Black Gold Men’s Fastpitch Finishes 5th In The Nation

MOLINE, IL - Black Gold played in the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) A-Major National Tournament August 6-9 in Moline, IL and finished 5th out of 30 teams, winning 4 and losing 2.    Black Gold also finished 2nd in 2001 and 4th in 2011 in the largest fastpitch softball tournament in the U.S.  

For the first time in NAFA history, a father son combination were selected to the All-World team.   Centerfielder Tyler Johnson hit .600 for the weekend with a double, triple, home run, and 5 RBI’s.   His father, 1st baseman/outfielder Brad Johnson, also made the all-world team hitting .579 and leading the team in doubles.  

Infielder Matt Benz also hit .545 for Black Gold, while outfielder Cullen Speckhals led the team in RBI’s with 7.   Pitcher Eric Steinbeck threw two shutouts and struck out 42 in just over 35 innings of work.

Pictured right are Tyler, Jake, and Brad Johnson.

Black Gold is always looking for new players; most of the current roster played baseball at the high school level at one of the Four Rivers Conference schools.   The season runs from May to August every summer. Contact manager Eric Steinbeck at 314-640-6432 or Eric.Steinbeck@bcbsmo.com if you are interested.

Black Gold 4, Lampliter Inn (Walcott, IA) 2

Black Gold is no stranger to thrilling first round games at NAFA, many times ending up on the wrong end of a 1-0 loss.   This time the hitting came through late in what would become Black Gold’s most important game of the tournament.

Each team was scoreless with 2 hits through 5 innings.    In the top of the 6th, Lampliter’s Duke Sims doubled home two runs, after striking out twice previously.    Black Gold answered back in the bottom of the 6th.  With two out and two on, cleanup hitter Cullen Speckhals singled up the middle to tie the game at 2-2, followed by another two out single by left fielder Nick Needham.

This brought Steinbeck to the plate, who also had struck out in his previous two at-bats.    A wild pitch advanced the runners to 2nd and 3rd, then with a full count Steinbeck muscled a grounder to left driving home two for a 4-2 Black Gold lead.    Lampliter had a leadoff single in the top of the 7th but then Steinbeck retired the next three batters in order to secure the win for Black Gold.

Tyler Johnson led Black Gold with two hits, while Steinbeck struck out 12 and walked 3.   Nick Siebenlist took the loss, striking out 9 and walking one.
Black Gold 6, Hustle Hogs (DeKalb, IL) 0  

Leadoff man Tyler Johnson and pitcher Steinbeck both had outstanding performances to put this second round game out of hand early.

In the bottom of the first Tyler Johnson scored Black Gold’s first run all by himself on a triple and an error by the Hustle Hog centerfielder.    In the bottom of the second the bases were loaded on an error, a single by first baseman Matt Benz, and a walk by catcher Terry Coon.    T. Johnson came to the plate again, this time with two outs, and blasted a grand slam home run over the right center field fence to make the score 5-0.     T. Johnson also scored on a Brad Johnson single in the 6th.  

Steinbeck had complete control of the Hustle Hogs lineup from the start, getting them to chase many curveballs and riseballs in and out of the strike zone.   He allowed only one baserunner, a one-out hit in the 4th, and struck out 13.    For Black Gold, Benz was 2 for 3 and Brad Johnson was 2 for 4, in addition to Tyler Johnson’s three hits, 4 RBI’s and 3 runs scored.    For the Hustle Hogs, Argentinean import Favio Silvestre took the loss.

R.M. Kurtz (Ephrata, PA) 9, Black Gold 2 (5 innings)

In the third game for both teams, R. M. Kurtz, from near Harrisburg, PA, showed Black Gold why they would go on to finish 2nd in the tournament with their combination of pitching depth, speed, and hitting approach.      

Kurtz scored 5 runs in the 2nd, 2 in the 4th, and 2 in the 5th.    Steinbeck gave up 12 hits on 9 runs, all earned, striking out 4 and walking one.   Jacob Johnson came in to get the last out for Black Gold.
Black Gold scored once in the 3rd when Tyler Johnson walked and scored on a double by shortstop Teddy Aranui.   They tacked on another run in the 4th on a Matt Benz sacrifice fly, scoring Brad Johnson.“Every hitter was choking up and putting the ball in play, even before two strikes”, Steinbeck said.   “For a young team they played the game very intelligently on the basepaths and at the plate, frequently taking the extra base.   I had trouble getting anything by them.”   The Kurtz pitching staff also led the tournament in strikeouts and was among the leaders in team ERA.

For Black Gold, Dean Haeffner was 1 for 2 with a double, Brad Johnson 1 for 2, and Tyler Johnson 1 for 2 with a walk.    Kenton Martin got the win for R.M. Kurtz, striking out 6 in 4 innings of work.   

Black Gold 17, Phillies (Portage, Manitoba, Canada) 10 (6 innings)

Setting an all-time Black Gold record for runs scored and combined runs by both teams, Black Gold slugged their way to a run rule victory to start loser’s bracket play on Saturday.   The Phillies and Black Gold finished 2nd and 3rd in batting average for the tournament among all teams.   

Black Gold struck with one run in the top of the first, but the Phillies scored 5 runs in the bottom of the inning as Steinbeck was out of sync in the circle.   Black Gold then scored 6 in the top of the 2nd on a two-run homer by Dean Haeffner, a 3-run homer by Teddy Aranui, and back-to-back doubles by Brad Johnson and Cullen Speckhals.    The Phillies then tied the score 7-7 after 2 innings, which is almost unheard of in fastpitch softball, and went ahead 9-7 after 3 innings.

Then momentum turned dramatically as Steinbeck finally got on track and held the Phillies lineup at bay, while Black Gold just kept hitting, with 4 runs in the 4th, 4 runs in the 5th, and 2 runs in the 6th.  

For Black Gold, Brad Johnson was 4 for 4 with 3 doubles, 4 runs scored, 2 RBI; Cullen Speckhals was 3 for 4 with 2 doubles and a home run, 5 RBI; Teddy Aranui was 4 for 4 with 2 home runs, 4 runs scored, 4 RBI; Dean Haeffner 1 for 4, home run, 2 RBI; Nick Needham 2 for 4, home run, 2 RBI; Eric Steinbeck 2 for 5; Terry Coon 1 for 3, 2 RBI; Sam White 2 for 4; Tyler Johnson 2 for 5, 2 runs scored.   

Steinbeck gave up 10 runs on 15 hits in 6 innings and did not walk or strike out a batter.  Tanner Waldvogel took the loss for the Phillies.

Black Gold 4, Sawdust City (Eau Claire, WI) 0

Sawdust City’s lineup came into this matchup on a roll, having beaten Black Gold rivals Rice Lake and Pinckneyville with a hot hitting lineup.    However, timely hitting by Black Gold was the difference in this one.

Black Gold got leadoff doubles from Tyler Johnson, and Needham, in the first two innings but stranded both runners.   In the 3rd, left fielder Sam White also hit a leadoff double, but Tyler Johnson drove him in with a single to make it 1-0 Black Gold.

Steinbeck continued to pick up steam, pitching 3 perfect innings to start the game.  In the top of the 4th he struck out the side after giving out a one-out triple.   Then, both teams were retired in order until the bottom of the 6th.

After singles by Brad Johnson and Speckhals, some clutch two out hitting in the 6th gave Black Gold some much needed breathing room.    Jake Johnson broke through with a double, scoring father Brad to make it 2-0, then Matt Benz singled to left, driving in Speckhals and Jake Johnson to make it 4-0.
Steinbeck gave up 3 hits, no runs, no walks, and struck out 7. 

Tiffany’s (Frankenmuth, MI) 12, Black Gold 4

Black Gold and eventual 3rd place finisher Tiffany’s had a back and forth affair for 3 innings before Steinbeck ran out of gas in the top of the 4th.   

In the 2nd, Matt Benz led off with a single and scored after a groundout, wild pitch and single by Dean Haeffner.   Haeffner came around to score on another wild pitch to make it 2-1 Black Gold.    In the 3rd, Brad Johnson and Speckhals singled, then Johnson came around to score on another single by Benz, giving Black Gold a 3-2 lead.   

Although Steinbeck struck out 6 through the first three innings, the floodgates opened in the 4th.   Tiffany’s scored 6 runs including two triples, a double, and the deciding blow, a home run by centerfielder Cam Weichman.

Jake Johnson relieved Steinbeck after the home run and kept Black Gold in the game, scattering 4 hits and two earned runs over the remaining 3 1/3 innings.   Black Gold had runners on in every inning but added only one more run in the 6th, partially due to having three runners thrown out at home during the game.

For Black Gold, Tyler Johnson and Matt Benz were both 3 for 3, reaching base in all 8 combined plate appearances.   Brad Johnson was 2 for 3, and Jake Johnson finished 2 for 4.