FULTON, NY – The Fulton Force 16U Elite travel baseball team finished first in the Darien Lake Championships hosted by Pitch N Hit at the college of GCC.
The Force went 5-1 on the weekend losing to the Northtown Nationals 7-2, beating the Springville Shocker 3-2, Bruster’s 6-4, Team New Era 15-0, Grow to Pro 3-2 (Semi) and Buffalo Stampede 10-7 (Finals) to capture the title and bring their record to 7-2.
The tournament did not start as expected; the Force did not play well Friday night after traveling.
Uncharacteristic mistakes in the field combined with walks put them behind early; the lack of aggressiveness and timely hits on offense prevented the Force from ever getting back in the game.
Game 2 against Springville was not much better for the Force; they scored early and hung on to win at the end 3-2.
“We were not playing well and just could not get innings going on offense. We gathered ourselves at the team meeting at the hotel before the evening game. We knew we needed to win all of our remaining games to have any shot to advance to the semi and a shot at the title,”said manager Randy Cotton. “We knew we were playing Bruster’s who were already 2-0 and team New Era, both quality teams. All we could do is win our remaining games and hope we got in by the run differential tie breaker.”
The evening game against Bruster’s was a struggle; the Force came out much better but was facing a very strong defensive team. They were hitting the ball hard but just at defenders or at times defenders made exceptional plays.
Trailing 4-2 in the top of the 7th and last inning, the Force finally was able to build an inning and use their aggressive base running to break out; scoring 4 runs and stealing the win 6-4.
“That inning turned around the tournament for us. The kids stayed after it and found a way to win,” Cotton said.
Going into their final preliminary game against New Era the Force was facing a poor run differential. They had to win and needed to score a lot of runs and not give up any.
“We knew what we needed to do; we discussed it in the team meeting Saturday night. We had to take care of what we could control, win and score as much as we could,” Cotton said.
The Force came out in game 4 attacking, scoring 7 runs in the 1st inning and 3 in the 2nd.
After not being able to score in the 3rd inning they went into their last at bat because of the run rule with a 10-0 lead.
“I challenged the guys; I told them that probably was not enough. I challenged them for 5 more and they responded!”Cotton said.
Final score was 15-0, now they had to wait for other games to complete to see if they had got in the final 4.
The Force (3-1) edged out two other teams to get the number 4 seed and a game with the number 1 seed Grow to Pro team (4-0).
The Force jumped out early scoring 2 runs in the top of the 1st inning. The 2nd through the 6th inning was filled with great pitching and defense from both teams.
The Force worked another run across in the 6th making the score 3-0 going into the 7th.
The Pros put together an inning with timely hitting, cutting the lead to 3-2 with the tying run on second and winning run on first with only one out.
That is as far as they would get as the next hitter hit a line drive that the Force turned into a line out throw them out double play and a win 3-2.
The final game and the team’s third in a row was against a very strong Buffalo Stampede team that had been winning big.
The Force was behind early for the first time in their last few games but battled back to tie.
They went behind again in 3rd and once again tied it up.
The Force finally broke out in the 5th scoring 6 runs by creating havoc on the bases and forcing the Stampede into uncharacteristic mistakes.
With the Force up 10-4 in the 5th, the Stamped started finding opening with hard hit balls, scoring 3 and drawing closer to 10-7.
The Stampede was able to gather 1 more hit in the 7th but never threatened to score as the Force completed an improbable run to the title.
Cotton proudly said, “We could have been out of this tournament early and probably should have. These kids scrap, and they battle and kept after it. We took this tournament; we were not playing well early but they battled through and got back to Force baseball.”
The members of the 2015 Darien Lake Invitational Champions (Fulton Force 16U) are: Adam Baldwin, Frank Barbagallo, Nolan Bonnie, Taber Carter, Will Caster, Cameron Clark, Jonathan Combes, Cole Cotton, Jake Geitner, Bryce Guernsey and Malcolm Wettering.