Shirts& wins state softball title

EVERETT - State champs! That's the title a short-staffed, gutsy crew from the Lower Yakima Valley brought back with them from Everett last weekend.

With not a soul on the bench, taking just the minimum 10 players required to field a men's slo-pitch softball team, the Shirts& crew waded through a 53-team field and made off with top honors in this year's Washington State USSSA Class 'E' Championship Tournament.

The 2007 state champs hail from as far north as Wapato to as far south as Grandview. Despite being spread out in the Lower Yakima Valley, the team members all have two things in common...they love softball and they know how to come through in a big way on a big stage.

In the seven State tourney games the team played, the Lower Valley squad refused to come out on the losing end in all of them. In fact, the Shirts& team pretty much made mincemeat of their competition, outscoring their opponents by a combined run total of 96 to 37.

Shirts&'s Joe Garza especially enjoyed a big weekend, playing superbly enough to be named the state tourney co-MVP. Four of his teammates were also rewarded for their play on the field, as the quartet of Brad Baker, Paul Saiz, Jose Reyes and Dave Kleinow were named to the tournament all-star team.

The Lower Valley crew opened State tourney play by thrashing Hung Right Doors of Olympia, 16-3. Shirts& followed up that win with another 16-run explosion, while holding Up-Rite of Tracyton to just 10 runs.

Game three was a bit tighter for the Lower Yakima Valley team, but in the end the squad prevailed over Cascade Electric of Kingston by a 7-2 score. That victory propelled the eventual State champs into a match-up with Liberty Bail Bonds of Granite Falls, which they won, 10-5.

In the quarter-finals, Shirts& made short work of the Everett Mall Renegades, winning handily, 16-6. The victors went on to post the same16-6 score in the semi-finals, over Fast Pipe of Richland.

The Lower Valley team then sat back and waited for the top team to emerge from the loser's bracket. It turned out to be the Fast Pipe squad from Richland that Shirts& had beaten in the semi-finals. Proving their semi-final victory was no fluke, Shirts& skated past the Richland players by a 15-5 score in the championship tilt.

For their efforts, the newly crowned State champs were awarded championship jackets and a team plaque.



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