Ashton Butler of BTBA Pony team rocks and fires during the squad’s 8-7 loss Friday night in its South Zone Coast Region-Houston sectional opener.

Drops PONY sectional opener to La Porte; Must win out to advance

HOUSTON – The PONY Baytown Baseball Association All Stars headed into the South Zone Coast Region-Houston sectional with big dreams of a chance to get closer to a World Series.

But this weekend at the NASA PONY fields in Bay Area Park, those dreams were put in jeopardy after an 8-7 loss to La Porte Friday night in its tournament opener.

BTBA played Pasadena in an elimination game Saturday with hopes of advancing in the losers bracket to today’s 10 a.m. contest against either La Porte or Deer Park. Two wins sends Baytown to the zone tournament in Youngsville, Louisiana at the end of the month.

The tournament started in dramatic fashion as the Baytown squad dropped a heartbreaker that lasted over two hours and had to wait out a 45-minute delay to the original starting time due to a Pasadena 13-8 win over Deer Park running long.

BTBA had a golden chance to get out on the front foot in the top of the first inning as the La Porte starting pitcher struggled with control. They filled the sacks with one out but could only scratch out one run on a walk and instead of a bigger edge, led 1-0 when the dust settled.

“The first inning I thought went well,” Baytown manager John Ward said. “We batted seven batters but came away with only a run. Of course, nobody wants to leave the bases loaded but the game is meant to be played.”

La Porte rallied for four runs in the bottom of the second inning before Baytown would finally get started.

They scored two runs in the third and fourth innings which ultimately tied the game at 5-apiece. The two teams  began a game of seesaw as La Porte recaptured a 6-5 edge heading into the top of the sixth.

John Ward got on base thanks to an error and advanced to second base. Two batters later, Thomas Pantoja singled Ward home – who had advanced to third on a passed ball – and the game was knotted up at 6-all.

It remained that way going into the top of the seventh and Baytown struck again. Evan Holguin was hit by a pitch, stole second and third bases and came home on a Miguel Lopez sacrifice fly to put BTBA in front 7-6 and three outs from advancing in the winners bracket.

La Porte would find a way behind two hits, a walk and a Baytown error to win the contest.

Baytown committed five errors in the contest while recording eight hits. There were 14 walks issued between the two teams.

“We committed to many errors and got away from our game plan,” manager Ward said. “We hit decent but La Porte’s defense was staying with us. Our team is good about never quitting or backing down. They compete to the end.”

Miguel Savalza, Andrew Estrada and Pantoja all finished with two hits apiece to pace the BTBA offense.

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