The final tournament of the summer at The Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge ended up being the smallest of the eight summer week-long tournaments, but it certainly didn’t lack any action. The 2018 LeConte Experience brought 14 teams in the 12U division to participate in skills competitions and a week-long stretch of games.
The LeConte Experience kicked off on Sunday, July 29th with the skills competitions and opening ceremony. Collecting 22 points, Andrew Yother of Red Land Baseball took home the home run derby title. The Cape Fear Mayhem posted a speedy time of 28.19 seconds to win the Turn 2 completion.
This week with only 14 teams a change was made for the outfield relay, as teams were put into a double elimination bracket to square off in a head-to-head race to try and get their ball home first. The change added much more excitement around the event this week, as fans from all the teams gathered at Camden Yards to cheer on their teams. In the end, the Southern Sluggers would be the last team standing holding off the LAC St. Clair Bulldogs who tried to pull off the miracle run after losing in their first matchup.
For the opening ceremony former MLB outfielder Trot Nixon played the role of ambassador. Nixon played for 12 years, 10 of them in Boston, including the memorable run in 2004. Down 3 games to 0 to the New York Yankees, the Red Sox would storm back to win 4-straight to send the Red Sox to the World Series where they would defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 4 to 0 ending the Curse of the Bambino. Nixon talked about a simple mindset their team had that allowed them to make that historic comeback against the Yankees possible.
“Just go out there and try to win the top of the 1st” Nixon said. “After that, try and win the bottom of the 1st. By having this mindset, our team was able to believe that we had a chance to make that comeback.”
Nixon would later throw out a ceremonial first pitch and the LeConte Experience would officially be underway. Monday marked the start of pool play games, as teams worked to position themselves the best way they could for bracket play.
It would prove to be a grind for the players and fans involved though, as rain made for rough playing conditions. At the end of Wednesday, Red Land Baseball and Around the Horn Stampede found themselves at the top, earning the 1 and 2 seeds respectively.
Red Land Baseball would back their seeding by picking up a 9-5 and 9-2 win over the Southern Sluggers and the South Jersey Iron Pigs to advance to the Championship game.
The Stampede wouldn’t be as fortunate, getting shut down by the 10 seeded Detroit Diamond Jaxx, 4-1. The Jaxx would meet their match in their semifinal matchup though, getting doubled up by the 3 seeded Carolina Titans, 8-4.
The championship game would be one of the best games of the summer, as the pitchers from both Red Land Baseball and the Carolina Titans dueled throughout the early innings yielding only 1 run each. Red Land would add a couple runs on late to go up 3-1 entering the 6th inning.
The Titans, with their back against the wall, responded by knocking in 2 runs to tie the game at 3. Red Land Baseball would fail to score in the bottom half of the inning, sending the game into extras.
In the 7th, the Carolina Titans would break the game wide open, scoring 5 runs to go up by the eventual final score of 8-3. In fitting fashion, the summer would end at the Ripken Experience at Camden Yards with the score board reading “8-7-3”, the numbers worn by Cal Ripken Jr., Cal Ripken Sr., and Billy Ripken.
This summer saw more growth at the Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge, with a record 297 teams participating across the eight week-long tournaments. We would like to thank everyone who joined us this summer and hope you had a wonderful time! A special thanks to Trot Nixon for being a great tournament ambassador for Ripken, as well as all of our other ambassadors we had this summer. We hope to have the chance to host each and everyone of you again at one of our three Ripken Experience locations. Until then, enjoy the rest of your summer, and thank you again for participating!
Tag(s): Coach's Clipboard