COOPERSTOWN, NJ - It is a summer tradition for Summit Junior Baseball and Softball (SJBS) to send a team to Cooperstown -- a town that is all about tradition -- to play in the All-Star Village Baseball Tournament.
This year, it was the 12U Summit Hilltoppers baseball team's turn to represent the Hilltop City and, the boys did not disappoint, going further in the tournament than any Summit team in previous years.
The first three days of pool play at Cooperstown saw the Hilltoppers play teams from California, Illinois, and New York. The Hilltoppers went 3-3 heading into the single-elimination playoffs. In their first playoff game, the Hilltoppers easily beat a team from Long Island 18-6. But it was their second playoff game, against the Hazlet Hawks (NJ), that was the most exciting game the team from the 07901 has ever played.
Entering the game as underdogs, the Hilltoppers knew they would need to play an exceptional game to win, and they did just that. Jackson Levine got things started offensively for the Hilltoppers in the top of the second with a solo opposite field round-tripper. Tied 1-1, in the top of the third, Head Coach Flavio Acitelli sensed that this game was going to be a pitcher’s duel and that the Hilltoppers would need to manufacture runs.
After Sam Story sprinted to first base on an infield hit and subsequently stole second, Coach Acitelli gave the bunt sign to Patrick Formichelli. Reading the signal, Formichelli’s perfect sacrifice bunt moved Story to third base. With reliable Kenneth O’Connor at the plate, Acitelli gave the lead-off hitter the 'green light', and O’Connor drove home Story.
Another Summit run in the bottom of the fourth was all the offense Summit needed as the Hilltoppers went on to beat the Hazlet, 3-2. While the Hawks are historically an offensive powerhouse, they were unable to do much against the absolute brilliance of C.J. Wilkerson and Anthony Acitelli on 'the hill'. Wilkerson, who was the winning pitcher, allowed two runs on three hits, and Acitelli -- who recorded the save -- was perfect over the nine batters he faced.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, with the Hilltoppers up 3-2, the Summit fans were hopeful, but also anxious. knowing that the top of the Hazlet lineup was due up. Acitelli was undaunted, shutting down the Hawks 1-2-3. When the final out was recorded. the players, coaches, and fans went absolutely wild celebrating a win for the ages.
Some other player highlights during the course of the tournament included:
- Spectacular catches and multiple home runs by outfielders Rhys Shannon and Ryan Schnall.
- Catcher Christopher Moglia’s Home Run against the Alameda Rascals.
- Matthew Gatward’s two monster hits against the Nighthawks of New York.
- Third baseman Miles Kelly playing perfect at the 'hot corner', going errorless in the tournament while making 'SportsCenter Top 10-worthy' plays.
While the Hilltoppers were eventually eliminated in their third playoff game by a better-rested team from California. the loss did not dampen their spirits. The week spent at Cooperstown was more than wins and losses. It was about friendship, camaraderie, and fun.
Other highlights for the team during the time at Cooperstown were:
- A trip to the Baseball Hall of fame and Doubleday field in downtown Cooperstown.
- An afternoon spent swimming and boating at Gilbert Lake
- Pin trading and swimming with players from the other 50 other teams staying in All Star Village.
- C.J Wilkerson coming in third place overall in the tournament 'Home Run Derby'.
- A ring ceremony where the players were inducted into the youth baseball hall of fame.
- A team and family party overlooking championship field.
Acitelli’s coaching staff is comprised of Tim Shannon, Ryan Moglia, and David Story. These four men are highly respected by the players and their parents. The Hilltoppers were joined on this trip by Summit baseball umpire Lew Satulsky. For many years’ umpire “Lew” has been escorting summit teams to this tournament.
As an added bonus there was a second Summit team in Cooperstown the same week, the Summit Yetis. In a true example of Summit Pride, The Yetis and the Hilltoppers (coaches, players, parents) would attend and cheer at each others games.