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Cooperstown: Lightning Brings Home 3rd Place Finish

By Dan Jaffe, 08/14/17, 1:45PM PDT

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Every August, the LVBA Lightning 12u team heads to Cooperstown, New York for the experience of a lifetime. The team plays in a 104 team tournament at the Cooperstown Dreams Park over a 5 day span. Last week was LVBA's 19th consecutive year sending a team, and this years team did not disappoint. 

The tournament began on Saturday evening with the opening ceremonies and skills competitions. That night, champions are crowned in four different competitions: King of Swat (Home Run Derby), Roadrunner (Speed), Golden Arm (Throwing Accuracy), and Around the Horn Plus (team competition). This year, the LVBA Lightning took home TWO of the four trophies in these competitions.  The team was the top qualifier in the Around the Horn Plus, posting a preliminary round time of 20.05 seconds, before posting a 23 in the finals to bring home the crown. Individually, Nico Rivera was the top qualifier in the Roadrunner competition with a 12.26 preliminary time. In the finals, Nico posted a 12.71, just barely holding off the second place time of 12.77. Congrats to Nico and the entire team on these two wins!

However, on Sunday the real competitions began with the first two games of pool play. The Lightning opened up with the Tri State Arsenal out of New Jersey, the team believed by everyone to be the top dog in the tournament this week. Well they surely did not disappoint. The Arsenal showed off their talent, dealing the Lightning an 11-0 loss in Game 1. The boys, though, would come back tough just a few short hours later against the Baldwinsville Swarm from New York, and get into the win column with a 15-5 victory. On day two, LVBA took down the San Diego Truth 11-2, and then went on to face the Edina Hornets from Minnesota in a rainy nightcap, beating them by a score of 14-5. The final two games of pool play on Tuesday began with the Lightning taking on the Arlington Ironmen from Virginia. The bats really came alive putting up a 21-1 victory, before putting up 13 more runs that night against the Hudson Hit Dawgs in a 13-1 win. Overall, the boys finished 5-1 in pool play, and with their low runs allowed, they took the 14 seed into the 104 team tournament bracket. 

Having the 14 seed allowed the Lightning only one game on Wednesday, the first day of the bracket play. They took on the 46 seeded Ramsey Renegades at 6:30 that evening. In a game that started relatively slow for the Lightning, the boys added on enough late to take down Ramsey 9-1, and put themselves into the Sweet 16 round on Thursday morning, something only one other Las Vegas team has done in 2017. 

Thursday morning put us in a matchup with #3 seeded Palisades Patriots out of California, a team that absolutely dominated and outpowered everybody in their path this tournament. With Seth Lyons taking the ball, the Lightning took a 4-2 lead into the 6th inning before the Patriots three hitter launched a 3 run home-run over the wall to tie the game. That 4-4 score held up for quite some time. In the Bottom of the 8th inning, it looked as if the tournament was coming to an end for LVBA when Palisades had the bases loaded with nobody out, and their 3 and 4 hitters coming to the plate. Reliever Nate Vigil punched out the three hitter before getting the 4 hitter to ground into a 5-2-3 double play, somehow escaping that damage. With the momentum had, the Lightning came up big in the top of the 9th scoring two runs, led by a Rolen Driscoll RBI single to give them the lead and the eventual win, securing a matchup with the 6 seeded, and national powerhouse, San Diego Stars in the Elite 8 round. 

This game turned out to be exactly as expected, and offensive showing. The Stars jumped out to a 6-0 lead, right before LVBA woke up and placed an 11 spot on the board in the top of the 4th inning. Impressively, the Stars were not bothered by this, and immediately responded with a 5 spot to tie the game. This 11-11 score would hold all the way to the 6th inning, before Nico Rivera led the inning off launching a solo homerun deep to left center field, and then shutting down the Stars in the bottom of the 6th to send LVBA to the semifinal game with a 12-11 victory. 

Unfortunately, that semifinal game would be as far as LVBA goes. The 10th seeded Puget Sound Powerhouse won what was a back and forth game all the way through, taking down the Lightning 11-10 in 7 innings. However, the Lightning have that flare for the dramatic and apparently love extra innings. Trailing 10-7 in the top of the 6th, Nate Vigil and Seth Lyons were both hit by pitches to lead off the inning, before Sergio Jaramillo deposited a three-run bomb over the left field wall to tie the game and force the need for extra innings.

LVBA finished Cooperstown 8-2, with both losses coming to the two teams to play in the Championship Game, the Puget Sound Powerhouse and the Tri State Arsenal. This run was incredibly special and exciting for everyone involved, and on behalf of the coaches, parents, and players, we cannot thank everybody enough for following along so closely!

There are some special player shoutouts that need to be had on Cooperstown performances:

- Nate Vigil, Sergio Jaramillo, and Seth Lyons led the team with 5 home-runs each, with Nico Rivera finishing a close second with 4. Kody Bialas and Ethan Kelly both launched two each, and Rolen Driscoll, Joey Schimick, and Tyler Tiedeman each ran one out of the yard. 

- Rolen Driscoll, an 11 year old player that has played up with this team his entire career, caught ALL 22 INNINGS on Championship day, and did so almost perfect defense and leadership. On top of this, he was also the teams leading hitter on Championship day, something that is even more impressive given the workload that he took on. 

- Austin Villarreal and Kaiden Hernandez both came up clutch all tournament on defense, battling each other back and forth with diving plays to see who could take home the play of the tournament. The winner is too close to call.

Great job to everyone involved with this team and getting them to this point! None of this would be possible without everyone that showed their love and support for this team and these boys.