Team USA swings through Stevens

By on June 12, 2019
Team USA’s Kevin Castillo takes a big rip during the team’s appearance at Steven’s Field Saturday. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Team USA’s Kevin Castillo takes a big rip during the team’s appearance at Steven’s Field Saturday. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

The Team USA mens softball team was on a plane Monday night from Newark, New Jersey to Prague in the Czech Republic, and the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) World Tournament.

They prepped for the WBSC stage by spending Saturday and Sunday in Stevens, playing three teams in an invitational tournament. Yes, that Stevens, three miles north of Ephrata, and home to the Northend Fast Pitch Softball League

As you might expect, Team USA won all three of the round-robin games on Saturday. They also breezed through the semi-finals Sunday morning, but were forced to come from behind to take the championship game 3-2 over Varmy’s Army of New York City.

The other two teams included the host Bear Bottom Lodge (BBL) team that featured eight local players, and Fisher’s of Willow Street. All teams playing over the weekend included Major or Open classified pitchers.

“I probably manage a little different this weekend than I would next week,” explained Team USA Manager Gregg Leather. “We want to keep everyone healthy, but of course we always want to win when we take the field. We want each of our pitchers to get a number of innings. We also want everyone, even the utility players, to get their at-bats.”

One of top pitchers for Team USA is lefty Duane Weiler, a veteran of Stevens Field and a League member of the BBL squad. Weiler lives in Richland (Lebanon County) and co-owns an auto repair shop in Womelsdorf (Berks County) with his father and brother. He also pitched in both the 2017 Pan Am Games and 2017 WBSC World Tournaments.

Weiler pitched the first five innings of Team USA’s Sunday semifinal 8-1 win over Fisher’s. His pitching line included seven strikeouts and one walk, while only surrendering one run on two hits.

“When I started playing softball (at age 15), I was an outfielder. So I had no expectations of ever making the National team,” related Weiler, before the team’s 5-1 win over BBL in the Saturday Evening featured round-robin game. “My teammates said I should work on pitching. When I made the tryout and made the team in 2017, it was a dream come true for all of the hard work.”

“Our ace pitcher is probably Tony Mancha. He’s been with the team the longest and has the most experience,” added Leather. “Duane would be our solid number two right now. Duane has a nice advantage of playing locally. He can pitch a lot during the week.”

In the first two round-robin games, Team USA bested Varmy’s Army 7-2 and easily handled Fisher’s 16-0. Saturday’s 3-0 record earned Team USA the top seed in Sunday’s playoff.

BBL started Saturday’s play with a 5-3 win over Fisher’s and posted win number two by downing Varmy’s 5-2. Their 2-1 record earned the local club the number two seed. Varmy’s nipped Fisher’s 3-2 to collect the three seed. Fisher’s, with an 0-3 Saturday record, finished with the four seed.

In the Sunday opener, Varmy’s and BBL went into the ninth inning tied at 1-1, where the New York squad erupted for six runs and a 7-1 triumph, setting up the final.

“I am an assistant coach for the USA Junior Men’s team. That’s part of where the Stevens connection was,” explained BBL assistant coach and co-sponsor Jerry Zimmerman. “In order for them to fly to Europe, they needed to fly from somewhere on the East coast. So it made a lot of sense, and they had played here before. We got a couple of teams and tried to give them a battle.”

When Team USA arrives in Prague, they hope to play at least eight games, and preferably more, beginning tomorrow (Thursday).

“We’re in Pool B,” described Leather. “There are eight teams in Pool B. We play all seven of the other teams. The top four teams from both Pools will move into the playoff round.”

The squad will also compete in the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru from July 25 through August 1.

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