Will Maddux along with a handful of talented local players have put Grass Valley firmly on the fast-pitch softball map.
Maddux, who manages the Event Helper softball team, along with local players Donovan Chilton, Justin Deme, Ben Maddux and Kyler Caldwell, headed up to the Amatuer Softball Association of America Class A National Tournament in Salem, Ore., with mild expectations but came home as national champions.
“To be honest, I knew that we would be OK, but I did not think we had a chance to win it,” Will Maddux said. “I figured we would be OK, we would put (the ball) in play, and we did, but I didn’t think we would piece them together like we did.”
In a tournament where most teams strikeout for 15 of their 21 outs and batting around .150 will earn you All-American honors, it’s all about timely hitting, said Chilton.
“Our bats just came through at the right times,” he said. “Our main pitcher was just on fire. I mean, they couldn’t touch him. Even though they were low-scoring games, we just got hits when it mattered. We also played killer defense. I mean, we have some of the best infielders in the game.”
Chilton, Event Helper’s first baseman, is no stranger to the bigger softball stages. Chilton recently competed in a world tournament as well as a North American Fastpitch Association AA major tourney. This was also Chilton’s second championship ring, having won a national title ring last year in the Class C division.
Chilton has dedicated his season to his cousin, Larry Terronez Jr., who passed earlier this year, he said.
The five local ballers for Event Helper teamed up with several other players from all over North America, including a pair of players from Canada and a top-shelf pitcher from New Mexico, Tony Mancha.
“He was our ace,” Will Maddux said. “He is an open hitter, an open pitcher. He’s as good as they come.”
Open is the highest level of play in amateur softball, considered just above Class A.
Mancha took over the pitching duties for Event Helper and led them to four straight victories, including a 5-3 win in the title game over the favored Portland Brewers.
“They were the ones that were supposed to win,” Chilton said of the Brewers. “They had all the high-dollar pitchers. They brought in a (quality) squad.”
Event Helper never lost a game in the double-elimination tourney, and Chilton, Deme and Ben Maddux were named All-Americans for their work in the tourney — which wasn’t easy, considering how hard it is to hit at this level.
“They say a 70 mph fast-pitch pitch is, with reaction time, is equivalent to a 100 mph hard ball,” Chilton said. “These guys were throwing in the 80s, so the reaction time is — there is no reaction time. You have a split second.”
Ben Maddux, who played right field for Event Helper, said the highlight of his tourney was getting an RBI off one of the fastest pitchers in the world.
“Just putting yourself in that position,” Ben Maddux said. “To come forward and hit the ball at 110 mph. I mean, that’s the challenge, and it’s incredibly hard.”
Deme, who played center field for Event Helper, said he played baseball collegiately and that hitting a pitch at the ASA tourney was the hardest athletic undertaking he’s ever encountered.
“It’s a whole different ball game. It’s fun though,” Deme said of hitting against the talented hurlers at the tourney. “I’ve played baseball, I played college baseball, and I’ve never faced anything as hard as this.”
Deme went on to say that nothing compares to being in the batter’s box against the pitchers at the tournament and that he’d rather face Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds, who is known for his 100 mph-plus fastball.
Will Maddux, who dominated the local league as a pitcher this season, said he never even took the mound. Instead he played third base.
“I didn’t even step on the mound,” he said. “This was over my head. Our pitcher’s right arm would have to be tired, and then maybe his left arm, then maybe.”
Caldwell, who is the youngest of the five local players, tallied a pair of stolen bases in the tourney as he filled the pinch runner role for Event Helper.
For their efforts, Event Helper received championship medals, rings, a trophy, a banner, individual pullovers and national respect.
The Event Helper softball team is sponsored by Event Helper Inc., an event insurance company based out of Grass Valley. Event Helper plays a league season in the Nevada County Fast Pitch League and recently won the 2013 Nevada County title.
The Nevada County league will be hosting an all-star fast-pitch series coming Sept. 28 at Memorial Park in Grass Valley. The all-star series will pit a group of local all-stars selected by the league against an all-star team from the Bay Area.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.