Pony Baseball’s advancement rules are quite a bit different than those in Little League Baseball, with the second-place team and, in some cases, even more teams, advancing from one tournament to the next.
Chula Vista North Pony took advantage of that rule in advancing to this weekend's West Zone tournament in Whittier after posting a second-place finish at the Super Region tournament. Prior to that, CV North turned in a third-place finish at the regional level to advance.
The CV North team now finds itself one step away from advancing to the International Pony-14 World Series when it opens play tonight (Thursday, July 31) against Hawaii in Whittier.
Manager Joe Blanco said his team will present gifts from Chula Vista to the Hawaii team in a show of good sportsmanship prior to tonight’s 5 p.m. contest.
“One of these teams has a chance to advance to the Pony-14 World Series,” Blanco said.
He hopes it will be his.
Chula Vista North opened all-star tournament play by winning the San Diego sectional title back on June 27, finishing 4-1 in the tournament. The top five teams advanced from the sectional to the regional.
CVN dropped a 7-6 decision to crosstown rival Chula Vista South in the challenger bracket final at the region tournament on July 11. Both teams finished behind tournament champion Lakeside.
However, all three teams advanced to the ensuing zone tournament.
Blanco said the way the region tournament was set up that his team only needed to win its first game to advance to the next level. CV North accomplished that before finishing 1-2 in the field.
"The other games weren't as crucial as we were already guaranteed of advancing," Blanco explained.
CV North defeated Whittier, 11-4, in its first game on July 25 and then topped Covina, 10-0 in a run-rule game the following day to advance to the winners bracket final against West Hills on July 27.
CVN defeated West Hills, 12-4, to advance to meet Long Beach, the winner of the other bracket, on Monday. Long Beach defeated CV North, 6-1, to earn an automatic trip to the zone tournament.
That left CVN and Hartwell, the consolation bracket winner, to battle it out for the Super Region tournament’s second berth to the zone tournament.
CV North defeated Hartwell, 6-2, on Tuesday to advance.
As for the other two Super Region qualifiers, Chula Vista South finished 0-2 with losses to West Hills and San Bernardino while Lakeside finished 1-2 with a win over Walnut and subsequent setbacks to Hartwell and Norwalk.
The West Zone tournament includes eight teams. Joining CV North and Hawaii in the tournament field are Casa Grande (Ariz.), Orem (Utah), Santa Clara, Whittier, North Seattle and Long Beach.
In other opening games on Thursday, Casa Grande meets Orem while Santa Clara faces Whittier and North Seattle matches up against Long Beach.
The four winners, split into two brackets, advance to second-round games in the double-elimination tournament on Friday, Aug. 1. The four opening-round losing teams will play elimination games, also on Friday, Aug. 1.
Bracket finals will take place on Saturday, Aug. 2, with winners from the final two elimination games played earlier that day advancing to meet the two remaining undefeated teams in the tournament.
Proverbial “if” games are scheduled early on Sunday, Aug. 3. The two bracket winners will then meet in the zone championship game at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 3.
The International Pony-14 World Series is scheduled Aug. 8-13 in Washington, Pa. The West Zone champion will join East, North and South regional champions, as well as the host area and host team, plus two international teams in the eight-team double-elimination field.
Blanco said his team is looking forward to meeting new challenges.
"The kids are really excited about playing Hawaii," Blanco said. "They're all jacked up. As you move further along in the tournaments, you play teams from different states and better teams."
Blanco said four players have carried the team in all-star tournament play: pitchers Oscar Ramirez and Octavio Sanchez and hitters Nick Kaczowski and Adam Weissenfels.
Ramirez turned in clutch complete game efforts in must-wins over West Hills and Hartwell while Kaczowski has been the team's dominant hitter.
"Nick has been on fire," the CVN manager said. "He's hitting something like .600 with eight hits and about eight runs batteed in during the super regional."
Weissenfels, a catcher, has also contributed with the bat, though Blanco said it is his arm has has captured the most attention. "He's been throwing out runners left and right to the point where teams don't even run on him any more," the CVN manager noted.
Bronco West Zone
Chula Vista South’s Bronco Division team wrapped up its season with a fourth-place finish in the West Zone tournament — one step from advancing to the International Bronco League World Series.
Chula Vista South finished 2-2 at the zone tournament with victories against Orem (Utah) and Scottsdale (Ariz.) and losses to Hilo (Hawaii) and San Jose. CV South defeated Orem (18-2) and Scottsdale (9-0) but lost to Hilo (16-2) and San Jose (13-11).
CV South started its all-star playoff odyssey by winning the East/South San Diego Section and San Diego Region championships, both times defeating North City, and then defeating Placentia, Torrance American and Ventura Coast at the ensuing Super Region tournament in Whittier.
PONY BASEBALL ALL-STAR SCOREBOARD
•Chula Vista South 11, San Marcos 1
•Chula Vista North 5, Escondido 2
•Chula Vista South 12, La Jolla 0
•Chula Vista North 23, Carlsbad 0
•Chula Vista South 14, Tecolote 4
•Chula Vista North 9, Chula Vista South 3
Challenger Bracket Final
•Chula Vista South 10, Escondido 0
•Chula Vista South 5, Chula Vista North 4
•Chula Vista North 7, Chula Vista South 1
Chula Vista North wins section title
Note: Top five teams advance to region tournament: 1. Chula Vista North, 2. Chula Vista South, 3. Escondido, 4. La Jolla, 5. Tecolote
•Chula Vista North 9, Escondido 1
•Lakeside 9, Chula Vista South 2
•Lakeside 13, Chula Vista North 8
•Chula Vista South 12, Tecolote 4
•Chula Vista South 2, Escondido 1
Final: Chula Vista South 7, Chula Vista North 6
•Lakeside 3, Chula Vista South 1
Lakeside wins region title
Note: Top three teams advance to super region tournament (July 24-29 in Whittier/Long Beach): 1. Lakeside, 2. Chula Vista South, 3. Chula Vista North
Pony-14 West Zone
Playing site: Whitteir
Thursday, July 31
Orem (Utah) 17, Casa Grande (Ariz.) 0
Santa Clara 4, Whittier 2
Long Beach 12, North Seattle 2
Hawaii 8, Chula Vista North 3
Friday, Aug. 1
Santa Clara 7, Orem (Utah) 5
Hawaii 5, Long Beach 4
Friday, Aug. 1
Whittier 15, Casa Grande (Ariz.) 0
Chula Vista North 12,. North Seattle 8
Saturday, Aug. 2
Whitteir 9, Orem (Utah) 3
Long Beach 10, Chula Vista North 0
Santa Clara 5, Whittier 3
Long Beach 9, Hawaii 0 (Long Beach forces double-elimination game vs. Hawaii)
Sunday, Aug. 3
Hawaii 3, Long Beach 1 (winner advances to championshp game)
Sunday, Aug. 3
Hawaii 8, Santa Clara 3 (Hawaii advances to International Pony-14 World Series)