Roofers are also not an all-out travel team usually playing only three events a year. This year’s list included Dalton, Fort Myers and Phoenix.
“This was really a good year for us,” Lee said. “We were competitive in all the tournaments and finished in the top five in all of them.”
Lee, who is 67 years young and been a playing manager for close to 37 years had nothing but high praise for Ridge Hooks and the Dalton tournament.
“SPA and Ridge put on a great tournament,” Lee said. “You know immediately SPA’s main concerns are the players and the teams and go out of the way to make certain you have an enjoyable time. It is really a great tournament and we will be back next year.”
There is your warning 65 majors, look out for the new kid on the block in 2011.