4th Annual “Average Joe’s” Tourney Preview

Ulliman is in Jersey looking to become a 2x champ of the Average Joe’s. Photo via r2sports

With the turn of the new year, we get the 4th annual Average Joe’s money tournament, held at the famous “Court 4” on the Kelley brother’s property in Montague, NJ.

More than 20 top amateurs have traveled to Jersey for this year’s event, which is part tourney and part weekend racquetball camp on the Kelley’s property.

Past champions:

– 1st Annual in 2021: Joe Kelley over Austin Cunningham

– 2nd Annual 2022: Kyle Ulliman over Victor Migliore

– 3rd Annual 2023: Sam Kelley over Victor Migliore

This year’s event features perhaps the widest geographic draw yet, with the regular Northeast crew present, plus players from up and down the east coast, top guys in from Ohio like last year, and even top USA junior @Cole Sendrey in from Texas.

Here’s a preview of the singles and (back for the 2nd year in a row) doubles draws:

In the singles draw, your top seeds are:

#1 @Dylan Pruit from Maryland

#2 your host and defending champ Sam Kelley

#3 two-time finalist and Ohio native Victor Migliore

#4 2022 champion Kyle Ulliman.

However, there’s talent up and down the draw; the inugural champ Joe Kelley is the #8 seed, the finalist in 2021 Cunningham is the #12 seed, and superstar Junior Sendrey is the #6 seed. How will this play out

In the quarters, look for Joe Kelley to give #1 Pruitt a run for his money but fall just short. I like Cunningham to upset lefty David Austin early but fall to Ulliman in the quarters. From the bottom half, Sendrey will struggle with Migliore’s power and quickness but may get a shocker upset, while its hard to see Sam Kelley falling before the semis.

Look for Sam over Migliore in one semi, and Ulliman over Pruitt in the other semi, then Ulliman in the final to be a 2-time champ.

In Doubles, look for the top seeded team of Pruitt & Cunningham to cruise into the finals, while the bottom half semi between team Ohio (Migliore and Ulliman) and team Kelley (brothers Sam and Joe) will be a battle royale. I like the Ohioans to take out the hosts, then top #1 seeds for the title.

Watch for streaming all weekend as the guys hang out on the Kelley residence. We’ll recap on Sunday or Monday.

IRT 2023 Season: News recap and looking forward to 2024

Here’s the last in my end of season series, taking a look at the seminal events of the season and then looking forward.

– 1/5/23: IRT and Gearbox officially announce what has been rumored for a few weeks: Gearbox has replaced Head/Penn as the official ball and official equipment manufacturer of the IRT. This ends a nearly 20-year agreement Penn had to provide the official IRT ball. Gearbox’s balls are known to be more “durable” and “more consistent” … but are also known to be noticeably slower than other balls in the sport. How does this end up changing the pro game? For this observer, on panel courts, the portable court, and places not at altitude, the game plays significantly slower, which highlights a need for accuracy and shot making. At altitude and/or on cement, the ball plays more “normally” and power players do not appear affected.

– 1/9/23: Despite losing the Longhorn Open final, #3 Conrrado Moscoso ascends to the #1 spot on tour. This is the first time a player from outside the Big-3 countries of the sport has achieved #1, and is a seminal career moment for the Bolivian.

– 1/20/23: For the 2nd time in three years, Rodrigo Montoya is given the

Teporaca de Oro by his home state of Chihuahua for his accomplishments in the sport. Unfortunately he has to miss the Lewis Drug Pro/Am to get the award, costing him valuable ranking points. By season’s end it doesn’t really impact where he ended up; he finished well behind Jake for #3.

– 1/26/23: #12 Mario Mercado is given the inaugural Mark Griffin Sportsman of the Year Award at the Lewis Drug Pro-Am. Griffin first started the Lewis Drug Pro/Am tournament in 1978, and it is the longest running pro event in the country. The award will be presented annually to the player who most exemplifies the spirit of fair play and outstanding athletic performance of Men’s IRT tour professionals. Ironically, Mercado doesn’t play an event the rest of the season.

– 2/19/2023: the IRT has pivoted away from its tiered qualifying system and is going to a straight draw; no more byes into the 16s for the top 8 pros. Everyone starts in the 32s or the 64s if the draw is large enough. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but this seems to me to be an anti-player move, especially for the top 8 guys. Remember, top 8 players sign an agreement that purposely limits their ability to enter non-IRT sanctioned events, and in return they (for nearly 20 years) got protected seeding in return. Without the protected seeding, why agree to limit your own earning potential? It is also an inarguable fact that tiered qualifying is better for lower ranked players as well, for reasons i’ve covered many times in this space. Uninformed observers are convinced that this is a good thing, but you can count on one hand the number of round of 32 matches top eight players have played this year that were even remotely competitive.

– 2/19/23: #1 Moscoso skips the Williams Accounting Open in Atlanta to be part of the festivities of the celebration of Carnival in his home country. Its the only event he misses all season, but it proves to be a massive absence. De La Rosa wins the event and its valuable 600 ranking points, while Moscoso eventually finishes 2nd by just 226 points at season’s end. A semi’s finish or better in Atlanta would have changed the season ending rankings.

– 3/5/23: Rodrigo Montoya becomes the 45th man to ever win an IRT event, topping his doubles partner Mar in the 16s, then topping the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd ranked players (Portillo, Moscoso, and De La Rosa) to win the title in Minnesota. This is finally enough to catapult Montoya, who has long been one of the best players in the world but was never ranked accordingly, into the top 4 where he belongs.

– 3/16/23: despite being in a nip and tuck battle for #1 on tour, DLR skips the Chicago Open to compete instead in a PPA pickleball event in Austin that happened the same weekend. By season’s end, it becomes clear that DLR’s move here is immaterial, but it was a gamble at the time.

– May 2023: Thanks to the large anticipated 2023 slate of events and the distance we’ve now put ourselves from Covid, the tour will be moving away from the rolling 11 tier 1s and back to a rolling 365-day calendar.

– May 2023: a couple of shots across the bow of the IRT player contract are made, as DLR & Landa play in an “Open” tournament in San Antonio while Portillo skips an IRT event (along with Acuna, who is outside the top 😎 to play in the Asian open. Both actions seem to be in violation of the IRT player contract, which stipulates that top 8 players may not play ANY non-IRT event and only a limited number of IRT satellite events per season. A bit later, Portillo takes to Facebook to complain that he had been fined $500 for the action, though the post is later taken down. It does beg a question as to the fairness of the IRT player contract, but the players can’t really do anything until the new year.

– Aug 2023: World singles & Doubles happens in Denver thanks to two years of planning from Jim Hiser, and with the loss of the US Open this is the defacto US Open of the season. It has the biggest draws of the season by far.

– Aug 2023: With the cancellation of the Portland Tourney of Champions as a Tier 1, the tour will have exactly 10 tier 1s/Grand slams by the end of 2023. Per the player

contract, the year end title will be determined by the sum of these 10 events. The 3 competitors for the title (Jake, DLR, Moscoso) each face different challenges in the race to #1: Moscoso missed the Grand Slam, DLR missed Chicago, and Jake has a ton of late 2022 points to defend.

– Sept 2023: Alex Landa announces in a Facebook post that he’ll be retiring as of the last event of the 2023 season from professional racquetball.

– 11/12/2023: Kane Waselenchuk, who had not played professional singles since his Achilles heel tear in September 2022, enters the Boston singles event with little fanfare and advances to the semis, beating #11 Robbie Collins, #6 Adam Manilla, and most notably #3 Conrrado Moscoso with relative ease. He nearly beats #2 Jake Bredenbeck in the semis, but seemed to pick up an injury that hampered his movement, losing in a tiebreaker. Still, its an amazing return to form for the 14-time pro tour champ, and his defeat of Moscoso had huge implications for the year end race.

– 11/13/23: Jake Bredenbeck ascends to #1 ranking on tour for the first time with his finals appearance in Boston.

– 11/20/23: the tour race for #1 is going to be closer than it has been for nearly a decade, so much attention is paid to the machinations of the two remaining events. Thanks to Moscoso’s upset loss in Boston, DLR’s semi final appearance, and Jake’s final’s showing … the end of year race becomes clear. Moscoso cannot win the title. Jake can win the title, but he needs to win Pleasanton and hope that Daniel loses relatively early. DLR can sew up the 2023 title with at least a semis appearance in Pleasanton, or a quarter’s appearance if Jake loses before the final.

– 12/9/23: A Jake Bredenbeck loss in the quarters of the Golden State Open sealed the 2023 title for De La Rosa before he even took the court for his critical quarterfinal against Acuna. Daniel won that match and his semi to resolve any question as to his #1 status, though he ended up losing the finals badly to #2 Moscoso.

– 12/10/23: In the post-game interview after the Golden State Open final, Daniel De La Rosa announced that he will not be “touring full time” in 2024, alluding to his

commitments to “another sport.” There’s little surprise here; he signed an 3-year contract with the Professional Pickleball Association in August which guarantees a salary, benefits, and expense reimbursement to play professional Pickleball. His main sponsor Pro Kennex and Mike Martinez tried to manage the situation on social media by noting that DLR is a “multi sport” sponsored player and has expectations of continuing to play and compete in racquetball, but as they say, we’ll see how it goes.

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Now for some commentary on the state of the IRT at the end of 2023 and heading into 2024.

Despite having 10 tier 1s in 2023, the tour saw a pretty steep decline in overall participation. In 2022, there were 245 players who competed in one of the IRT’s events; that number dropped to just 133 in 2023. That’s more than 100 players who didn’t travel or didn’t enter an event who had a year prior. Draw sizes were way down; at the beginning of 2022 draws were routinely in the 40s; by the end of 2023 the tour was struggling to get 25 players. Denver and the portable court helped bump things up (those two events got 56 and 48 players respectively) but there’s a big gap of players missing.

We’ve definitely seen a changing of the guard as long-time touring pros step back (Carson, Beltran, Landa, Franco, Mercado). We’re also seeing younger players who were touring relatively full time in 2022 stop touring (Fernandez, Keller, Garay). But we’re also seemingly missing a lot of the international guys who frequently traveled to every event, and we’re not seeing the younger Mexican’s coming over the border as much as we have in year’s past. So, that’s a problem.

A bigger problem is the loss of events. Here’s a quick list of IRT tier 1 stops that we seem to have “lost” just in the last couple of years:

– Longhorn Open in Jan

– The Lou Bradley in Feb

– Williams Accounting/Suivant Consulting in Feb

– Where’s the SoCal Open, usually in April?

– The Syosset Open in NY in May

– World Singles/Denver won’t happen in August 2024

– The Capital Classic in Severna Park in Sept.

– The US Open is not likely to happen in 2024

– We used to have an Arizona Open in Oct

– The Sarasota Open/Dovetail in Nov?

– Pelham ToC went down to a satellite this year in Dec.

Not to mention events we used to have regularly in St. Louis or Cincinnati or San Antonio or in Canoga Park. The tour has picked up some new events (Tracktown, Pleasanton, Boston) but not enough to offset all these losses. And it makes me worry about the 2024 season. Will the IRT even get to 6 events this coming year?

I’m not sure what the answer is. But the tour may be in some existential trouble. Many of the tour’s investors were also its regular tourney directors, and they’ve stepped back from sponsoring events. The IRT depends on local tourney directors to raise funds and make these events happen, and the decline of tournaments in general has fed into t his issue. DLR said he’s stepping back from touring … but if there’s just a handful of events, and he manages to make them all while playing the PPA tour full time … he could end up having the best of both worlds.

Lots to sort out in 2024. But I think its fair to say we havn’t seen the men’s tour face this many question marks since the fall of 1988 when it completely collapsed.

IRT 2023 Final Season Player analysis: Outside the top 10

Landa hangs them up Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Here’s a look at notables who finished outside the top 10 this year, with some thoughts on who could be making a move in 2024.

– #11 Alejandro Landa : Landa retires from full time touring with an impressive career resume. He’s 35, but really didn’t start touring full-time until 2017. From there he ripped off four seasons in the top 3, won four events, made another four finals, and steps away with a career W/L of 158-93. He’ll make for an interesting hall of fame case some day, but for now the tour loses one of its most passionate players. For me he’s always a “what if” he had played the tour full time for his entire 20s, not just the last couple of seasons. I suspect he’d have a career more like what DLR has now in terms of total wins. Could he have won a year end title? Maybe; he has a winning career h2h over DLR (10-8 across all competitions) but would have still been in the Kane era during his own peak. Bigger question; does he play US Nationals in Arizona in February? Or is he “done” done?

– #13 Javier Mar continues to play the tour part time, around his “real job” and periodically wreak havoc on draws. This season he got wins over top 10 players like Parrilla, Landa, and Acuna to shake up draws and played Moscoso tough in a 10,12 semis loss in Austin for his best result. #13 is his career best season ending ranking, but is this as good as we can expect from Mar? He dealt with a hernia injury for a big part of the year as well, meaning he probably could have been even better. If he played the tour full time, I have no doubt he’d be in the #6-7 range. But he never has, so mid-teens seems like what to expect.

– #15 Jaime Martell had his career best showing, finishing #15 on the back of several main draws and one quarter final result. He has a niche reffing the back end of the events and has connections to IRT commissioner @Pablo Fajre from their WRT days. I could see him making more events in 2024 and pushing up a few spots in the rankings.

– #16 Erick Trujillo missed just one event in 2023 but never advanced past the round of 16, which puts his #16 rank exactly where he should be. He’s still in the 21U division, but has losses to his fellow 21u countrymen Ramos, Gastelum, and Nieto lately and didn’t qualify for Junior Worlds this year. And none of those guys are as good as the current Mexican 18U champ Jorge Gutierrez Ortiz. What’s next for him? He seems likely to stay in this general range 15-16.

– #20 Rocky Carson played in just three events this year as he stopped touring full time; he played in the two California events plus Denver. He shook up the Pleasanton draw a bit, taking out Mar and Parrilla before being downed by Montoya. He’s a sure-fire hall of famer, just waiting a couple years to become eligible. I’m guessing he’ll continue to travel to WOR events (where he gets paid) and to California-based events (where his costs are limited) for a while. I could also see him back at Nationals since its in AZ and it’s not a total one and done for him.

– #22 @Kane Waselenchuk returned to the singles court more than a year after blowing out his Achilles heel tendon, and he made an impression for sure. In Boston he waxed #6 Manilla before shocking #3 Moscoso, then ran out of gas in the semis against Jake. Then in Pleasanton different court conditions and an opportunistic Moscoso led to a (10),4,4 defeat. Kane has to be happy though about his status: he’s shown that even at 42, his pinpoint serving accuracy and remaining power can take him past most players on tour without breaking a sweat. The bigger question will be, what happens when he runs into the top 4 regularly? We had too small of a sample size this season to really know (a win over Moscoso, a loss to Jake and a loss to Moscoso). If Kane plays all the events in 2024, I have no doubt he’s finishing in the top 4, but I doubt he can consistently get past Moscoso, DLR, or Jake. But i’ve been wrong about him before, so we’ll see. 2024 prediction: #3 or #4

– #24 @Diego García . Garcia has taken over the title of, “Best player who doesn’t tour full time.” Mar had the belt for a bit, Montoya before him, then Landa for a while, then before Landa it was probably someone like Polo or Mejia. They join a group that included guys like Sweeney and Muller back in the 1990s. As for Garcia now, he beat Portillo twice this year, had a couple other wins over tour regulars when he did show, and took Montoya to a breaker in the quarters of Denver. But Garcia’s problem is money; he doesn’t have enough to travel up here to play full time. If he did, I have no doubt he’d be top 6. But as it is, we’ll see how many events he can get to.

– #25 @Sebastian Franco only played 2 events this year, and after being a mainstay at the back of the top 10 for the better part of the last 10 years seems to have made the understandable decision to focus his efforts on earning a living for his wife and two kids.

– #27 @Mario Mercado , like his fellow Maryland-resident and Colombian teammate Franco, also has stepped way back from touring after 10 years of playing. Mercado’s knee deep in @Formulaflow.

– #33 Carlos Keller Vargas continues to be a force internationally, but after peaking at #12 two seasons ago has stepped back to his prior pattern of traveling up for just one or two events a year. Meanwhile, he continues to dominate internationally, making the finals of PARC and the semis of the Pan Am games, with wins over Garcia twice, Acuna, and Murray. Hope to see more of him.

– #39 @Elias Nieto only played two IRT events, but continues to impress internationally and could push for a mid-teen ranking with enough events given his h2h record against Trujillo. Same for #42 @Diego Gastelum ; both players have big time promise and hope to see them more.

– #40 @Cole Sendry continues to get reps on tour and internationally in the 18U space, and seems like one of the best bets for the next USA player to matriculate out of juniors.

– #45 @Alvaro Beltran has had father time catch up to him w/r/t singles; he’s still out there playing doubles when he can.

– #54 Gerson Miranda is a great 21U junior from Bolivia, the latest in a long -line of Bolivian junior national champs who could make noise. But, as with many of his countrymen, lack of funding makes it hard for him to tour regularly.

– #70 Sebastian Fernandez quietly stopped touring, which is a shame given the promise he showed while hanging around the top 16.

– #72 Jordan Barth certainly had vocal supporters upon his return from pro baseball; the former dominant junior national champ played one event this year.

– Two former touring pro regulars based in Oregon Charlie Pratt and @Tony Carson

played one event in their hometown and finished tied for #100.

– LPRT #4 Erika Manilla finished at #108 after entering a satellite and going a round or two.

– Bringing up the rear of the standings: Scott McClellan , former lead ref on tour, who entered the Longhorn Open in his home town and going one-and done.

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That’s it for the player recaps. Next post will catch up the news from the year and then talk 2024.

IRT 2023 Final Top 10 Standings Analysis

De La Rosa captures his 3rd straight year end title. Photo Golden State Open, Ken Fife.

Hello racquetball fans and Happy New Year! We’ve come to the end of the 2023 season, so here’s my regular end of season deep dive into the players and the tour in general.

I’ll do this analysis in three parts: first (today) will be the top 10. Next will be notables from the players ranked 11th and onward. Then I’ll finish up with a recap of the news events from the season along with some editorialization. Along the way I’ll offer predictions for 2024.

Without further ado.

#1: Daniel De la Rosa finished #1 for the third straight season, tying him with Charlie Brumfield on the all time list of pro title winners. DLR played in 9 of the 10 events on the season and showed some pretty good consistency: 3 wins, 4 finals, and 2 semis. Zero early round upset losses; basically he was a lock to make the semis the moment he showed up. He went 30-6 on the season. He now has 12 career tourney wins (12th all time) and his career W/L now sits at 221-98 (15th all time). However, the elephant in the room (like it is for a lot of racquetball fans) is PIckleball. DLR is committed to the PPA tour for 2024 and beyond, with guaranteed salary, stipends for health insurance, and travel expenses. Its too good of a deal to pass up, and if there’s a competing event to a 2024 IRT event, DLR likely misses it. There aren’t too many IRT events on the books yet for 2024, but we know for sure there’s a conflict for March’s Shamrock shootout. Because of this, DLR has already hedged his bets and let people know he’s not going to tour “full time” to manage expectations. I predict he’ll miss enough events to knock him out of the top spot but he stays in the top 4 by season’s end. 2024 prediction: #3 or #4, depending on how many events he makes.

#2: Conrrado Moscoso : Conrrado had an excellent season: 4 wins (1 more than DLR), 2 finals, 1 semi and 2 quarter final losses, but its the one event he missed that crushed him in the end; he skipped the one grand slam event the IRT had in 2023, costing him significant points. He finished 2nd by around 266 points, but a semis finish at a grand slam is worth 330 points. He also suffered two quarter-final losses, which are tough to overcome when your rival for the top spot is essentially unbeatable prior to the semis. Nonetheless, Moscoso is well positioned for 2024. He now sits 5th overall in career W/L percentage at 80-22 (behind only Kane, Marty, Sudsy, and Brumfield) and he now sits tied for 14th ever in Tier1 wins. Both of these figure to be improved upon in 2024, as Moscoso beat #1 DLR in three of their four meetings in 2023 (all finals). Most pundits believe Conrrado is the world’s best player, and I believe he’ll ascend to #1 in 2024 and stay there. 2024 Prediction: #1

– #3 @Jake Bredenbeck had a season for the ages. After grinding out the tour for years at the fringes of the top 10, Jake flipped a switch this year and vaulted himself into the top 4. For nearly the entire season, his only vanquishers were the two men ranked above him, and his consistent results pushed him to the #1 ranking by November. In fact, he still maintained a shot at the year end title going into the season’s final event, something that even Moscoso couldn’t say. Jake may have slipped to #3 on points with the upset loss in the Pleasanton quarters, but he’s now a force to be reckoned with for the time being. Jake’s biggest issue going forward will be his age: he’s now 32, and is entering a critical age for pro racquetball players, especially big guys. I think he’ll hang on for 2024, especially given his commitment to fitness. 2024 prediction: #2.

– #4 Rodrigo Montoya After years and years of being “the guy nobody wanted to run into early,” Montoya finally pushed his way into the tour’s top 4 and seems set to stay there as long as he can. In 2023 he became the 45th man ever to win a Tier 1 and had a consistent set of results: 1 win, 1 final, 4 semi-finals. He has kept his “bad losses” to a minimum, and seems set to stick as a top seed. Montoya is the rare player who’s had success against Moscoso in the past (he’s 5-8 against him across IRT and IRF events, though Moscoso has had the upper hand lately), meaning a weekend matchup between the pair guarantees fireworks. My 2024 prediction for Montoya kind of rests on his schedule: he’s has a full time career that has always made it tough for him to make 100% of the events. I’ll bet he misses one here or there and finishes #3 or #4 again.

– #5: Andree Parrilla took a distinct step back this season, starting it ranked #2 and ending it at #5. Parrilla did get a 3rd career win, but it was an anomaly for him this season. He lost in the 16s or quarters 7 out of 9 events this year, getting a couple of really unlucky round of 16 matches against Carson and Mar. But the real story for Andree was the bugaboo of his quarter final matchups; all season he found himself losing at the QF stage to players who he had previously better success. In this respect, #5 makes perfect sense for his year end ranking, and it seems like a pretty good guess for 2023; he’ll continue to run into top four players at this juncture and there’s now a talent gap between them and the rest of the tour. Parrilla will be “the best of the rest” again in 2024 and finish #5 again.

– #6 Adam Manilla : after years of sitting outside the top 10, Manilla rather quietly put together a really consistent season and launched himself to the #6 spot by year’s end. He did this on the back of 7 quarter final appearances in 10 events, overcoming a few round of 16 upsets and staying the course. Adam’s challenge is, those seven quarter final losses were all to the top 3 players on tour: he lost to Moscoso 3 times, DLR 3 times, and Jake once. In order to move up, Manilla needs to get wins over these top guys, and that doesn’t seem like its in the cards right now. I think #6 was as far as he can get and he may very well slip a bit depending on what the guys ranked 7-10 manage to do next year. 2024 prediction: #7.

– #7 Eduardo Portillo slipped from last season’s #4 ranking down to #7 as he missed several events as he continues to work on his commercial pilot training. He also took a step back this season in terms of his finishes: he’s made at least one tourney final in each of the previous three seasons, but never made it there this year. In this respect, he’s had better finishing than the rest of the guys in the 5-8 range, but his absences keep him back. I don’t know what his work situation will be in 2024, but I suspect a full-time airline pilot is not going to have the same kind of schedule flexibility as a pre-college kid. Without knowing anything else, i’m going to guess he continues to hang around in the 7-8 range due to missed events.

– #8: Andres Acuna just finished his best season ever, making six quarterfinals a season after getting past the quarters just once. However, like Manilla and Parrilla above him, he never got any further. To make matters worse he’s mired in the #8/#9 seed slot, routing him into the #1 seed tourney after tourney and making it tough to move up. However, he’s clearly taken a step up on tour, and seems set to make all the events and continue to compete. I’m going to predict he hangs around in the top 10 and finishes #8 again.

– #9 Alan Natera was basically an unknown on tour a year ago, finishing 25th. Not this year; he played every event, made every satellite, and got himself into two quarter finals to finish in the top 10 for the first time. He’s a hard worker and has been improving, but Its hard to see him getting past the Acuna/Manilla/Portillo bunch ahead of him. I predict he finishes 8 or 9 in 2024.

– #10: Samuel Murray took a distinct step back on tour this year, missing three events (the first he’d missed in years) and slipping from #6 last year to #10 this year. He’s still a threat to make the semis, when he’s on, but now that he’s on the wrong side of 30 one has to wonder if he’s destined to push for the top 10 regularly anymore. He continues to rule in Canada though, ensuring his national team spot for the 11th straight year, so he’ll continue to play. If he doesn’t miss events in 2024, I can see him getting back into the 6-7 range. 2024 prediction: #6.

We’ll review notables outside the top 10 in the next post.

IRT 2023 Year End Rankings published to website

Hello Racquetball fans. A quick note to inform the community that I’ve done the typical year-end data upload into ProRacquetballStats.com for the just ended IRT season. Here’s some links that now show the updated data, along with some of the artifacts I maintain for the sport.

– Year End Rankings loaded into the database: https://rball.pro/z6f

– Season Summary Report: https://rball.pro/zlj . This report has a breakdown of finishes for all players, is sorted by Wins, then Finals, then Semis, etc.

– All the season-level reports are now of course complete for the year. You can get a list of finals, draw sizes,

All the static files of data have also been updated:

– Landmark Tour history bullet points: https://www.proracquetballstats.com/irt/tour_history.html

– List of Year end Title Winners: https://www.proracquetballstats.com/irt/year_end_titles.html

– Detailed tour history/year summary: https://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/year_end… . I use this file to do a separate post coming soon where I detail the happenings of the season.

– Number of Overall Titles: https://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/number_of_titles… DLR wins his 3rd and moves into a tie with Charlie Brumfield (who won 3 pro and an additional 2 amateur national titles in the early 1970s).

– Major Championship Winners: https://www.proracquetballstats.com/irt/major_titles.html . Only one major this year, the Suivant Consulting Grand Slam in Atlanta.

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Look for my big recap of the IRT season in this space soon, including player by player commentary and predictions for 2024.

LPRT 31st Annual Christmas Classic Recap

Vargas dominates to win in DC. Photo US Open 2019 Kevin Savory

Congrats to your Pro winners on the weekend:

– Singles: Maria Jose Vargas

– Doubles: Alexandra Herrera and Monserrat Mejia

Vargas wins her 7th career LPRT singles title, putting her ahead of Mejia and tying her for 11th place all time with a couple of hall of fame calibre players in Marci Drexler and Caryn McKinney.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41727

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Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/9pb

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In the 32s, the tour welcomed back @Maria Renee Rodriguez , who we hadn’t seen on tour since May. She topped @Stephanie Synhorst to move on to face #1 Mejia. Texas junior @Naomi Ros got a nice win over fellow USA player Lexi York to move on, and Colombian @Maria Paz Riquelme took out Floridian Chanis Leon in a rematch of their opener from Boston.

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In the 16s

– #9 @Samantha Salas Solis got the better of Carla Muñoz this time around, winning in a breaker of the always-close 8/9 matchup.

– #13 Cris Amaya advanced to the quarters of a pro event for the first time since January 2020 with a close 2-game win over Brenda Laime 13,14.

– #6 Alexandra Herrera made fast work of country-woman Jessica Parrilla for the 2nd straight event, moving on 6,5

– An injury to Argentine @Natalia Mendez gave team USA Kelani Lawrence a walk-over into the quarters.

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In the Quarters

– #1 Mejia moved past Salas 2,11

– #13 Amaya turned back the clock once again and moved into her first pro semi since March of 2017 by topping Guatemalan @Ana Gabriele Martinelli in a breaker. Amaya lost game one easily and saved match points against in game two before topping Gaby in the breaker.

– #3 Vargas cruised past Herrera 3,10, another statement win defining the gulf that has opened between Herrera and the top 3 ladies on tour

– #2 @Paola Longoria was not very troubled by Lawrence, moving on 4,2.

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In the Semis

– Mejia ended Amaya’s luck, advancing to the final 8,3

– Vargas topped Longoria for the 3rd time in their last 4 meetings, but it couldn’t have been any closer. (13),10,10. Vargas controlled most of the breaker and got to 10-6, but then Longoria saved match point against (plus two more) as she clawed her way to 10-10. Vargas buried a side-out winner, then aced Longoria on her fourth match point attempt to take the win.

In the Finals, Vargas improved to 6-4 lifetime (including wins in their last two meetings) to take the title.

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Points Implications of results

When last year’s Xmas classic expires, Vargas will leapfrog Longoria for #2 on tour, relegating Paola to #3 on tour. It has been so long since Longoria was ranked below #2 on tour that our records don’t even reliably have seeding data; we know Paola was the #5 seed at the 2008 US Open, which she won, and by that season’s end she was firmly ensconced at #1 on tour. So, a seminal event on tour.

Other top 10-15 moves: Salas moves one notch ahead of Mendez in the rankings, while Munoz drops from #10 to #12.

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Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/mrf

Mejia and Herrera won their third straight LPRT pro doubles title, and their 8th as a pair, with a comprehensive 10,8 win over the #1 seeds Longoria & Salas. The reigning Mexican champs (who won 2023 PARC but who got upset in the semis at the Pan Am Games) continues to be the best doubles team in the world, even if they’re still ranked #2 behind Longoria & Salas.

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Open Singles, other notable draws

– Ros beat York again and then Synhorst to take Women’s Open singles.

– Dylan Pruitt took out Mauricio Zelada in an all-Maryland Men’s Open final.

– Pruitt teamed with Jessica Parrilla to win the Men’s open doubles title.

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend from the LPRT crew, thanks to the tourney director, and thanks to all the sponsors as always.

Reminder to Players! Please like and follow this page so that when I tag you, you see it. Facebook will only retain tags of people that like/follow a page, which means lots of you are not getting the notoriety of getting tagged and noticed on Facebook. If your name is here and it isn’t tagged … it probably means I attempted to tag you but Facebook stripped it.

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Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

https://docs.google.com/…/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMb…/

We’re finishing off the last tournament weekend of the 2023 year. I’ll recap the Beach Battle from Hollywood and then after a break I’ll do a 2023 season IRT recap.

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tags

LPRT

IRT Golden State Open Recap

Moscoso wins the final event of 2023 but it isn’t enough to get him the year end titie. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Congrats to your Pro winners on the weekend:

– Singles: @conrramoscosoortiz

– Doubles: Rodrigo Montoya and Javier Mar

Moscoso secures the last event of the 2023 season, his 8th career title. This moves him into a tie for 14th overall with none other than @John Ellis , who was recognized this weekend for his induction into the USA Racquetball hall of fame. See https://rball.pro/2fg for a full list of title winners in the history of the tour.

However, the story line of the weekend was @DaDaniel De la Rosa , losing finalist but who wrapped up his 3rd year end title in a row. The other story line, of course, was the return of the Glass Court to the pro sport. Congrats to tournament organizers Adam Manilla and Bobby Horn for securing the funding and expending the effort to make this happen. The IRT draw was one of the largest we’ve seen since the last time the court was in use, and it looked awesome. Thanks as always to @Keith Minor and Kwm Gutterman for your ongoing support of the sport, and for housing the court.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=41282

——————

Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/l2k

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In the qualifiers, some interesting/surprising results:

– Up and coming Mexican 18U Cristhian Sanchez took out top amateur Martin Anthony to move into the main draw.

– Former WRT #1 Alejandro Cardoza topped Guatemalan international Edwin Galicia to get into the main draw.

– 13-time title winner @Kane Waselenchuk moved into the main draw as expected, topping fellow Texan Craig Clements .

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In the 32s:

– @Sam Bredenbeck got a nice win over Bolivian vet Kadim Carrasco to force his way into the 16s.

– 2-time IRT champ Rocky Carson reminded current tour players that he can still ball, topping #12 @Javier Mar in a breaker to move on.

– Guatemalan #1 @JuJuan Salvatiera surprised #13 Robert Collins to move on.

– Kane, seeded 19th in this event, cruised past Mexican 21U @Erick Trujillo 7,7 to get into the 16s and setup a rematch of Boston’s showdown with Moscoso.

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In the 16s:

– @Andres Acuna dominated Alan Natera in the 8/9 match 6,10, setting up the expected quarter final battle with DLR.

– Rocky shocked #5 Andree Parrilla 11,9 to move into the quarters.

– In a very highly anticipated match, #3 Moscoso faced off against Waselenchuk. To this observer, Kane wasn’t looking nearly as sharp in Pleasanton as he did in Boston, as evidenced by Trujillo’s ability to get points on him in the earlier round. The glass court plays slow as well, which contributes (along with the slower ball) to balls being up and gettable to an extent that wasn’t the case on Boston’s cement walls. Kane controlled game one for long stretches, but Moscoso kept it close and ended up losing 15-10. I was critical of Moscoso’s lack of serving diversity and his game plan being exposed by the tactical genius of Kane ahead of this match, but all credit to Conrrado here; he came out firing in game two and blitzed Kane 15-4 in a one-way traffic game that continued into the tiebreaker. Final score: (10),4,4. I believe we saw the Bolivian get over a mental hurdle and just gain confidence as the match wore on, freeing him to go for his typical “shoot with abandon” mentality and, once he started hitting those shots, there was nothing anyone could do.

– @Eduardo Portillo topped @Alejandro Landa 10,3 in what was Landa’s final pro singles match as a full time touring pro. We’ll do a career retrospective of Landa in this space at a later date.

—————-

In the Quarters, we got some match results with historical implications.

– #1 Daniel DE LA Rosa , who went into this event knowing that a semi finals appearance would seal the 2023 title, took the court knowing that the results before him already sealed the deal (more on that later). Perhaps distracted, he dropped a game to #8 Acuna but ground back to take a close breaker 11-8.

– #4 Rodrigo Montoya blitzed Carson 15-1 in the first and then held on 15-13 for the two game win to send the veteran Cinderella home.

– #3 Moscoso sent home your host on the weekend Manilla 6,11

– #2 @Jake Bredenbeck , who went into this event knowing that he needed a tourney win plus some help, was shocked by #7 Portillo 10,13 to end his season. This result ended up officially sealing the 2023 title for DLR and sent Jake home with a bitter taste.

—————

In the Semis

– DLR made fast work of Montoya 8,7

– Moscoso blasted Lalo 6,2 to setup an entertaining final.

—————

In the Finals, Moscoso played a comprehensive lights out match, crushing the new #1 DLR 4,3 to take the title. Daniel had little response to Moscoso’s dominance, and the Bolivian made a bit of a statement with the win. Despite finishing #2, Moscoso actually out-titled Daniel this year 4-3 (though Daniel made 4 other finals to Moscoso’s two, demonstrating a bit more consistency throughout the year).

In the post-game interview, Daniel announced that he will not be “touring full time” in 2024, alluding to his commitments to “another sport.” There’s little surprise here; he signed an exclusive 3-year contract with the Professional Pickleball Association in August which guarantees a salary, benefits, and expense reimbursement to an extent where DLR could not say no. His main sponsor Pro Kennex and Mike Martinez tried to manage the situation on social media by noting that DLR is a “multi sport” sponsored player and has expectations of continuing to play and compete in racquetball, but as they say, we’ll see how it goes.

A quick glance at the 2024 known schedules for Racquetball and Pickleball right now shows that

– DLR is free to play the Lewis Drug (no conflicts)

– may have a conflict for USA Nationals on 2/11/24 weekend if he plays the MLP,

– would have a MLP conflict for Minnesota HoF tourney

– Definitely has a PPA conflict with 3/17 Papa Nicholas event (which is also Beach Bash in 2024)

So we’ll see. The biggest question may just be how many tier1s can the IRT get in 2024. We’ve lost the Longhorn Open, I’ve seen no word from the Atlanta guys (Suivant and Williams) about their regular February event, the SoCal Open isn’t on the books for April, Denver is not happening this year, Tracktown & Boston were first time events in 2023 that may or may not return, there’s no guarantee of a US Open in 2024, we’ve seemingly lost the Sarasota/Dovetail open, the organizers of the DC-area Capital Classic have pulled back. NY Open is gone along with its sponsor from the sport, and the Pelham TOC downgraded to a satellite. So, DLR may not have to “tour full time” to play a full slate of 2024 events if there’s only a handful.

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Points Implications of results

As noted above, DLR sealed the year end title (his 3rd) with Jake’s quarter final loss. More interestingly is that Moscoso’s win coupled with Jake’s early loss has jumped Conrrado up to #2 for the season. The only other last minute moves in the top 10 saw Acuna bump up to #8, pushing the absent Murray back to #10 for the year. Landa’s final season ends with him just getting pushed out of the top 10.

We’ll do a full comprehensive recap of the season later on this month.

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Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/wsi

Montoya and Mar captured another doubles title as a team. Its their 3rd pro doubles title this season and their 7th together professionally. This is on top of their 2023 Pan Am games gold, their 2022 Worlds, and their 2019 Pan Am gold medals as a partnership.

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Open Singles, other notable draws

– @Diego Gastelum took an all Mexican U21 final against Rico. Both players got walkovers from Guatemalans in the semis, possibly due to travel issues.

– Alan Natera / Victor Koliczew got a win in the Open Doubles final when NorCal duo Torres and Reynolds withdrew.

– Christie Noler took the 4-player Women’s Open RR

– Sonya_Shetty_/_Victoria_Rodriguez took the women’s Open draw

– Shane Diaz / Will Reynolds: took Mixed Open

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Favio Soto, Steve Schulze, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew . Thanks to guest broadcasters all weeked like @Brian Pineda and @Sudsy Monchik , who make it great to watch along from home.

——————

Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

https://docs.google.com/…/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMb…/

We’ll cover the LPRT and WOR events later this week, then that’s a wrap for 2023!

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tags

LPRT 31st Annual Xmas Classic Preview

Gaby makes a rare LPRT appearance. Photo via Gaby

We’re doing double duty this weekend, with the men on one coast and the ladies the other. Also this weekend is the 31st Annual Christmas Classic, being hosted just south of Baltimore at the Severna Park club, which features an old school sunken glass court with permanent seating behind it.

No Erika this weekend; she stays in Pleasanton to help her brother run the IRT event.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41727

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Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable matches that i’m looking forward to:

In the 32s, three play-ins. We get a repeat of lefties Riquelme-Leon from Chicago a few weeks ago, plus a fun match between two USA players York and Ros.

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round of 16:

Some slight jumbling of the back of the top 10 gives us some fun round of 16 matchups. Munoz and Salas repeat their frequent rivalry as of late. Parrilla and Herrera go at it again in the 16s, just as they did in Chicago a few weeks ago. Mendez and Lawrence in the 7/10 looks great. Lots of challenging round of 16 matches here.

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Projected Qtrs:

– #1. Mejia versus the Salas/Munoz winner. Mejia jsut handled Munoz in the Portland Lprt exhibition, but would struggle a bit more with the veteran Salas.

– #5 Gaby is back, projecting into #4 Laime. Great match. Laime was upset early in the previous match, and Gaby is a tough matchup.

– #3 Vargas projects into #6 Herrera, another possible quarters rematch from Chicago where she advanced easily.

– #2 Longoria set to face the Lawrence/Mendez winner. If Kelani, look for her to continue to edge closer to an upset.

Semis:

– Mejia over Gaby. I don’t think Gaby is playing regularly enough to take out Mejia.

– Vargas over Longoria; Vargas has the hot hand.

Finals; Vargas continues her winning streak and takes her second in a row.

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Doubles review

All the regular teams are here, and i project another all Mexican final. We’ll give this one to Longoria and Salas.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the LPRT on Facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Timothy Baghurst, Sandy Rios, Jerry J Josey Jr., and Tj Baumbaugh on the mike, calling the shots!

Thanks to the Tourney Directors Stuart Solomon for driving down from Boston and putting this event on!

Thanks to our main sponsors; it goes without saying that without you and your support, we don’t have a sport.

@LPRT

LPRTLPRT

IRT Golden State Open Preview

Can DLR finish off the title for 2023? Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Welcome to the 10th and last IRT Tier 1 event of the 2023 season. For the first time since 2015, the season-ending title race comes down to this event. We’ll talk about that at more herein.

I just did a guest spot on Sudsy Monchik ‘s show talking about a bunch of these issues. I’ve got a surprise time crunch for the rest of this week so this will be abbreviated.

Short answer on the title race: if DLR makes the semis, he’s got the title sewn up. If he gets upset early, then Jake has to advance 3 rounds further to win (i.e., Jake wins, DLR loses in qtrs = jake title. Jake finals and DLR loss in 16s = Jake title. Jake semis and Daniel loss in 32s won’t be enough).

R2 Sports App link:https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=41282

There’s a massive 48 player draw here, which is awesome and by far the biggest draw since Denver or the last US Open.

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Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:

In the round of 64, there’s a couple of matches i think will be competitive. Bredenbeck – Jennings, Riffel-gomez, Cardona-Galicia, Sendrey-Wolfe, and Horn-Gatica could all be fun. the best match though of the round is @wWayne Antone versus Diego Gastelum , fresh of a win at U21 worlds. Two solid players and this should be a great match.

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Projecting the 32s: keep an eye on:

– Natera-Martin; Martin can make top player sweat. Parrilla-Cardona; two old WRT foes take off and Cardona can play with Andree. Rocky Carson faces @Javier Mar in a fantastic round of 32. King Kane plays into @Erick Trujillo , against whom he once got a 1,1 win. Lastly Thomas Carter likely faces co-host bobby Horn in a tough one (if bobby’s been playing racquetball instead of pickelball that is).

– DLR likely faces N ick Riffel, not the easest first rounder but one that DLR should handle

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round of 16:

– DLR title watch: he likely faces Carrasco or Sam Bredenbeck; he should advance over both

– Acuna-Natera in 8/9 should be a great match. Acuna has the edge

– Mar-Parrilla or Carson-Parrilla; expect a tactical showdown

– for the 2nd event in a row Kane Waselenchuk plays into Moscoso, and for reasons I expounded on in Sudsy’s show, Kane wins again.

– Portillo faces Landa in wh at might be Landa’s final regular touring match

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Projected Qtrs:

– DLR over Acuna; these two met in Boston and it was a nailbiter: 14,14. Can Acuna play spoiler here? DLR is 5-0 lifetime vs Acuna, 2-0 versus Natera so the odds are with him to advance and capture the title.

– Montoya vs the winner of Mar/Carson/Parrilla; advantage Rodrigo whoever it is. I have a soft spot for Mar, but he’s better on the doubles court

– Kane plays into Manilla for the 2nd event in a row, and i can’t see any different of a result than in Boston.

– Jake plays Lalo; Jake s hould move on, knowing what’s at stake.

Semis:

– A distracted DLR, knowing this result wins him the title, loses to MOntoya

– Jake faces Kane again, and wins another nail biter after Kane runs out of gas.

Finals;

– Montoya over Jake; they’ve met a bunch of times going back to WRT and Montoya holds a slight 5-4 career advantage.

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Doubles review

Always project Montoya and Mar to win in doubles. DLR and Landa are 2nd seed but i could see a shocker like Acuna/Portillo from the bottom half.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on Facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Favio Soto, Samuel Schulze, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!

Thanks to the Tourney Directors Adam Manilla and Bobby Horn for putting this event on and getting the funds to bring back the portable court for the first time on tour since the 2021 US Open. Thanks to all the event sponsors; it goes without saying that without you and your support, we don’t have a sport.

Associations

International Racquetball Tour

John Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions Recap

Montoya spoils both Jake and Conrrado’s title chances. Photo Kevin Savory 2022 Portland IRT event

Congrats to your Pro singles winner on the weekend: Rodrigo Montoya

The Pelham Memorial was dropped from a full tier 1 (which it has been for a few years) down to an IRT Satellite event for the 2023 season, but still featured a really solid draw with 4 of the top 5 players in the world all advancing to the semis. A reminder: non tier 1s are NOT loaded to the Pro Racquetball Stats database, but i’m covering his b/c of the strength of the draw and because of the year end race implications.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41520

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Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

In the 16s, the top 8 seeds advanced as expected but we got some solid matches. I the 8/9, @Sam Bredenbeck pushed Kadim Carrasco before falling in a breaker. Montoya faced off against former IRT tour veteran Charlie Pratt and advanced. Jaime Martell faced former tour regular @Tony Carson and advanced in two closer games 12,10.

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In the Quarters, again all top 4 seeds advanced but a couple of the matches were closer than expected. Alan Natera pushed #3 Andree Parrilla in the first game before Parrilla advanced in two. Martell took a game off of #2 Conrrado Moscoso before the Bolivian took control.

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In the Semis, two upsets.

– #1 @Jake Bredenbeck , who was trying to win this satellite to put as much additional pressure on Daniel De la Rosa heading into Pleasanton, was upset in two 15-14 games against Parrilla. Jake’s going to be kicking himself for having game point in both games but failing to convert.

– #2 Moscoso, who is still technically capable of winning the year end event, lost easily to a familiar nemesis Montoya. Rodrigo has a number of career wins over Conrrado and handled him easily here 7,11.

In the Finals, Montoya took out Parrilla in a tie-breaker that was cut short by an injury that forced Parrilla to retire.

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Points Implications of results

– Jake adds some points to his total, but not really enough to trouble DLR for the year end title. When the 2022 Portland points expire, Jake will trail De la Rosa by roughly 211 points, which means that Jake will have to “make up” 211 points on Daniel in Pleasanton to earn the title. Jake will need a shocking early round upset from DLR and will need to win in Pleasanton to really have a shot at the title. If Daniel gets to the semis … he’ll have the title sewn up.

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Open Singles, other notable draws

– There was a nice little LPRT exhibition that included Montse Mejia, Carla Munoz, Michelle Key, and Erika Manilla.

– Men’s Open Singles was andres gomez taking out Oregon local player @Sunji Spencer in a tiebreaker.

– Men’s Open Doubles featured two solid teams in the final: Martel/Natera versus Pratt & Tony Carson. The mexicans took out the Americans in a great 11-8 tiebreaker match.

– Mixed Open was taken by @Will Reynolds and Shane Diaz, who got a walkover against Key & Rhys Anderson.

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew .

Thanks to the Tourney Directors Dave Azuma and Jeff Clark for putting this event on!

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Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMbIP9SZd0MssH_nPGU/

Next weekend is the big finale of the 2023 IRT season in Pleasanton. @Adam Manilla

and Bobby Horn have the portable court up and running, and the tournament should be amazing. Then, the weekend following the Ladies are back in action in my hometown DC area Xmas classic, a tournament I used to help run 25 years ago.

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tags

International Racquetball Tour

LPRT