Nokomis, Lafayette highlight field of 14 teams
KELSO -- The 18th Annual Kelso Klassic fastpitch softball tournament will take place June 7-9 on two fields at the Kelso Softball Complex.
Year to year, anywhere from 200 to 300 fans show up to watch the 14-team event. Every team is guaranteed three games.
"A lot of teams tell us this is the best tournament they go to all year," said tournament director Larry Eftink. "It's one of the better tournaments in the Midwest for a wide range of teams."
And the competition is second to none.
"It's going to be one of the strongest we've had over the years," said organizer Ron Baker. "Anybody could end up winning it. It just depends on who's hot when they come in."
Admission is $2 per adult. Kids 12 and under get in free.
Here is a look at each team in this year's field:
Nokomis won the tournament last year and is expected to successfully defend its crown this weekend.
Alan Meinhart and Steve Mitchell are the top pitchers on the team. At the plate, Nokomis is led by shortstop Brian Pesko, coach Dave Scott, and Klassic MVP Randy Milleville.
Last year Nokomis also took first in Illinois Class A State, T-Town Memorial Day, Vandalia, Witt and Taylorville tournaments. The Light finished the season 65-17, hitting .301 as a team with a staff ERA of 1.86.
The Bud Light squad will face the winner of a game between the Memphis Pomen and the Radon Falcons on Saturday at 10 a.m.
The St. Louis Lafayette Pub team appears to be Nokomis' biggest threat in this year's tournament. Under manager Scott Standerfer and coach Don Dill, the Pub has compiled a record of 10-0.
Dominant pitcher Terry Luster is the biggest weapon in Lafayette's arsenal.
He was second team All-America and second team All-World last year and was the MVP of the 1997 Klassic.
Behind Luster, the team has two other quality arms in Shane Doherty and Dave Fenemor. Both players are from New Zealand. The top hitter on the Pub is outfielder Mickey Montero, who was a member of the 2002 USA Team.
The Pub will face the winner of Friday's Radom/Memphis Pomen game on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Taylorville's Bob Ridings fastpitch team took second place in the Klassic last season, finishing with a record of 35-21. The squad went on to finish second in four other tournaments.
They are probably the third best team in this year's Klassic. T.J. Dobson and Rich Younker are the top pitchers on the team.
Top hitters include catcher Mike Hopkins, third baseman Todd McQuality, first baseman Todd Blakeman, second baseman Kevin O'Malley and outfielder Paul Luka.
Bob Ridings (Ill.) will face Kelso Supply in the first round Friday at 9:30 a.m.
Meuth's Tavern, from Smithton, Ill., won the Klassic in 2000 and outfielder Jeff Henschen was named tournament MVP. Henschen brings another young, strong squad to this year's event, one capable of winning the championship.
Top pitchers include Ron Ames and Rich Tillett.
Gordon "The Moose" Meyer is also back with the team, making the squad solid at second base. Outfielder Chris Hess and catcher Ryan Kostell are two key additions to the team. Last year Meuth's went 51-18, winning the Cotton Carnival, Velleville Kickoff, New Haven, Battle of Belleville and Belleville City League tournaments.
They will face Herrin Budweiser in the first round Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
Kelso native Ron Ressel is the top pitcher on this year's Lee's Sports Falcons fastpitch team, from Radom, Ill. Other standouts include shortstop Chad Malaway, third baseman Jim Kowzan and second baseman Jeremy Klingler.
The Falcons finished second in last year's Klassic, and could be a sleeper this year.
The Falcons will face the Memphis Pomen in the first round Friday at 8 p.m.
The Memphis Pomen are led by legendary pitcher Jim Butler. The 55-year-old holds the record for most innings pitched in the Klassic.
Outfielders Carl Mize and Danny Setchfield have the best sticks in the lineup.
The Pomen check into the tournament with a record of 1-3. They will face the Radom Falcons in the first round Friday at 8 p.m.
The Budweiser Kings, from Herrin, Ill., have a pretty simple scouting report. Decent hitters, weak pitching.
Pitchers Les Wood and Charlie Brandon both coach the team. The Kings will play in the first round Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
The Belleville, Ill., Eager Beavers check into this year's Klassic with a record of 2-0.
Coached by Jerry Yaekel and Terry Conano, the Beavers hope to down the Memphis Dawgs in the first round Friday at 9:30 p.m., then upset Lafayette Pub on Saturday.
The squad will only go as far as battle-tested 66-year-old pitcher Pete Khulnkamp takes them.
Tom Hemmen and Joe Ruholl coach the T-Town KC team, from Teutopolis, Ill. Hemmen is also one of the team's top players at third base. Other top players include utility player Terry Mette, and first baseman Kenny Bloemer.
T-Town KC will face Black & Gold in the first round Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
The hometown favorites tied for fifth place last year and last won the Klassic in 1991.
Top pitchers on this year's squad are Tom Jansen and Russ Martin. Power hitting catcher Brian Drew leads the offense, along with centerfielder Chris Dye, third baseman Jeff Schott, shortstop Larry Eftink and first baseman Ron Baker. Steve Schott has also been added to the roster, giving the Connection another solid bat.
The squad brings a 5-3 record into this year's tournament. They will face Elkville in the first round Friday at 8 p.m.
Kelso Supply is another local team, formed this year. Originally, the squad was going to be a 23-and-under team, but eventually picked up a few older players.
Kelso's Bob Ressel is the squad's top pitcher.
Other key players include Ryan LeGrand, John Wipfler and Michael O'Brien. Supply will have their hands full with Bob Ridings in the first round Friday at 9:30 p.m.
Black & Gold is a team out of Hermann, Mo.
Eric Steinbeck is the squad's top pitcher. Other key players include shortstop Justin Strauser and catcher Blake Showe.
The team will play T-Town KC on Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
Elkville, Ill., has been in the Klassic for several years, but hasn't made much noise. Their top pitcher is Les Wood. Elkville will play the Kelso Connection in the first round Friday at 8 a.m.
The Dawgs usually play in the Class B ASA Nationals, where they have finished in the top 5 over the last few years.
They will face the Eager Beavers on Friday at 9:30 p.m.