In the travel ball world, most teams take December off for some much needed down time before ramping back up with the beginning of the new year for the spring baseball season, which means the end of November can be very time consuming if you’re the parent of a travel baseball player.
During a time when most friends and families meet up over the Thanksgiving break for some quality time together, travel ball coaches have their sights set on playing some very competitive baseball at any one of the many premier areas in the nation for their teams.
Palm Springs, San Diego, and Las Vegas are the hot spot destinations for many of the teams from our area, and this year, a record number of teams once again hit the road to spend their vacation at the Cranberry Classic Baseball tournament in Las Vegas, NV.
“The tournament takes place every year during the Thanksgiving break at fields all over Las Vegas and is put together through the Vegas Valley Baseball circuit in conjunction with the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA),” said Vegas Valley Baseball Tournament Director Dave Ruegge.
The hard-working crew from Vegas Valley Baseball holds tournaments every month, and with this being his fourth year in charge, Dave said, “It’s getting a little easier to manage these tournaments, but no matter what, there is a lot of preparation and planning that has to be done and when it’s all said and done and another tournament is in the books, we start getting ready for the next one.”
This year’s three-day tournament hosted players that ranged in league age from 8-years-old all the way to 18, and by the end of the day on Sunday, quite a few teams from the Temecula Valley were still standing.
Teams from our area that made the trip to Vegas included the Stallions Baseball Club (10U), Scorpions (10U AA), Predators (13U AA), Menace Baseball (who sent two teams representing the 9U AA division and the 10U AA division) and the Xtreme Baseball Club (which had three teams representing: the 10U AA, 11U AA and 12U AA divisions).
The Stallions Baseball Club, based out of Temecula, were last year’s winners in the 9U AA division, and played well in the 10U Major Division this year, but wound up going 1-2-1 on the weekend in pool play and would have needed one more win to continue playing on Sunday.
After pool play subsides on Saturday, Sunday is the day where all the seeded teams get the chance at playing Championship baseball. The Predators also came up a bit short going winless on the weekend but played their first tournament together as team very well. The Scorpions team from Temecula had a good run against some of the Vegas teams and went 3-1 in pool play to make it to Sunday where they lost against the Pomona Titans in game one of the day and snatched fifth place in the tournament.
The Xtreme Baseball Club actually had four of their teams, 10U through 13U, playing in tournaments over the Thanksgiving weekend. The 13U team was a little closer to home defending their title from last year at Triple Crowns Palm Desert tournament while the other three teams went east to Las Vegas. The 13U wound up going 2-2 in pool play and grabbing eighth place in their bid at defending their title.
The 10U team went undefeated in pool play and was awarded a first round bye in the playoffs, which secured their spot in the semifinals on Sunday. After a tough loss to the OC Friars in the semifinals, the 10U team took third place and was awarded the title through USSSA as the best scoring team in their division by putting up almost 60 runs on the board in just five games.
Both the 11U and 12U Xtreme went 2-2 during pool play, which is not bad baseball at all, but because of a three run negative differential in the scores for the 11U, only the 12U moved on to play on Sunday where they went 1-1 in the Lower Flight Championships losing to the Elite Pride Baseball club, claiming second place in their division and eighth place overall.
The big story out of Sin City was the championship runs made by the Menace baseball program. Both the 9U and 10U teams, which have representation from players as close as Murrieta and Temecula and as far away as San Diego, won the championships in both of their respective AA divisions.
It seemed like something out of a fairy tale for the Menace 9U team as they headed into day three as a number four seed in the championship round. They were set to play the same two teams they lost to on Friday, which gave them a 2-2 record for pool play and so the parents and coaches knew they had nothing to lose. The Menace ended up beating a very good Las Vegas Rebels team by one run and then took the championship game by three runs in the last inning over the Bat Attack.
“Our 9U Menace were competing in their first tournament ever and had only been together preparing for the last three months,” said Head Coach Jim Lake. “After we went 0-2 on day one, we knew the pressure was on to have to win every game outright from there on. The team really stepped it up when they needed to in order to win the championship.”
As for the 10U Menace, the coaches stressed pitching and defense would be the key leading up to this year’s Cranberry Classic and they went strong holding two to four practices per week, “working on all the little things,” according Coach Taylor George. Those little things seemed to pay off as they also went undefeated through pool play in the same AA division that saw two of the other teams from the Temecula Valley area, the Scorpions and the Xtreme.
“Our pitching and defense held strong,” added George. “The boys only allowed eight total runs in four games, pitching for two shutouts while the Bats were alive on offense as the team scored 47 runs.”
Pitching and defense would be the theme throughout the remainder of the tournament for the 10U Menace team as they put up eight runs and gave up zero in their victory over the OC friars in the championship game as they also claimed their first Cranberry Classic title.
For a complete recap of the tournament visit www.usssa.com and for more information about the Cranberry Classic, visit