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SSHS opens baseball tourney with skills competition
by Aaron Retherford
Apr 09, 2012 | 950 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
At Spanish Springs Monday afternoon, one of the area’s prep baseball players was overheard saying “this is like the All-Star Break.”

The high school spring break couldn’t have gotten a much better start on the diamond.

The third annual Athletics Unlimited Nevada Classic got off with a bang Monday. SSHS hosted a skills competition that allowed teams participating in the tournament to mingle and earn bragging rights in three competitions.

Up first was the fastest run around the bases.

Junior Max Hassen from Sir Francis Drake High School of San Anselmo, Calif., took his starting position at home plate as the last competitor. He had just watched his teammate take a spill rounding second base, but that did not faze him as he ran the bases in 14.57 seconds to win the event.

Then it was the defenses’ turn to show who was the fastest in the around the horn competition. Each teams had two attempts to see who completed the circuit the fastest. No school completed the circuit successfully twice. The ball started at home, went to second, to first, to home, to third, to second and back home.

McQueen pulled off that feat in 8.94 seconds to win.

The skills competition saved the biggest fireworks for the end — the home run derby.

McQueen’s Anthony Calton, the reigning home run derby champion, took his cuts first. However, he waited until his final out to go yard and that wasn’t good enough to advance to the finals.

Each hitter got 10 outs in the first round to clear the fence as many times as possible. The top three long ballers reached the finals.

Up second was Drake’s Joe Fazackerley, who hit two home runs. That ended up being good enough to reach the finals as only three players cleared the fence more than once in their rounds.

Two batters after Fazackerley, Yreka’s Christian Charles put on a show. Charles needed just two hacks to go deep once and four swings to tie Fazackerley’s total.

His fourth out hit the top of the fence in right-center field but stayed in the ballpark. But then he followed that with his third homer. Charles hit a cold streak after his fourth long ball, but he added his fifth and sixth homers after the eight and ninth outs for the high total in the first round.

McQueen was originally only going to send one batter to compete, while the other teams each had two competitors. But the Lancers brought out their secret weapon to end the first round and Christian Stolo didn’t disappoint.

After recording his seventh out, Stolo guaranteed his spot in the finals by belting out his second home run. What Stolo did next surprised most and had players standing up in amazement. Down to his final out, Stolo became the only hitter to clear the fence on back-to-back swings. He did one better though, tattooing three straight pitches over the right-field fence to finish with five jacks.

The final round wasn’t as exciting. Fazackerley and Stolo came up short, and Charles won the competition by crushing his three-out pitch over the left-field fence.

Prizes were given out to the winners, which included baseball bats, bags, batting gloves and a pullover.

The event only lasted an hour, but fun was had by all. All five teams were there, including a pair of California schools, Yreka and Drake, that traveled a day early to take part in the competition. North Valleys and McQueen are also part of the tourney. Day 1 of the festivities included a trip to the Aces game Monday night.

“It’s one extra day, but it looks like a good deal,“ SSHS coach Ben Hofmann said. “The kids enjoy it. It gives them something to do. They get to mingle around with everybody.”

Spanish Springs opens tournament play today at 1 p.m., taking on Drake. The Cougars also will face Yreka at 4 p.m. McQueen is a co-host for the tournament, and Hofmann enjoys the benefit of having a local event.

“There are so many restrictions nowadays to travel. There are so many things for head coaches to do to make sure the kids are staying out of trouble. There are a lot of things to be careful with,” the second-year head coach said. “Our feeling was we can save money as a program by hosting a tournament. Then we’ll travel a little more in the summer when parents can get off work and make it more of a vacation thing. We don’t make any money on the tournament, but the way I figure it, we don’t spend any money going anywhere either, so it helps the tournament.”
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