The MNS 12u Indians departed hot Kansas City for the cooler hills of Cooperstown, New York with high hopes… especially after winning the Global World Series the week before. The coaches left Kansas City with hopes of fairing well in a bracket of 104 teams from all across the country. The Indians, not in the habit of disappointing, went 9-1 during their Cooperstown week. They were one of the Final Four teams, and officially took 3rd place.
Checking in, getting settled, skills competitions and opening ceremonies kept everyone busy for Saturday. Nolan Williams took 3rd place in the Roadrunner (fastest time around the bases) competition, and Alex Renfrew was a finalist in the King of Swat (Home Run) competition. Nice showing, Indians!
Pool play games in the early part of the week proved not too difficult with scores seeing double-digits regularly. Sunday saw the start of pool play with the Indians meeting the Indiana Baseball Academy Storm. Cole Messer, in his first at bat in Cooperstown, hit a 2-run homer to get things started for the Indians. Adam White and Patrick Cairns also contributed homers during the opening contest. Behind the pitching of Garrison Fields, Blaine Ray and Adam, the boys settled in and handled the Storm, 14-1. The Indians second game of the day was against the 3H Explosion from Pennsylvania. Pitchers Cole Messer and Nolan combined for a 14-2 Indians victory, while offensively, Cole Messer and Nolan both homered.
Monday had the boys up early for an 8:30am game against the Vestavia Pirates from Alabama. Offensively, Blaine connected for a 3-run homerun and contributed 4 RBIs, and Josh Fiene tagged two homeruns in back-to-back at bats. Josh and Reid Kosic both saw two innings each on the mound as the Indians rolled to a 19-1 victory. Afternoon action had the Indians playing the Lake County Thunder from Illinois. Offense was explosive as Nolan, Austin Ross, Garrison, Cole Duensing, and Alex all connected for homeruns during the 19-2 win, while Alex and Patrick both contributed on the mound. Cole Messer was injured while playing catcher and had to sit out the remainder of the game and didn’t see action again until Wednesday evening. The Indians were excited to learn that their teammate Chris Schroer, who had been in the hospital for over 10 days back in Kansas City, had been released and was headed to Cooperstown!
Tuesday, the last day of pool play, also started early for the Indians with an 8:30am game against the Long Island Impact (NY). The Indians played a little flat but battled and managed to stay on top with a 9-2 victory behind the solid pitching of Austin and Adam. The unbeaten Butler County Bombers from Ohio were the Indians last pool play opponent. Cole Duensing, Blaine and Nolan all homered and Cole contributed four RBI’s during a 17-1 win. With one out in the final inning, Chris took the mound in his first game in over two weeks and threw one pitch for a fly ball to center field. Blaine caught it and gunned a throw to first base catching the runner for the last out and the victory. The fans went wild!
Bracket play started Wednesday and the Indians were seeded #2 in the field of 104 allowing them to skip play most of the day until 8pm. They came up against the same Butler County Bombers team, the 31 seed, they defeated the previous night. Garrison threw a complete game and offensive highlights included Alex with two doubles and Nolan and Garrison both hitting homeruns. The Indians had their first bracket play victory at 6-1, and it moved them into the field of the Sweet Sixteen. Thursday morning saw the Indians matched up against the Oklahoma Dragons (seed 15). Cole Duensing went 5 2/3 innings, striking out 9, for the Indians with Garrison closing it out in an extra inning. The 6-5 win put the Indians into the Elite Eight. After a short break, the Tallahassee Hooks (seed 26), became the ninth victim of the Indians solid play falling by a score of 6-3. Solid pitching by Cole Messer for five innings, and Nolan closing, as well as a two-run homer by Garrison, put the Indians into the Final Four and a spot they really hadn’t thought they would see.
The semi-final game for the Indians put them in action against a tough Louisiana Force team (seed 3). A strong lefty pitcher showed the Indians something they hadn’t seen all week – really good pitching – handing the Indians 8 Ks in their 18 plate appearances. The Indians pieced together their own pitching from multiple kids; Adam started and Cole Duensing, Garrison and Josh all contributed. A few defensive mistakes, and only two hits, led the boys to their first loss of the tournament, 14-0. The Louisiana Force went on to the championship game and lost a close one to the Tennessee Naturals, 4-3.
The coaches and team survived close living quarters, injuries, mass-produced food, no air conditioning, illness, and lots of togetherness to complete the “Cooperstown Experience.” The tournament culminated almost a year of hard work and development together. As Head Coach, Marty Williams, said, “I knew the boys would develop and get better over the year, but I never expected this, and I never expected how the boys would gel together and become a team.” To go so deep in the tournament and represent Kansas City was a great way to round out a successful season. Nice job Indians!