By Rob Kiser
What started as a way for friends to get together and share their love of softball turned into one of the most successful slo-pitch softball teams in the state for the last six years.
And the Goon Squad went out with a bang recently at the USSSA World Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Florida, finishing 17th.
It all started six years ago as a way for some buddies to spend more time together sharing their passion for softball.
“Basically, it was just a bunch of guys who were playing on Thursday Night at Mote Park,” Ryan Kiefer, who runs the team, said. “Most of the guys on the team are from Piqua. We have picked up a few guys along the way.”
Kiefer admits the success was a surprise.
“No, we never expected anything like that,” he said. “We were just looking for a way to play softball on the weekends. We have played in a lot of tournaments and played against a lot of great teams.”
This year’s group — which hasn’t changed much from year to year, included Kyle Fain, Kiel Feeser, Derek Goins, David Hughes, Jason Hutson, Kiefer, Sean Maroney, TK Marsh, Willie Monbeck, Trevan Moton, Phil Mowell, Travis Owen, Jeremy Shellabarger, Gabriel Swallow, Taylor Wellbaum and Steve Zweib.
And the group that played in Florida were Fain, Feeser, Goins, Hughes, Hutson, Kiefer, Marsh, Monbeck, Moton, Mowell, Wellbaum and Zweib.
“You have to have a roster of about 20 people,” Kiefer said. “There are always going to be a player or two who can’t make a tournament because their son had a game or they had a wedding to go to or work.”
The Goon Squad rose to the top-ranked team in Ohio at one point this summer.
“We were ranked number one — and then we had to take a break for a month or so in the summer,” Kiefer said. “We won five or six tournaments, some of them are smaller tournaments.”
They played in a tournament with a team from Columbus this year.
“That team was a great team,” Kiefer said. “They had won a world tournament. And they ended up going out down at ESPN before we did.”
Coming off an top 64 finish last year at the World Tournament at ESPN, the Goon Squad finished 17th, their highest finish in the tournament.
“Last year, there were 220 teams and this year there 150,” Kiefer said.
And the team enters every tournament with three goals.
“Any tournament with 100 teams, we want to finish in the top 20,” he said. “We want to be the last Ohio team out and we want to win the tournament. We had never finished in the top 20 down there (at ESPN) before. To accomplish two of the three goals (they were the last team for Ohio to go out) is pretty good.”
In a way, it was bitter sweet, but a great way to go out — because they knew it was going to be their last tournament.
“We are probably not going to have a team next year,” he said. “We have some guys moving on to other teams. We have some guys that are retiring to coach their kids — or want to spend more time with their family and things like that. So, it was a great way to go out.”
The Goon Squad made memories that will last a lifetime — and went out with a bang.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call and can be reached at (937) 451-3334.