AAU Nationals

Ravens earn bye, will play in national semifinals

14U AAU baseball team goes 2-0 in Gold Division pool play, stand two wins away from winning championship in Florida

When all is said and done, the New England Ravens AAU 14 and under baseball team will finish as one of the top four teams in the country after a pair of wins on Monday at the AAU nationals in Fort Myers, Fla.

“We’re guaranteed fourth at this point,” said coach Jim Coppo. “That’s a pretty neat thing.”

The Ravens defeated the 3H Spartans out of Orlando 8-6 in the second game of the 14U Gold Division pool play at City of Palms Park to finish 2-0 and earn a bye in Wednesday’s single elimination bracket. They will play in the nationals semifinals at 10:30 a.m. at the Player Development Complex in Fort Myers.

“We’re one game away from going to the finals and two wins away from winning the whole thing,” said Coppo.

The Ravens took a 6-0 lead in the first, but saw the Spartans battle all the way back to knot the game at six in the fifth. Chance Kirby’s squeeze in the sixth put the Ravens ahead for good and J.P. Record’s single brought home an insurance run in the seventh. Tyler Coppo’s unassisted double play ended the game with the tying run at the plate.

Earlier on Monday, the Ravens defeated the Central Florida Impact 7-2, scoring five unanswered runs with the game tied through five innings.

“Our kids believe right now that we can beat anybody,” said Coppo. “We’re in a good position.”

When the Ravens began the final stages of pool play on Monday, they were one of six teams placed in the 14U Gold Division — and the only open division team in the entire 14U tournament.

Of the 15 teams participating in the national tournament, dropped down from the original 25 due to eligibility issues, the top nine teams after four games on Saturday and Sunday were placed into the Diamond Division portion of pool play, while the Ravens and five others made up the Gold Division.

Despite playing against some of the best 14U teams from around the country in the open pool play portion of the national tournament, the Ravens, the only team from New Hampshire, more than held their own.

They began the tournament with an 11-9 victory over the Western Massachusetts Storm on Saturday, including jumping out to an 8-0 lead through the top of the fifth before holding off the Storm’s late inning rally.

In game two of the opening day of the tournament, the Ravens dropped a 10-6 decision to the Connecticut Wolfpack and went into Sunday with a .500 record.

And things did not get any easier on day two, as the Ravens had to play a very talented Miami Suns team and came away with a 6-2 loss. The Suns were one of two teams to finish the first two days of pool play undefeated.

“We’re not quite the same caliber as Miami,” said Coppo. “They’re No. 2 pitcher threw 88 miles per hour.”

A win in the final game of the 14U pool play would have put the Ravens into the Diamond Division, but they fell just short in a 6-5 loss to the Puerto Rico Cobras.

Of the four teams the Ravens played during the first two days of pool play, three advanced to the Diamond Division.

During the AAU season, including the New England Regionals, the Ravens posted a 45-5 record overall and were 11-1 in the 14U Open Division III. They won the inaugural Ravens Bash Invitational in June at Franklin Pierce University with a perfect 5-0 mark.

“We’ve had great success all year,” said Coppo.

The Ravens qualified for the national tournament last year after the 13U team, made up of many players on this year’s 14U roster, had a great season.

“With our success last year, AAU gave us an invite,” said Coppo.

Prior to their departure for Florida, the Ravens were honored by the NH Fisher Cats with a pre-game introduction on July 15 that included ceremonial first pitch duties.

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