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As Long Beach coach Ken Jakemer sat down to dinner with his team after inclement weather cancelled plans of spending a night at Lew Hays Pony Field to watch the Pony League World Series, there wasn't much concern in his voice.

He wasn't clamoring about what pitchers he can throw in what games, how much longer they have to wait to play or what changes will be made to the schedule.

Jakemer cared about one thing: what he was ordering for dinner.

Maybe that comes with just knowing the territory. It is, after all, the fourth time he has guided a team from Long Beach, Calif., to the Pony League World Series. Under Jakemer, the team that is located 25 miles south of Los Angeles, finished as the runner-up in 2007, won the series in 2008 and lost in the semifinals in 2011.

In Long Beach's previous six trips to the series, it has won four titles. The latest championship was in 2012.

"I think (being here before) is invaluable," Jakemer said. "I understand the structure of the tournament and what's important. We didn't understand that structure in 2007. Now, instead of just being happy to be here and to be a participant of the Pony League World Series, we are here to be champions."

The wait for Long Beach — Covina, Calif., won last year's series and earned the West Region champion a bye in 2018 — won't worry an even-keeled Jakemer. His team didn't play for 16 days between the district and regional tournaments en route to Washington County.

In the tournament to advance to the series, Long Beach dropped to the losers' bracket and was forced to play, and win, four elimination games. It had to defeat Orem, Utah, and win back-to-back games against Maui, Hawaii, the team that sent Long Beach to the losers' bracket, before advancing the championship. Long Beach then topped San Diego (Tecolote-Red) in the title game, 8-1.

"Our Super Regional is one of the toughest tournaments you have to play in to get into the World Series. Hawaii has been our longtime nemesis and has kept us from advancing past the zone several times over the past few years."

A trait that bonds the players from Long Beach is that they are comprised of a six-team, 85-player league.

"These guys really believe in themselves," Jakemer said proudly. "They are talented and play together. We have great talent in our city but when you get all the way up to the zone (tournaments), you sometimes run out of resources. It's harder now than it was because of the influx of travel teams and rule changes."

Long Beach is scheduled to play the Washington County/Bronx, N.Y., winner at 2:30 p.m.

Jakemer said pitching, even in what looks to be a possibly condensed tournament, won't be a problem. Long Beach has 10 different pitchers who Jakemer said he has "complete faith in all 10." That rotation is led by lefty Myles Patton.

The lineup is powered by outfielder Ryan Geck and catcher Bren Wilkinson.

"Everything has to go right in so many ways," he said. "A little bit of luck is required. Not knowing your opponents is always a challenge. But we are a very deep, tight-knit group. That's the kind of commitment and camaraderie you need at this level." 

Staff Writer

Luke Campbell has been handling a multitude of tasks since joining the Observer-Reporter in 2015, following his graduation from Waynesburg University. He graduated from Waynesburg with a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcasting and information.

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