Auburn baseball enthusiasts have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming years! Last August, the Auburn Legends 50/70 12U baseball team had an outstanding performance in a nationally renowned tournament in Cooperstown, New York. The tournament hosted by Dreams Park, is extremely competitive with top-notch competition from the U.S. and abroad. The 50/70 format (pitching mound 50 feet from the plate and bases 70 feet apart) allows 12U players “to lead off” and steal bases, forcing pitchers to pitch from both the “stretch” and “windup.” Basically, this format allows youth players to play “real baseball” by MLB rules, but on a smaller – age appropriate field. This is much more complicated for players as well as for coaches to implement. Interestingly, many MLB players have attended the Dreams Park tournament including Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and David Price.
To measure up to the level of play at this tournament, the Auburn Legends began indoor practices last April and worked tirelessly throughout the summer as they set their sights on Cooperstown. The players were eager to compete and continue to represent Auburn as favorably as previous Legends have. Auburn Legends, founded by Rich Valentino (a longtime baseball coach at Moravia High School) and Jim Musso, possess a “ticket” for this annual and highly sought after tournament. This has allowed several Auburn area Little League aged players the opportunity to participate in this high quality, high caliber baseball event.
The 2016 Auburn Legends Team was particularly special and they proved it with an impressive run throughout the week. The tournament began with all 104 teams competing in a skills competition which included a homerun derby, roadrunner (speed around the bases), golden arm, and a team throw. For the first time in program history, the Legends had two players “place” in the competition with Austin Black finishing “top ten” in the roadrunner, while Ryan Birchard earned a top 10 finish in the “King of Swat” homerun derby.
The Legends success continued as the games began. They finished pool play with a perfect 6-0 record (also a program first) and entered the playoffs ranked 8 out of the 104 teams. Their magical run continued with victories in the round of 32, sweet 16 and elite 8 before finally ending up on the short end of an 11-7 score in the semi-finals. Even in their “Final 4” loss, they continued to impress hitting 6 homers to account for their 7 runs. The team they lost to, the Arlington Storm from Virginia, is an elite travel team from a large metropolitan area surrounding Arlington, Virginia.
The Legends’ made history as one of the few New York teams to ever reach Final Four in the Tournament’s 20 year history. The (11 person) team also included two talented female players who were integral to the Legends’ success. Doray Dilallo, one of the fastest players on the team, pitched and excelled in the outfield. Morgan Cook, was a power hitter, well-rounded player, and one of the top pitchers.
Statistics from the Legends historic run include 124 hits, 121 runs, 30 HR (every player on the team hit a homerun) and 48 runs against. The Legends 12U Roster include James Musso, Ryan Birchard, Austin Black, Jacob Steinbacher, Ryan Stewart, Doray Dillalo, Pat Herr, Kevin Dolan, Morgan Cook, Jack Pidlypchak and Alex McQueeney. The coaches include Jim Musso, Jeff Dolan and Dave Steinbacher. We look forward to seeing what this group is able to accomplish this season and in the future!
Article by Jim Musso, photos by “Dreams Park” Photographers