A team of local ballplayers became national champions after competing in the USSSA Slow-pitch Softball Class E World Series
OCOEE Some of them have been playing together since they were kids on the Winter Garden Little League.
Now, the crew of local softballers have two championship titles and the rings that go with it after coming out undefeated in both the USSSA Slow-pitch Softball Class E State and World Series tournaments.
“It’s the biggest accomplishment you can get,” said team manager Tommy Tomarelli. “It’s pretty much what you play all year for. It was something I will never forget.”
Tomarelli, owner of AC Guys Cooling and Heating Services, decided to sponsor the team three years ago, and the team - the A/C Guys - quickly formed into a team of old baseball friends.
“The majority of us grew up together,” Tomarelli said. “We played baseball in high school together. We’ve known each other for years and years and years.”
Most of them still play together, or against each other, during league nights in Winter Garden, but the A/C Guys provided the group a chance to compete on a grand scale.
Prior to competing in the worlds, the A/C Guys came out undefeated in the Florida State Tournament and at the top of the 40 teams that competed.
Going into worlds, Tomarelli said the team’s strategy was to focus on only one game at a time.
“Don’t look too far past the bracket,” he said. “We had to stick to our game and play our game. If we did that, I knew nobody would beat us.”
The tournament lasted three days with 169 teams competing and was held at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The A/C Guys face eight teams throughout the weekend, and were even forced to play in the rain.
“On Friday, we were soaked,” Tomarelli said. “The fields were drenched in water, but because there were so many teams, they let us keep playing.”
For the final game, the team took the field at Champion Stadium, the spring training home for the Atlanta Braves.
“We had that place rockin’,” Tomarelli said. “That kept us so fired up, so amped up. We were all running on pure adrenaline. It was just crazy.”
In the end, it came down to team chemistry.
“Instead of having a bunch of guys you don’t really know, everybody knows each other, knows their positions and what they’re good at,” Tomarelli said. “It made a big deal, team chemistry, and knowing what your guys can and cannot do. Our defense played lights out that tournament. Our hitting was lights out. It was a complete team effort, top to bottom.”
The winning moment was one that many of the team members will never forget.
“In the softball world, this is your ultimate goal,” said Paul Minor. “It was an absolutely great thing. It was so emotional and unbelievably awesome. It was just a great three days. I cried. Tears were flowing.”
For Brian Kierstead, the win is still sinking in, even weeks later.
“It was pretty amazing,” he said. “It’s one of those things when you get there you think you’re never going to win. It was crazy. We were screaming, running around. It was pretty surreal.”
And the A/C Guys’ fans kept everyone’s spirits up throughout that final game, Tomarelli said.
“Because we’re local, we had so much support from people,” he said. “They cheered us on and rooted us on down to the last out.”
After the win, A/C Guys pitcher Mason Minor was named MVP of the tournament. Everyone received a championship ring.
“It’s like the superbowl,” Tomarelli said.
Already, the A/C Guys have their sights set on a new goal for next year.
“We get bumped up to the D division,” he said. “Of course, the competition gets a little more skilled, so we’ll be facing little bit better teams and better competition. But we’re looking to make the same run in the D division as we did in the E division.”