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Big Orange Experience Recap

By Jack Long, 08/06/18, 4:15PM EDT

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Week in Review - Big Orange Experience

Big Orange Experience Recap

The 2018 Big Orange Experience brought out some of the best competition of summer, with teams from Puerto Rico, Canada, and different parts of the United States joining us at the Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge.  38 teams across 10U, 11U, and 12U age divisions arrived on Sunday, July 29 to take part in the skills competitions and opening ceremony.

Each team had representatives take part in each of the 3 skills competitions: The home run derby, turn 2 competition, and outfield relay.

The 10U division saw Fabian Bonilla Huertas of Potros Puerto Rico take home the title in the home run derby with a score of 31. The East Michigan Muskies took home the turn two competition with a time of 3.25, while Futures of Baseball walked away with the outfield relay title with a time of 19.78.

For the 11U division, Alex Morales of All Out Pack won the homerun derby with a score of 17. 5-Tool Baseball took both the turn 2 competition and outfield relay with times of 32.28 and 18.59 respectively.

Carlos Cruz of Futures of Baseball posted a score of 28 to win the 12U home run derby. The North Hills Warpath won the turn two competition posting a time of 28.12, while the outfield relay was taken by the Force Ohio with a time of 16.66.

After the skills competitions concluded it was on to the opening ceremony and coach’s Q&A with Rick Ankiel. Rick has the unique distinction of not only making it to the big leagues once as a pitcher, but also making it back to the big leagues as an outfielder.

Ankiel developed the “yips” as a young pitcher, losing command of his pitches and not being able to throw strikes. Rick noted that this was ultimately the hardest thing that he ever had to go through, but he tried to fight it with a simple mindset.

“For me it was just the courage to try” Ankiel said. “I knew that if I didn’t take the ball when it my turn to go that I would never forgive myself and so for me it had to be the courage to try.”

Ankiel would ultimately rejuvenate his career as an outfielder, hitting a memorable three-run homer in his first game back to the big leagues.

Monday began the start of pool play for all the teams; they would battle the next three days for seeding in Thursday and Friday’s bracket play.

At the end of pool play, the East Michigan Muskies and Potros Puerto Rico earned first round byes and the top 2 seeds for 10U.  The Potros played to their seeding making it to the championship game, while the Muskies would fall to the 4 seed in Pembroke Lakes Bulldogs.

The Championship game would provide the most exciting atmosphere of any game at the Ripken Experience this summer, with fans on both sides using chants and noise makers to show their support for their teams. The game would be closely contested, tied at 1 entering the 6th inning, until the Bulldogs pushed across 4 runs to give them a 5-1 win over the Potros.

The 11U division saw 5-Toool Baseball and All Out Pack earning the Top 2 seeds. 5-Tool Baseball would be upset by Denham Springs N.L.B 8-6 in the quarterfinals, while All Out Pack would dominate their way to the Championship game by outscoring their two opponents 29-1. Their domination didn’t stop there, as they posted a 10-0 win to capture the 11U championship.

In 12U the top 2 seeds were earned by The Tribe and Force Ohio.  Not Surprisingly, both teams would cruise to the Championship game, with Force Ohio outscoring their opponents by a 32-1 margin to get there. The Tribe would have the answer for the Force though, as they would go on to win the Championship game 5-3.

The Big Orange Experience is always one of the best of the summer at the Ripken Experience. This year brought great sportsmanship displayed by all teams, while creating electric atmospheres every single game. A special thanks to Rick Ankiel for being a tremendous ambassador for Ripken Baseball. We hope everyone who came had wonderful experience, and we hope to have the opportunity to host you all again at any one of our three great locations. Enjoy the rest of your summer!