La Jolla Youth Baseball sent eight All Star teams to the PONY Section tournament that started on June 22. PONY is an acronym for Protect Our Nations Youth and is a brand of international youth baseball similar to Little League, but more closely follows MLB rules as they relate to pitching, base running and other advanced elements of the game. PONY also plays tournaments into a World Series format, but they play in different cities each year and there is a separate tournament for each age division: Shetland, Pinto-7, Pinto-8, Mustang-9, Mustang-10, Bronco-11, Bronco-12, Pony-13, Pony-14, Colt (15-16) and Palomino (17-18).
PONY All Star teams advance from Section to Region, Super Region, Zone and World Series. The top three or four teams in each tournament typically advance to the next level. The “Survive and Advance” mentality is for a team that may lose a game and battle through the losers’ bracket of the double- elimination format, possibly earning a berth in the semi-finals and advancing to the next tournament.
LJYB has had Bronco and Pony teams advance to Zone a few seasons ago, and the Shetland teams qualified for the World Series tourney the last two years. Success in PONY All Stars makes for a long summer of baseball!
La Jolla’s Pony team was one of the first to survive and advance. After a surprising 3-1 loss to Alpine in the opening round in Ramona, the boys battled through the losers bracket with successive wins against Emerald (4-1), Tecolote (13-5) and Ramona (14-8). They made it to the finals where they faced an undefeated Chula Vista South, and had to beat them twice for the title.
Casey Mariucci and Reed Farley pitched great games for La Jolla. They won the first game 5-4 and ran out of gas in the double- header, losing the championship game 12-4. Tate Samuelson hit three successive home runs in one game against Chula Vista. Carson Greene and Ben Wintringer combined their clutch hitting to take the team into extra innings and a come-from-behind win. Led by manager Steve Mariucci, LJ’s Pony team advances to the Regional tourney against Vista on July 11 in Chula Vista.
The Bronco Red team also enjoyed some success in the Section tournament in Ramona, where most games were played in 100-degree weather. They opened with a tough 8-0 loss to Chula Vista South, the eventual runner-up. Manager Tim Scott rallied the troops starting with a stunning 10-0 perfect game pitched by Michael Campagna against Tecolote Blue in an elimination game. The PONY officials could not recall another perfect game in recent years. Campagna helped his cause with a home run and received additional offensive support from Marco Molina, Marcus Scott, Calvin Hyytinen, Noah Brown and Trevor Ace. Blaise Gimber sealed the deal with a diving catch in right field to make the last out and preserve the perfect game — an ESPN “web gem” for sure.
In the next game, the Bronco boys defeated Emerald 10-7 behind the strong pitching of Austin Schroeder, Blaise Gimber, Alex Monell and Carsten Fehlan to advance to the PONY Regional tourney. Key hits came from Trevor Ace, Cade Kronemeyer, Carsten Fehlan and Alex Monell, who contributed two doubles and four RBIs. La Jolla was knocked out of the tourney by Chula Vista South (again) but Trevor Ace’s towering homer over the right field wall was memorable.