Apparently there’s nothing – not even an unwanted year off caused by a global pandemic – that can stop the Ballers. Just when it looked like the Calaveras Adult Slowpitch Association’s longest-running dynasty was at its end, the Ballers – a team comprised of players from San Andreas, Valley Springs and Amador County – shot back to life just in time to win another league championship.
On Friday night, August 20 in Valley Springs, the Ballers completed an unlikely climb out of the elimination bracket of the Calaveras Adult Slowpitch Association’s double-elimination playoffs by beating the Young Guns two straight times in the championship round to win their sixth straight league title and 14th overall in the past 18 seasons.
Earlier in the playoffs, the Young Guns dropped the Ballers into the elimination bracket with a one-sided victory that seemed to spell the end for the reigning champs. But, the Ballers – seeded second in this year’s playoffs – stayed alive with wins over fifth-seeded One-Hit Wonders and fourth-seeded Mossas, then knocked off top-seeded Hitmen of Mountain Ranch – a team that includes many players from the Warriors team that has won the past four Amador County Recreation Agency men’s slowpitch softball league titles (there was no league held in Amador County this year) – to earn a spot in the league finals for the 18th consecutive season.
In the finals, the Ballers showed their championship mettle, answering every rally by the Young Guns, who entered the finals unbeaten in the playoffs, with one of their own. Sparked by an early grand slam home run by Triston Madsen, the Ballers held off a late rally by the Young Guns in the first game to force a second winner-take-all game. In the second game, the Young Guns, led by Anthony Flores and Josh Bailey, came out firing with a seven-run first inning, but the Ballers again showed their resolve, responding with an eight-run inning of their own to take the lead. Behind steady overall defensive work in the field and an offense that posted runs in every inning, including a pair of three-run home runs by Jim Madsen and Turner DiDonato, the Ballers eventually built their lead to double digits.
The Ballers were founded by Eric Baechler of Valley Springs in 1998 and won their first Calaveras league championship in 2003, when they beat Amador County’s M&M Door.
This year’s team was sponsored by Carson’s Metal Artwork and Designs and included Baechler, DiDonato, Jim Madsen, Triston Madsen, Jerry Harvey, Ryan Erosa, Jeff Baechler, Tyler Cagle, Jeremy Malamed, Brian Walters, Carson Reeder, Cameron Baechler, Mike “Spike” Phillips and Antero Acierto.