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Fri, Dec. 06

Senior Softball Bucky’s Casino 60’s softball team claims tourney title in Florida

AUBURNDALE, Fla. — At first glance, you might call the Bucky’s Casino 60’s men’s softball team the “Over the Hill Gang.” Manager Vince Vicari once referred to them as an old man’s Little League team.

The 60’s refers to their ages – 60 years and older. All live in the tri-cities area, and they all participate on other teams in the Prescott Senior Softball League.

However, after Bucky’s championship in February in the 60+ AA division at the “Crown Jewel of Senior Softball,” also known as the Senior Softball USA Tournament of Champions, a more appropriate moniker would be “Comeback Kids.”

In a field with six other teams from New York, Delaware, Colorado, Oregon, Florida and Minnesota, Bucky’s overcame deficits in four consecutive games to advance to the title contest on Feb. 7 against Scrap Iron Freedom from Colorado.

Bucky’s built an insurmountable 18-0 lead going into the seventh inning – shutouts are unheard of in slow-pitch softball, especially among high-quality teams – en route to an 18-3 triumph.

“It’s like the World Series of softball,” says Vicari, a 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police force who now lives Chino Valley. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime deal for us.”

Bucky’s had qualified for the Tournament of Champions in the past by winning regional tournaments but never made the trip to Central Florida.

This year they decided that the 2,251-mile journey was worth it.

Their motivation came from the fact that the team had been elevated from the AA to the AAA classification after winning the 60+ AA title at the Southwest Championships in Las Vegas last April, ironically against the same Scrap Iron Freedom club, 19-17.

Since Bucky’s qualified as a 60+ AA team, they were able to compete in that division for the last time at the Tournament of Champions.

“We decided to give it a shot,” Vicari says. “Who knows whether we’d qualify again against AAA teams? We had batting practice every Wednesday [at Jim McCasland Willow Creek Park]. Sometimes it was 30 degrees, but we still were out there.”

The training in frigid conditions didn’t help in their opening game at the Tournament of Champions, a 16-15 loss to the Minnesota Blizzard. In the next contest, Bucky’s rallied to nip the Florida No-Stars (the eventual No. 2 seed), 15-14, and earn a No. 3 seed in the double-elimination bracket competition.

In the first round, Bucky’s overcame a two-run lead by Blizzard with three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to win, 16-15. They followed that close victory with a 24-12 rout of the Syracuse Cyclones.

In their most spectacular rally of the tournament, Bucky’s erased Scrap Iron Freedom’s 9-4 lead going into the final inning of a rain-shortened contest by exploding for 12 runs in the top of the fifth to advance to the championship from the winner’s bracket with a 16-11 victory.

Scrap Iron Freedom emerged from the elimination bracket to the championship game, the only contest Bucky’s led from start to finish.

“It was a total team effort,” Vicari says. “Everybody stepped up, not just two or three guys.”

Ten Bucky’s players had batting averages of .620 or higher for the tournament. Three topped .700. Chris Olson (.778) led the way, followed by Doug Royse (.727), who also pitched three victories, including the championship contest. Don Gilbert was the other Bucky’s standout with a .714 average. Vicari won two of three games on the mound.

Other Bucky’s players included: Bobby Ziegler, Rich Marcin, Duane Steinbrink, Bill Hirschberg, Mark Moses, Harold Hancock and Don Henderson.

“We improved a lot [after winning in Las Vegas] by playing against AAA teams,” Vicari says. “And we were dedicated and worked hard. We have a great group of guys.”

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