Bullets make trip to Cooperstown
One of the long-term dreams of little leaguers is to one day represent their state at the Little League World Series, held in Williamsport, Pa.
But some players may not realize that Williamsport isn’t the only place where dreams can become reality.
Such was the reality for the Endless Mountains Bullets, a group of area 11 and 12-year-old Little League players from Wyoming and Susquehanna counties, who competed in a baseball tournament at Cooperstown Dreams Park in Cooperstown, N.Y. from July 27 to Aug. 2.
The complex is host to weekly tournaments throughout the summer that brings in some of the best teams from around the country.
“This was an amazing year but one of the hardest draws we’ve had as far as opponents,” head coach Jim Phillips said. “Most of the teams we played went pretty far in the tournament bracket.”
Although the Bullets finished the regular portion of their games with a 1-5 record, the tournament bracket proved more successful, as the team made it to the third round before its dream came to an end.
The Bullets opened the single elimination tournament bright and early with an 8:30 a.m. start against the Brandywine Blast (Pa.),
After falling behind early, Endless Mountain rode a five-run third inning to a 7-4 victory.
Anthony Neri had an RBI single to put the Bullets on the board and Joe McAleer added the exclamation point with a three-run home run to give them a 5-2 lead.
Jake Baldo also picked up an RBI, while Drew Henry picked up the win on the mound.
The win advanced Endless Mountain into the second round where they would face Sports Zone (N.Y) at 11 a.m. After falling behind 5-0 early in the game, the Bullets chipped away and cut the lead to 8-3 heading into the top of the sixth.
With two outs, the Bullets rallied for seven-straight runs to take the lead, 10-8.
Max Miller, who also hit his first career home run in the game, came in with two outs in the bottom of the sixth with runners on first and third to record the save for the victory.
Miller spent the night before in the emergency room tending to a cyst on his leg, and wasn’t expected to be able to play that day.
“Max basically told me give him the ball,” Phillips said. “It was a great game when we strung those hits together, I don’t think I’ve even seen that at the varsity level.”
McAleer had another home run in the game, while Eddie Melan and Dylan Fernald each had crucial hits to give the Bullets the lead in the sixth.
The win propelled the Bullets into the third round against the Minneapolis Millers 12 AAA (Minn.) at 1:30 p.m, where they lost, 16-8, after tired arms got the best of the pitching staff.
Though the Bullets run came to an end early in the bracket, their trip up to Cooperstown was certainly far from a failure.
“This year’s lesson for my kids was that they can compete with these other teams,” Phillips said. “There are some really good baseball players out there but they never got down on themselves.”
While their opponents may have the upper hand in some cases from playing baseball all year round, the Bullets continued to have fun and tried their best every game.
“The kids have a blast here,” Phillips said. “They love trading pins inside the player barracks and make a lot of friendships with other players. One of my players said it’s like baseball’s Disneyworld.”
Though the teams compete on the field, the friendships they make off of it will last long after the tournaments have ended.
‘The neat thing about the tournament is that each team is either wearing blue or red jerseys if they’re home or away,” Phillips said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re on the best team or the worst team, when the kids are all together no one will know.”
This year’s Bullets team was comprised of Dylan Fernald, Dylan Mislevy, Jake Baldo, Trenton Finch, Eddie Melan, Cooper Kelley, Drew Henry, Joe McAleer, Dylan Wesley, Max Miller, Anthony Neri and Kevin Valvano.
The Bullets are coached by Jim Phillips, Adam Phillips and Bob Fernald.
Also representing the county at Cooperstown Dreams Park was Willie Wehler, who was umpiring in the tournament for his third consecutive year, and his son, Harold, who is in his first year of umpiring. Willie and Harold are both from Tunkhannock.