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ROSCOE - Rob Neiber's impact on the Stateline Fury softball program remains as strong as ever and not just because of the stellar play of his daughters Jordan, Bailey and Casey.
A cancer victim at the age of 50 in October, 2015, Neiber's legacy remains alive and growing due to the spirit he infused in all he came into contact with as a Fury head coach and softball supporter.
The program chose to honor the man a year ago by renaming its annual Dad's Day Classic Tournament as the Rob Neiber Memorial Tournament.
"We work hard when we look for coaches," Fury Director Denny McKinney said. "We want people who can coach the game, but that isn't always the priority. We're looking for role models. We want the people with the Fury jersey on representing us the right way with their actions. That's something Rob always did."
In addition to the three-day tournament at the Swanson Park and HCC fields, Fury honors Neiber by presenting scholarships to Fury players bound for college who go through a selection process. Last year, the first recipients were Annaka Bartz and Miranda Rodebaugh.
The tournament grew to 73 teams this past weekend and the number of scholarships rose, too. Three Fury players enrolled in college for the fall each received $500 scholarships: Meagan Matuska (Hononegah), Hannah Halverson (Janesville Craig) and Alyssa McKiski (Harlem). Matuska is enrolled at Notre Dame, McKiski will attend Illinois State and Halverson is headed to Luther College.
Rob's family - wife Lori, his three daughters and his son Jake - were all on hand for the scholarship presentation Sunday at Swanson Park.
"It's a great honor to have a tournament in remembrance of my dad and his love for softball," Jordan Neiber said. "In talking about my dad he's remembered most for his positive and encouraging energy on and off the field. He didn't care what uniform you wore, he was always ready with congratulations for a great play or nice hit. Anyone who played for him knew he would push you to be the best you could be, especially his kids. He wanted us to give 150 percent all the time.
"He would wish the recipients of the scholarships this year good luck and tell them no matter what you do, work hard and have fun."
Rocky Matuska, Meagan's father, said he was "fortunate to have known Rob and to have him be an influence on Meagan's life. Having Bailey on our team this whole time is something special, too. It's a special family. There are organizations you belong to because it's something to do, something to keep you busy. Fury for us has never been that way because of people like Bailey, Rob and the whole family."
Casey Neiber put the capper on the three-day tournament. She was a member of the 16U Fury team which captured first place in the final game at Swanson Stadium.
Fury 16U Red traveled to Overland Park, KS where they would take another shot at winning a USSSA National Championship. In both of the past 2 seasons, this team has come up just short of claiming the title after finishing in 2nd place. The team has three 2nd place finishes in the past 4 seasons (12U, 14U, and 15U), but this year would be different.
After starting the tournament 6-0 with 3 wins in pool play and winning their first 3 bracket games, Fury found themselves in familiar territory as one of only 4 remaining teams from the original 41. USSSA qualified teams throughout the summer form Minnesota, Utah, Kansas, Illinois, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and South Dakota and Fury made it to the Final 4 for the third year in a row.
In pool play, Fury outscored their opponents 25-2 on their way to a #1 seed in their pool. In the first 3 bracket games, Fury outscored their opponents 23-0. In 6 games, Fury had only allowed 2 runs with 5 shutouts.
In the Final Four, Fury took their first loss of the double elimination tournament at the hands of the Minnesota Moose by a score of 5-4 in extra innings. Now in the loser's bracket, Fury would need one more win to make it back to the Championship game for a third year in a row. Fury would go on to win 4 back-to-back games from 8am to 6pm to put themselves in a position to make the Championship. A tough team from Missouri would be standing in their way. But Fury answered the call with another 6-0 shutout victory and solidified their place in the Championship game.
After taking the long route to the Championship through the loser's bracket, Fury would have to beat their opponent twice in back to back games in order to win it all. They would face off against the same Minnesota Moose team that had beat them 5-4 in extra innings just 1 day ago. However, this time would be different. Fury took the come from behind victory by a score of 9-7 forcing a winner take all final game.
In the final game of the tournament, the "if necessary" game, Fury would have to beat Minnesota Moose one more time to become National Champions. In their third meeting in two days, Fury would pull out the victory in decisive fashion with a 10-2 "run-rule" win in 5 innings and claiming the program's 1st ever USSSA National Championship.
In 12 games, Fury 16U Red was 11-1 and scored 87 runs and allowed only 20 with 6 shutouts on their way to becoming 2016 USSSA 16U "A" National Champs.