FASTPITCH SOFTBALL: All Star Automotive heads to North Dakota in search of national championship | TheUnion.com

FASTPITCH SOFTBALL: All Star Automotive heads to North Dakota in search of national championship

All Star Automotive, a fastpitch softball team based in Grass Valley, won the Seattle Invitational Tournament Championship in July. Now they turn their attention to the NAFA World Series in North Dakota. Back row from left Alec Giron, Rusty Newnan, Darrel Smeltzley, Adam Custer, Kody Kencke and Justin Deme. Front row from left: Mike Milligan, Bobby Alvara, Dustin Thompson, Wes Cross and Justin Nicholson.

Take a handful of seasoned veterans with dozens of years of wisdom under their caps, add in some young talent ripe with athleticism and ability, toss in a pair of skilled pitchers along with a hearty helping of power at the plate and you have the All Star Automotive fastpitch softball team.

It's an eclectic mix and a winning blend of ball players with the common goal of bringing home a national championship to Nevada County.

"I love the team that we got," said Bobby Alvara, who pitches for All Star Automotive. "We got youth and speed, and we got our older guys that have pop. It's a great balance."

A balanced squad with a knack for winning.

The Grass Valley based team, which bears the name of its sponsor, has won championships at the last three tournaments it has competed in, going 14-1 overall across those three tourneys. But, their toughest task to date comes this week in the form of the North American Fastpitch Association World Series in Fargo, North Dakota.

"The key will be coming out of the box hot," said Justin Nicholson, who owns All Star Automotive and plays on the team. "We need to play the first couple of games with some seriousness. In the past we've come out and stumbled a little. You stumble in the nationals, you go to the losers bracket and you're going to be playing 15 games over the week and chances are you'll win a consolation trophy at best."

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While All Star Automotive is a team that boasts solid pitching, a strong defense and quality hitters throughout its lineup, it's the team's chemistry that sets them apart, said Nicholson.

"The only difference between us and the other guys is our chemistry," said Nicholson, who has played in more than 20 nationals tournaments over the years. "(Other teams) fly in guys with cash. That's great but you still have to play together, make no errors and it's a long week…The strength of this team is more along the lines of camaraderie. We're constantly cheering each other on. There's no down talk. It's all positive talk and when you stay positive — positive things happen."

The team is comprised mostly of local ball players, and pieced together by Alvara who devised the team from the crop of players in the local Nevada County Fastpitch League.

"Our chemistry is so rock solid," Alvara said. "Every body gets along. We have each other's back. It's a real fun team."

Nicholson added, "We have some of the most competitive ball players right here in Nevada County. Once we started figuring that out and some of the young kids right out of high school wanted to play, once we got them hooked on the game it just went from there… Our core of the team has been together for a couple years now and we're starting to gel as the Nevada County team. It took us a couple years to get to this point. So, now we're at that point where we're gelling and we're starting to crush the ball and have fun. And once you start winning, it can snowball."

As for the keys to a successful showing at the NAFA World Series.

"We got to be real sharp," All Star Automotive catcher Wes Cross said. "We got to be real sharp defensively and hit the ball well. Our pitching will be big for us too. As long as our guys are on, I think we have a real good shot."

All Star Automotive is in a field of 35 teams from all over the United States and Canada competing in the A Division in Fargo. All Star Automotive's first game is scheduled for Thursday night.

"We got to take it one game at a time and just enjoy it," said Alvara. "I love this team and can't wait to see what we can do. It's going to be fun."

To learn more about the NAFA World Series visit http://www.nafafastpitch.com.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

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