They are just one step away from a World Series.
Thanks to a strong playoff run, the PONY Baytown Baseball Association All Star team is heading to the PONY 14 South Zone double-elimination tournament in Youngsville, Louisiana hoping to take a final step and make it to the ultimate event.
The Baytown team begins play 10 a.m. Wednesday against Deanville, Texas in the eight-team field, one of two such brackets in the zone playing for World Series qualification. The winners of each bracket, the National and American, will play for the zone championship Aug. 4.
The only other time Baytown PONY advanced to the Zone tournament was in 2016.
“We know nothing about Deanville other than they have a pitcher,” BTBA manager John Ward said. “They are one team in a town that travels town to town to play where we had four teams.
“We just play our game and play it one game at a time.”
If it wins this tournament, BTBA will head to the PONY World Series in Washington, Pennsylvania which begins Aug. 9.
Isaias Cuevas and Andrew Estrada are both future Robert E. Lee High School freshmen and acknowledge this run has helped them get ready for the next level.
“This is a once in a lifetime since Baytown isn’t usually known for going that far,” Estrada, the team’s captain, said. “We had to fight our way through and it’s been great getting us ready.”
Ward says the team has many interchangeable parts at all positions including a number of pitchers.
That helps take the pressure off the players, but it does amp the competitiveness within the roster.
“If something puts me out with a sprained ankle or something, it’s OK because we are all so competitive and have the same skill level,” Estrada said. “It’s a team.”
Cuevas is known as being the team‘s RBI leader and clutch hitter.
“Whatever type of team you put out there, it’s always going to be the same,” Cuevas said. “All I am thinking when I get up there is to hit the ball and get some runs in. I just worry about doing the job and what I need to do for the team.”
Ward played at this level when he was a youth in Dickinson.
“I am just happy for the kids,” Ward said. “I know what it feels like to go this far and represent your town. For some of them this is the last time they will experience youth sports. It’s on to high school and it all changes. To have this experience now on the way out.
“They motivate each other and this team is very competitive and each players pushes the next one to raise his game.
BTBA President Laura Wamble is enthused by this team’s performance after working four practices a week all summer to get to this point.
“I am so proud of these players and coaches on how well they are representing Baytown,” Wamble said. “They practice hard at each practice and I know when it comes time to play, it’s going to show. They all have heart in the game and work as a team.”
Pony 14 South Zone Tournament schedule
Wednesday, July 31
Game 1: Mizuno, Texas vs. Medina Valley, Texas, 10 a.m.
Game 2: SW Kasso, Texas vs. Welsh, Louisiana, 12 p.m.
Game 3: Deanville, Texas vs. Baytown, Texas, 10 a.m.
Game 4: San Benito, Texas vs. Steaith, Texas, 12 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 1
Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 3, 10 a.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 6: Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 4, noon (loser eliminated)
Game 7: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 3, 10 a.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 4, noon
Friday, Aug. 2
Game 9: Loser Game 7 vs. Winner Game 5, 10 a.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 10: Loser Game 8 vs. Winner Game 6, noon (loser eliminated)
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 2 p.m.
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 4 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Saturday, Aug. 3
Game 13: Loser Game 11 vs. Winner Game 12, 10 a.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 14: Winner Game 13 vs. Winner Game 11, 2 p.m. (bracket championship)
Sunday, Aug. 4
Game 15: Bracket Championship if necessary, 10 a.m.
PONY 14 ZONE Championship, bracket winners, 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. (winner advances to World Series).