Submitted by Peter Galdoni
Though the focus this weekend in Cooperstown will be on a couple of players with Chicago connections, the Lake County Lightning Under-12 baseball team beat them to the punch by capturing the Cooperstown All Star Village tournament July 12-18, becoming the first team from Lake County to win the prestigious tourney.
And they did it in style,
With their 5-0 win over Team Easton of California in the championship game, the Lightning capped a dominating run in which they outscored opponents 119-4 en route to the title.
And when the Lightning weren't piling up the runs during their 10-game run to the championship, their pitching came through with 3 no-hitters, including a perfect game.
"I am so proud of this group of Lightning players. To go 10-0 in Cooperstown is an amazing accomplishment," said Jerry Fox, GM and founder of the Lightning.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. All of our teams have had great success this season with numerous tournament and league championships, but winning such a prestigious tournament at the birthplace of baseball is incredible."
The tournament win in Cooperstown capped off an incredible season in which the Lightning finished with a 66-3 record and the No. 1 spot in the Illinois USSSA power rankings.
"All 11 boys contributed to this achievement," co-head coach Kurt Hironimus said. "The focus all of them displayed the entire season blew me away. Once we got to Cooperstown and we spent all day and all week together, the focus became even more evident."
Noah DeLuga, Austin Greco, and Dylan Paquette capped their seasons by tossing complete games in the final three games in Cooperstown.
"The pitchers went to a place designed to create memories for hitters with very short fences," said co-coach Bill Taylor, who has been the varsity pitching coach at Carmel High School for more than 20 years.
"The staff as a whole pitched with no fear and put opposing teams on lockdown all week."
Lukas Galdoni, Thomas Kenney, Rayth Petersen, and Dylan Webb led a potent offense that hit homers over fences of varying distances all season long. Kenney got the scoring going in the championship game by easily clearing the left field fence in the second inning.
"Opposing teams were often intimidated by the size of our players, but our ability to hit the ball up and down the lineup backed that size up," Hironimus said.
Tony Brown, Jason Hironimus, Mikey Kocen, and Nolan Taylor completed the well-rounded team by excelling in all areas as well as playing multiple positions.
"What allowed us to overcome any possible slumps throughout the season was our ability to win games a variety of ways: hitting, pitching, defense, baserunning, bunting, etc.," Taylor said "These players continually contributed in every way possible.
"The opposing teams loved our kids and it showed as we walked from our bunkhouse they cheered 'Let's go Lightning.' One of my favorite memories is of the boys walking from the bunkhouse hill down to the game in a single file line, smallest to tallest receiving cheers and high-fives along the way," Taylor said. "I'm not sure a team could have played better.
"Every kid had a special memory to take back with them."
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