La Jolla Youth Baseball’s Pony All Stars are Region runner-ups


La Jolla Youth Baseball Pony All Stars team (ages 14 and under) opened the PONY Southwest Region tournament against their rival Tecolote July 11. La Jolla made it all the way to the Region Championship game, where they ultimately fell to team National City. Being a runner-up in Region is a huge accomplishment, considering nearly half of the La Jolla roster is only 13 years old. Most of the teams are all 14 with many players returning from high school seasons.

In their tournament opener, although they went down, they went down swinging, 10-3. In a double elimination format, La Jolla Pony dropped into the consolation bracket, but they are familiar with this “win- or-go-home” path. In the preceding Section tournament, La Jolla dropped to the elimination bracket, but rallied back to qualify for Region.

The following day they played a double-header starting with the host team Lakeside. It was an offensive battle with 23 hits and five lead changes between the two teams. Jesus Labra had a RBI double and Alex Monell drove in runs in the second and sixth innings. Cooper McNally led the charge with four hits including a bases-loaded walk-off hit to win the game 9-8 in the bottom of the seventh inning. Michael Campagna opened on the hill and Alex Monell pitched well in relief to record the dramatic win.

Thirty minutes later, La Jolla Pony had to turn around and play Tecolote again, who had come up short earlier in the day against Ramona. This time, Austin Schroeder was ready to avenge their loss by throwing a complete game shutout, allowing only six hits. La Jolla Pony never trailed after scoring two runs in the first inning on a RBI by McNally and a solo home run by Campagna. Blaise Gimber and Schroeder both drove in runs in the sixth. Eliminating Tecolote assured La Jolla Pony of advancing to the Super Region tournament starting this week, but there were still games to play in Lakeside.

The following day they faced Ramona, who got the best of them in the Section tournament (and sent La Jolla Pony to the elimination bracket). This game was a nail- biter with the winner moving to the Region Championship game. Arman Sanchez-Mohit pitched the first three innings and had his off-speed pitches working. La Jolla Pony jumped out to an 8-3 lead with the help of two Campagna bombs over the left center fence. Labra came in relief in the fourth and continued to fool Ramona with his curveball. In the sixth inning, the game tightened up with walks and errors by La Jolla and Ramona started to hit the ball.

Gimber was called upon to end the inning, but not before Ramona came within one run 8-7. In the top of the seventh, Campagna hit his third homer of the game and Lachlan MacDonald drove in another run to make it 10-7. Ramona loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh but only one run came across before Gimber recorded the final out for another exciting victory for La Jolla Pony.

In the Championship game the following day against undefeated National City, the La Jolla bats fell silent. MacDonald and Monell battled on the hill but without run support and they fell short 5-0 until the last inning when they get two across to finish the game 5-2.

Mustang 10

The La Jolla Mustang (10 and under) All Star team continued its winning ways by advancing through its Region tournament in Carlsbad over the Fourth of July weekend. It was the third straight successful tournament for the boys who now play in the PONY Mustang Super Region, which started July 20 in San Marcos.

The La Jolla squad battled host team Carlsbad in the tournament opener, July 3. They fell behind 8-4 after two innings and then used a combination of timely hitting and shutout pitching by Kevin Steel to tie the game. John Hartford launched a three- run homer to left in the top of the fifth to give La Jolla an 11-8 lead, and went on to win the opener 11-9. Jacob Campagna and T.J. Bibler led the offense with three hits each.

The team was back the next day to take on La Costa in a showdown with the winner advancing to the Super Region tournament. The game was tied 5-5 entering the fourth inning when the boys strung together three singles and a walk to score three runs. They added four more runs in the sixth inning to put the game out of reach. La Jolla took it 12-8. Bibler allowed one run in two innings of relief and Binks Deatherage closed. Offensively, Campagna and Kevin Steel flexed some muscle with long home runs.

La Jolla Mustang next faced undefeated North City for the third time this postseason, but lost on the mercy rule 12-0. The hitting drought continued the next day, as La Jolla was shutout by Tecolote. Kevin Steel provided four-and-one-third strong innings of pitching and lowered his team-leading ERA to 1.45. Because the top teams from Region advance to Super Region, their 14 wins and only five losses qualify them to advance. This week, they face the top 16 teams in Southern California with only two teams advancing to the Zone tournament in Los Alamitos. The winner of the Zone tournament advances to the Mustang World Series in Youngsville, Louisiana on Aug. 6.