FULTON, NY – The Fulton Force elite travel baseball team started its 2016 season by capturing the NY Gold Prospect Tournament with a walk-off 4-3 victory over Team Valle Elite.
Force started the tournament by defeating the Syracuse Jr. Chiefs on Friday night 9-0 with a combine no-hitter, and then defeated the Titans (Buffalo) 1-0 and Team Valle (Rochester) 9-8 on Saturday to capture the #1 seed going into the semi finals on Sunday.
Sunday would prove to be a challenge with three very strong teams left and the temperatures well above 90 degrees.
The semi-final game against the Southtown Griffins (Buffalo) would test the team’s resolve.
The Force was down 7-3 entering the bottom of the fifth.
“It did not look good; we were running out of fresh arms to pitch and could not find many holes through their defense. That is when we challenged the boys to find a way to get something on the board to get us back within reach, they responded as they usually do,” said coach Randy Cotton.
The Force responded with eight runs in the fifth sparked by the long ball, a two-run HR with one out and a grand slam with two outs; six of the eight runs were scored with two outs in the inning.
The Force hung on to win 11-9 giving themselves and opportunity for the title later that evening.
Entering the championship game at Brockport State University the temperature was at 96 degrees and the Force was entering the game with very little pitching options.
“We were out of arms, our pitchers were at high pitch counts or had sore arms, and we were going to have to throw multiple players and some with very little to no experience. We told the team whomever pitched had to throw strikes and the defense would have to make plays and we had to find a way,” Cotton said.
Find a way they did, using five pitchers to hold a very strong Team Valle Elite to only one hit and winning with a walk off single in the bottom of the seventh 4-3.
The team led three different times in the later innings only to relinquish it with miscues.
“We did not play our best ball but we definitely showed our grit and scrappiness,” said coach Larry King.
The Force hit the road Monday morning traveling to Louisville, Kentucky, for the 96-team 16U National Championships at the University of Louisville July 6-12.