A team new to the Newton Mexican-American Men’s Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament became the latest to etch its name on the trophy.
The Big Eagle Express, a Native American team from Oklahoma, won the 72nd edition of the tournament, which ended Sunday at Kelsch Field.
In the championship semifinals, the Express edged the Kansas City Indios 7-6. The Indios topped the Newton Mexican-American Athletic Club 11-0 in the consolation semifinals.
In the championship finals, the Indios won the first game 8-3. In the deciding game, the Express held on to an 8-7 game.
"We just go through the lineup and if they can’t hit something, don’t change it," Express pitcher Dave Beets said. "In the first game, they hit about everything. In the second game, our offense picked back up."
The Indios scored five runs in the bottom of the second game. With two outs and two runners on base, Beets struck out a batter to end the game.
"I knew it wasn’t over," Beets said. "We know that team well. They weren’t sneaking up on anybody. Everybody wanted it. All the people who stayed got their money’s worth — that’s for sure."
Beets was named the most valuable pitcher in the tournament. While it was the Express’ first appearance at the tournament, Beets pitched for a different team here in 2005, with his team winning the title.
The Express were one of two predominantly Native American teams to play in the tournament this year. The Oklahoma Syko was the other.
The Express have played for about 30 years. Their players come from throughout Oklahoma and has members of several different tribes. Players range from the 20s to the 50s.
"We’ve been playing for 30 years," said manager Curtis Big Eagle Jr. "Down in Oklahoma, we haven’t had a lot of chances to play with the COVID going on. We were looking for a chance to play anywhere we could. We’ll travel if we have to. We usually play in Austin or Pueblo, South Dakota, wherever we can go.
"It was very exciting to win this. We have a very good team. We started out small. We try to keep the fast—pitch alive. We’ll play anybody, anywhere, anytime. … Regardless of where you’re from or if you’re Mexican-American or Native American, it’s all a big softball family. The hospitality we’ve gotten at every town has been great. We’ll be back next year to defend our title."
The Express have played four tournaments this summer, winning three. They will play at the Native States Tournament in September, looking to win the title after being runner-up two years in a row.
"I believe we’ll get it done this year," Big Eagle Jr. said.
Express catcher Kerry Clay was named the most valuable player.
"I expected to get something, but I didn’t expect to get MVP," Clay said. "It was my first time up here and I loved every second — good hospitality, good people."
In the first championship game, the Indios used eight hits in the second inning to score six runs. The Express used three two-out hits in the bottom of the third inning to score two runs. The Express scored on a wild pitch in the fourth inning.
A Josh Bias triple and two-out single for Gerry Garcia gave the Indios a run in the top of the fifth. The Indios scored again in the seventh.
Adan Garcia went the distance for the Indios, allowing three runs, seven hits, a walk and nine strikeouts. Beets took the loss for the Express.
Bubba Ramirez, Arturo Garcia III, Bias and Joe McCall each went 2-for-3 for the Indios. Gerry Garcia went 2-for-4.
The Express opened the second game with six hits in the first inning to score five runs. The Indios scored two runs on four hits in the bottom of the first. The Express scored two runs in the top of the fourth on an error. The Express scored on a wild pitch in the top of the sixth.
Lou Ramirez put the Indios back on the board with an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth. John Angell hit an RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh and scored on a Jaime Garcia Jr. single. Garcia Jr. scored on error. McCall drove in a run with a single. The Indios had both the tying and winning run on base when the game ended.
"We just had to calm everybody down," Clay said.
Beets claimed the complete-game win for the Express, striking out three. Adan Garcia took the loss for the Indios.
Gage Booth, Tanner Watson, Trevor Taryole, Robbie Boston, Mike High and Juan Hernandez each had two hits for the Express.
Angell went 3-for-4 for the Indios. Arturo Garcia III had two hits.
The Newton Mexican-American Athletic Club finished third at 5-2.
Defending champion Kansas City Bravos finished fourth. A-1 Construction, which had several members of the Team USA 17U boys’ national team and the Hutchinson BlueJays each tied for fifth.