NEW YORK -- It was a big day in the Bronx for Fairfield, Conn., as three of the eight division winners in the 2017 Scotts MLB Pitch Hit & Run Team Championship competition hail from the town.Elena Ohe, Julia Minichini and Drew Buckley all placed first in their divisions at
NEW YORK -- It was a big day in the Bronx for Fairfield, Conn., as three of the eight division winners in the 2017 Scotts MLB Pitch Hit & Run Team Championship competition hail from the town.
Elena Ohe, Julia Minichini and Drew Buckley all placed first in their divisions at the event, which was held Sunday morning at Yankee Stadium.
"It's kind of nerve-wracking at first," Buckley, 14, said. "But once you get through it a little bit and start to not be as nervous, then it gets better and it's fun."
Buckley won the 13/14-year-old Baseball division, and Minichini placed first among the 13-and 14-year-old softball players. Ohe won the 11/12-year-old Softball division.
"I just did my best, and I knew that I could do it," Minichini said.
Despite being in the same division and from the same town, the two said they didn't know each other before the event because they go to different schools. They said the drive was about an hour from Fairfield to Yankee Stadium, so they woke up early to arrive before 7 a.m.
The players competed in three different events: hitting off a tee, pitching to a strike zone and running from second base to home.
For hitting, they were judged on both distance and accuracy. Their scores were determined based on how far and straight they hit it. Buckley launched the ball 266 feet off the tee, which was the farthest hit of the day.
There was a secret to Buckley's offensive success. He set the ball on the tee with the two seams running horizontally across so he could visualize the part of the ball he wanted to hit. He aimed for the bottom seam so he could hit the ball with more backspin -- which is what allows the ball to travel farther and harder through the air.
"Through experience, I know where I should hit the ball, specifically," Buckley said. "The little things like placing the ball helps me concentrate and hit the ball as hard as I can."
The Fairfield trio, as well as the five other division winners, will have a chance to qualify for the national competition during the Major League Baseball All-Star Week, though that will depend on where they place relative to all the other MLB Team Championship winners.
The top three scores in each age group out of all 30 MLB Team Championships make it to the National Finals, which will earn them an all-expenses paid trip to the MLB All-Star Week in Miami.
Matthew Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.