After four days of heat-drenched baseball at Harry G. Daniel Park at Iron Bridge, North Tampa (Fla.) defeated Torrance (Calif.) 13-8 Saturday afternoon to become PONY baseball’s Bronco-11 World Series champions.
Besides our home-town Chesterfield team of the Chester Baseball Club (CBC), five other 11-year-old teams flocked to the area, making it a true World Series – the Adirondack Heat from New York, St. Joe’s Joliet from Illinois, Chesapeake, Va.’s Western Branch, Mexico’s team from Hermosillo, Sonora, and a team from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic.
As the tournament progressed, winning teams filtered through to the winner’s bracket, ultimately leading to the West Coast-East Coast matchup.
“It’s just a great experience for us and we really love Chesterfield. The whole area has been so great and welcoming to us,” said North Tampa coach Jay Recher. “It’s been tough being away from home, but when you have people here working their tails off to make it accommodative to everybody, the winning is just icing the cake.”
North Tampa came into the championship game undefeated, outscoring Illinois, Chesterfield, Torrance, and Mexico. Torrance was 2-2 (2 wins, 2 losses), losing their first game to our local boys, Chesterfield, on the opening night, and once to North Tampa on Friday evening.
During the last match between the two, Torrance came ready to play, scoring three runs in the first inning – showing North Tampa they weren’t the least bit intimidated. Then, by the second, North Tampa came back, taking the lead 4-3.
Torrance pitcher Noah O’Donnell held his own, and despite three errors on the field, Torrance was able to tie the ball game 4-4. But in the bottom of the inning, when Torrance’s Bo Henderson came in to pitch in relief, North Tampa took two more runs with a double, taking a 6-4 lead. For most of the game, North Tampa would take the lead almost each inning, only to have Torrance come back right behind them.
The last time Torrance would score a run was the top of the sixth inning, with a bases load double by Cole Kutsch. With new Torrance pitcher Danny Vaughan coming in relieve in the bottom of the sixth, the score tied once again, a homerun by North Tampa’s Mac Weaver set the ball rolling once again for the hard-hitting Florida team to get the go-ahead run.
For the rest of the ballgame, solid North Tampa pitching and defense kept Torrance from scoring another run, while North Tampa continued to add run by run. In the top of the seventh, with Torrance trailing 13-8, North Tampa’s closer, Joey Brewer, retired three Torrance batters consecutively with a steady diet of fastballs to win the game and PONY baseball’s Bronco World Series.
“We’re going home finally,” added coach Recher, “and I’m just going to let it all sink in – it probably won’t really hit me for a few days from now.”
But for Dale district Supervisor Dave Holland, who awarded each team their medals after the games, the joy was in having people visit our precious county.
“I’m excited to have so many wonderful teams here in Chesterfield. This is the best 11-year-old baseball in the world, right here in Chesterfield, specifically the Dale district,” Holland said. “It aids us for people who haven’t been here before to come and see what we have in Chesterfield, which is one of the best counties in the country to raise children.”
And as for the Chesterfield team, who had automatic berth in the World Series, they played their little hearts out each night. As opposed to most of the other teams in the tournament, the CBC All-Stars had only been together since the beginning of July and were still learning to play together as a team, according to Head Coach Jack Horner.
Their first night, against Torrance, CBC rallied late in the ball game after trailing 4-1 for most of the game. Started by a well-hit ball by Bailey Peck, which resulted in an error by Torrance, the game tied in the sixth 4-4. But with a two-run single by Scooter Ray, who has 4 for 4 on the day with also a homerun, a double, and 3 RBIs, CBC was able to take the lead, 6-4, into the seventh; pitcher Noah Yates got the save in the seventh after giving up a solo homerun to a Torrance batter. CBC won 6-5.
CBC then went on to play great baseball the next two nights, but even with strong pitching by Ryan Smith and Ty Pannill, they lost on Thursday to North Tampa; on Friday against Illinois, CBC battled hard, tied for most of the game, until the very last batter when Illinois scored on a bases-loaded walk for the winning run.
“The caliber of baseball this week has been pretty incredible for 11-year-old kids. And I don’t think there was anybody we couldn’t compete with,” said coach Horner. “We put a lot into this, but the reward is, well, the kids are the reward to me. They really are.”