By TIM KOELBLE
11:02 PM EDT, July 25, 2012
The Hagerstown PONY-13 All-Stars are about to earn some frequent flyer miles.
The team traveled to Pittsburgh on Wednesday afternoon for an overnight stay, and will catch a flight to Phoenix on Thursday morning at 8. After a connecting flight lands in Los Angeles, it’s off to Fullerton, Calif., for the PONY-13 World Series on Friday, and a first-round game against Tijuana, Mexico at 1 p.m. (4 p.m. Eastern).
It’s the result of Hagerstown winning the East Zone title with a 13-1 win over Albany (N.Y.) in the championship game, and a tough 9-7 victory over Western Branch (Va.) before that.
“We are extremely proud of each and every one of these boys,” said manager Dave Barr, who jokingly said he was looking forward to the plane flight with 15 kids.
“This is the first time a Hagerstown team is going to the (PONY-13) World Series,” said Barr. “We had high expectations coming into the (zone) tournament with the character of the kids on this team. ... They’ve been good team players and have let everything come together.”
Hagerstown’s pitching and fielding carried the day early in the East Zone tournament before its hitting rounded into form.
“We started the regional a little disappointed with the offense, but our pitching and defense were the keys,” said Barr. “We started to take a focused, methodical approach. I’m a big believer that if you can hit off a tee and into a net properly, you have a good approach to hitting. And we started to do that.”
Barr could have pointed out characteristics and key points about each of his 15 players, but dwindled the list down.
“People oohed and awed about Ryan Downes with his bat, but I’ve been impressed with his defense at first base,” said Barr. “He has picked a lot of throws out of the dirt for outs.”
Downes hit a huge three-run home run in the sixth inning of the victory over Western Branch.
Bryce Ruppenthal — who has been nursing a hip injury — has come along just fine, especially at the plate. Ruppenthal went 5-for-5 with two home runs and hurled five innings to get the victory over Albany.
“What more can you say about Bryce,” said Barr. “I’m also really proud of Mitchell Wilson, leading us defensively at short and as a pitcher. And Levi Taylor has been very dependable. ... I think the biggest surprise has been the play of Reid Wallech. He made an outstanding defensive play in the championship game in left field and had two key hits.”
Once Hagerstown arrives in Fullerton, Barr expects the team to get in a batting practice session before its game against Mexico.
“They key to the first game is to strip all the hoopla away and realize it is a baseball game,” said Barr. “We want to go out and play sound, fundamental, hard baseball.”
Note: On Tuesday, Barr received an invitation from the Los Angeles Angels for the PONY-13 All-Stars to attend Friday night’s game as guests of the late Nick Adenhart’s former team against the Tampa Bay Rays. Adenhart played for Hagerstown in the PONY-14 World Series.
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