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Monday, September 28, 2009

Reds Scout Team wins Kernels Foundation title

Jim Ecker        
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Andy Stack and the Reds Midwest Scout Team aren't the bridesmaids of the Kernels Foundation WWBA tournament anymore. This year, they won the title. 

Conor Fisk pitched a four-hit shutout and the Reds blanked the St. Louis Pirates DePew, 6-0, in the championship game on a chilly, blustery afternoon at Veterans Memorial Stadium Monday to finish with an undefeated record in the 35-team event.

Winning felt especially good, because Stack had grown tired of being the runnerup here in recent years.

"It's great," he said after the Reds received their first-place trophy and posed for pictures. "We've been to this thing seven years in a row and we've always done very well. We kind of had a second-place trophy almost named after us, because the last four years we've taken second."

The Reds scored two unearned runs in the third inning, then broke it open with four runs in the sixth. Meanwhile, Fisk scattered four hits in four different innings to avoid serious trouble. He struck out five batters, walked two and mixed his pitches well.

"I felt great, even with the cold weather," said Fisk, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-hander from Grafton High School (2010) in Brown Deer, Wis. "It helps being from Wisconsin. You get used to the cold weather."

Jeff Zimmerman, a first baseman/outfielder for the Reds, was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. He had an RBI single in the third inning to give the Reds a 2-0 lead.

"Actually, I'm new on this team," said Zimmerman, a 6-3, 210-pound lefthander from Victor J. Andrew High School (2010) in Tinley Park, Ill. "They welcomed me on this team, and they're a great bunch of guys. They're just fun to be around."

Stack, based in Milwaukee, is a scout for the Cincinnati Reds, who help sponsor the team with authentic Reds uniforms, bats, balls and catcher's gear. The families contribute the rest of the money for umpires and entry fees.

Stack had 11 players on the team from Illinois, nine from Wisconsin and one from Kansas for the tournament. He picked the players for the team this fall and is the head coach.

"I'm a full-time scout for the Reds, so I see some of these guys in the summer and winter and workouts and high school games, and I just ask them if they want to get together and play some good ball," Stack said, "and that's what they did."

It stayed a 2-0 ballgame until the bottom of the sixth, when the Reds plated four runs on four hits and a walk. Michael Wasilik (Oak Creek, Wis., 2010) had an RBI double in the sixth for the Reds, Kyle Haen (Madison, Wis., 2010) chipped in with a two-run single, and Michael Handel (Sun Prairie, Wis., 2010) drove in a run with a fielder's choice.

"I think the kids did a great job. They play well together," said Stack. "It's a team that plays together every weekend in the fall and came together at the right time."

The Reds are playing in the Perfect Game Midwest Scout League this fall, along with 18 other teams. Their victory in the Kernels Foundation tournament earned them an automatic spot in the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., on Oct. 22-26.

The Reds missed a day of school on Monday to play in the semifinals and finals in Cedar Rapids, but felt it was time well spent. Zimmerman said his parents supported his desire to play baseball and miss a day of classes.

"They understand that this was important for me, for scouts to see me," he said.

Fisk said his parents agreed. "As long as we were playing baseball and winning, it was great," he said.

The Cincinnati Reds used to sponsor a team in the Class A Midwest League in Cedar Rapids, so it was kind of a throw-back to see the Reds Midwest Scout Team wearing the Reds uniforms on Perfect Game Field. They were good-looking uniforms.

"I think they're actually old spring training or minor league uniforms that they had laying around," said Stack. "They're kind of cool. The kids like them. We make them wear their pants up, because that's how our minor leaguers have to do it. They're required to show 3 inches of socks."

They looked like champs.

Chad Green, a 6-foot 3 right-hander for the St. Louis Pirates DePew, was named the Most Valuable Pitcher in the tournament. Green is a senior from Effingham, Ill.
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