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Rec Spotlight: No softball worries for 99 Problems

Rec Spotlight: No softball worries for 99 Problems
Pictured is 99 Problems co-ed softball team. Front Row, from left: Kelly Rogers, Heather Castle, Ali Zinnel, Caitlin Klobosits, Kelly Mabe, Sarah Melanie. Back Row: Trey Stokely, T.O., Matt Alder, Adam Miller, Jamie Alder, Jason Engles, Wade Smith, Dylan Shupe, Tony Brown. (Submitted photo)

Manager Jamie Alder tells the humorous story behind his softball team's unusual nickname, 99 Problems.

"We were sitting and talking about a name. A guy threw it out there and it just stuck. He was just thinking about how many problems come up when you play softball, and we all laughed," Alder said.

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Well, 99 Problems and its funny nickname are this year's Maryland State USSSA Class D co-ed softball champions

And you can bet that the teams it beat three Saturdays ago on the way to that title are not laughing.

They come by their winning ways, naturally. It's a veteran cast. And nine of the 99 Problems players once played for Carroll County Pools which was a powerhouse in the Carroll County Co-ed Softball League for years.

They decided to play only tournaments this year because the players were located too far apart to show up regularly for league games. Several even live down on the Lower Eastern Shore.

Alder played men's softball for years and still does. But he considers co-ed softball a pleasant alternative.

"Co-ed is more laid back and relaxed, and there is a lot more camaraderie. There aren't as many ego-driven persons. There will still be testosterone, but there won't be 15 players with testosterone. There will only be seven," Alder explained.

Even though there would be less of that male competitive hormone on a co-ed team, Alder nevertheless made it a point to recruit players who played for the benefit of the team itself instead of strictly for themselves. The result was a group that blended well and worked together.

Alder said, "we play for our teammates. There are no selfish players. The guys and girls always have each others' backs."

The team has won all three of its tournaments this year. Two more are planned. One will be a charity affair in Pennsylvania on Sept. 10.

The final one will be the USSSA Class D Co-ed World Tournament which will be held October in Orlando.

The team has been near perfect in winning its three tournaments to date.

Back in spring, 99 Problems swept five games to win the Spring NIT tourney at Bachman Park in Anne Arundel County. It swept three more at Bachman when it took the Summer Smash Tournament.

Three weeks ago, it headed to Ocean City for the state championship tournament. Alder knew his players wouldn't be intimidated by the other teams or the pressures of competing for a state title. They'd played in such tournaments before, and his players were confident.

"I knew we'd play good games against them. We knew all of (the other teams) because we'd played all of them over the years. I thought we'd do OK," he said.

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The locals opened against the Southern Maryland-based Heavy Hitters. That team promptly lived up to its name by scoring 11 first inning runs. The Carroll County squad didn't give up though. It fought all the way back to lead 16-14 entering the seventh inning. But disaster struck as the Heavy Hitters scored four more runs to win 18-16.

Pitcher Trey Stokeley went 4-for-4, outfielder Matthew Alder 3-for-3 and outfielder Kelly Rogers 3-for-4 for 99 Problems. Shortstop Dylan Shupe was 3-for-3 and designated hitter/utility player Tom Orslan was 3-for-4 with a home run.

Alder said his players took the loss in stride.

"That was the first game we'd lost this year. When you go undefeated all season long, you know it will happen someday. And we were playing good quality teams," he reasoned.

They wouldn't lose any more games in that tournament. In fact, the rest of them wouldn't even be close.

Game 2 saw them recover to double the score on Loading Dock 22-11. The locals led all the way over the Essex/Dundalk based team, exploding for six runs in both the fourth and fifth inning.

Orslan went 3-for-3, and Caitlin Klobosits was 2-for-3. Sarah Meleney and Jason Engles each went 2-for-4. Matthew Alder was 3-for-4 with a home run.

Game 3 was a return match with the Heavy Hitters. This time, there was no doubt as 99 Problems demolished them 20-2. They opened the rout with 14 first-inning runs and cruised. Shupe put on what amounted to a legendary power hitting performance. He hit three home runs, two being grand slams, and drove in 11 runs.

Kelly Mabe was 3-for-3; Tony Brown and catcher Ali Zinnel were each 2-for-3.

The 99 Problems squad next faced G.P., a New Jersey team that came south to try its luck. The Carroll squad sent them back home with a 23-5 whipping.

The Carroll County team scored 22 of those runs in the first inning as 21 consecutive batters reached base.

Shupe had another great performance, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and nine RBIs. Adam Miller was 2-for-3 and first baseman Heather Castle was 3-for-3.

In the final game, 99 Problems faced the Heavy Hitters yet again. And yet again, Carroll County clobbered them, this time 17-1. They took control early, scoring nine runs in the second inning.

Shupe whacked two more home runs, giving him seven for the tournament. Klobosits and Zinnel were each 2-for-2, and Brown, 3-for-3.

Shupe was named the tournament male MVP. Kelly Rogers, who had a spectacular on base average of .812 for the five games, was female MVP.

Each team was allowed to select six of its members for the tournament all-star team. Alder selected Stokeley, Matt Alder and Orslan on the men's side. He also named Castle, Zinnel and Rogers.

While this was a veteran team whose members had played in a number of big games and tournaments, a state title was a first for many.

"The players are excited and want to see how we compare against teams from other states," Jamie Alder said.

Judging from how well they compared to their opponents in Ocean City a few weekends ago, they could match up pretty well. And they may not have too many problems doing it.

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