Many times, just making it this far is the hardest part.
That message doesn't need to be delivered to the teams from Yaguate, located in the southern portion of the Dominican Republic, or the Bronx, N.Y.
It's the first time either has represented their region at the Pony League World Series.
Yaguate plays in the tournament opener at 5:30 p.m. tonight against Bay County, Mich., which has Lew Hays Pony Field in Washington Park already programmed into their GPS device before the baseball season begins. It is the seventh consecutive appearance for Bay County.
Host area Youngstown, Ohio, takes on Vienna, Austria, in the second, and final, game of the night. It is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Opening ceremonies will be held in between games.
The road to Washington County for the Bronx, and multi-hour flight from Las Américas International Airport for Yaguate, haven't came without turbulence.
In the zone championship, the game to determine what team would advance to the world series, Yaguate overcame three deficits to defeat Puerto Rico, 8-7, in 10 innings. It trailed 1-0 after the first inning, 5-1 entering the bottom of the third and 7-5 before scoring three runs in the bottom of the 10th inning.
"The game was back and forth, and it was the first time we had to play in that type of situation," said Yaguate assistant coach Victor Vizcaino. "We were down the two runs late and came back, thanks to God."
Led by Rickendy Martinez, Jhon Gomez and Jonatan Guzman, Yaguate is hoping balance leads to an extended stay in Washington.
"We have good pitchers, a lot of power and fast runners. We really have a little bit of everything," Vizcaino said. "It's a great experience for the kids to see how baseball is played around the world. Whatever it takes to win, we are going to do."
To win the East Region tournament, the Bronx was forced to play three games against Cleveland, Ohio. It defeated Cleveland twice by the same score, 4-3, including a victory to advance to the world series.
"That team from Ohio was wonderful," said Bronx coach Hector Meregildo. "We played with heart. I couldn't even describe the emotion."
The Bronx leaned on pitching — Meregildo said 11 of the 13 players on the team can pitch — to get to the world series.
"We haven't been supported," he said. "For us, it's a great thing we can do. We are glad to be in Washington to represent the Bronx. But the Bronx hasn't helped us. We did it on our own."
The Bronx also is representing the state of New York, which doesn't have a series title. It's first game is against Washington County at noon Saturday.
"In my mind and the kids' mind, we are going to the end," Meregildo said. "We are going to get a championship."
Youngstown is appearing in the series in back-to-back years. In the Host Area tournament, Youngstown scored 43 runs in three games. Youngstown advanced to the semifinals in last year's world series. ... West Zone qualifier Long Beach, Cal., is looking to continue its success when it plays at Washington Park. In six appearances at the world series, Long Beach has won four times: 1959, 1965, 2008 and 2012. ... One of the most unconventional routes to the tournament is from the representative from the European Zone. Austria will make its second appearance in the last four years after finishing third in the European Zone Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. The team out of Vienna finished in third place but committed to the series after the Netherlands, the champion, and second-place finisher Germany could not commit to participating because of scheduling conflicts.
2018 Pony League World Series
At Lew Hays Pony Field
Friday, Aug. 10
Game 1 — Bay County, Mich., vs. Yaguate, Dominican Republic, 5:30 p.m.
Game 2 — Vienna, Austria vs. Youngstown, Ohio, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 11
Game 3 — Washington County vs. Bronx, N.Y., noon
Game 4 — Brownsville, Texas vs. Tijuana, Mexico, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5 — Bay County-Yaguate, Dominican Republic winner vs. Chinese Taipei, 5 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 12
Game 6 — Long Beach, Calif., vs. Washington-Bronx, N.Y. winner, noon
Game 7 — Bay County, Mich.-Yaguate, Dominican Rupublic loser vs. Vienna, Austria-Youngstown, Ohio loser, 2:30 p.m.
Game 8 — Washington County-Bronx, N.Y. loser vs. Brownsville, Texas-Tijana, Mexico loser, 5 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 13
Game 9 — Loser Game 5 vs. Winner Game 7, 10 a.m.
Game 10 — Loser Game 6 vs. Winner Game 8, 12:30 p.m.
Game 11 — Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 2, 5:30 p.m.
Game 12 — Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 6, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 14
Game 13 — Loser Game 11 vs. Winner Game 9, 10 a.m.
Game 14 — Loser Game 12 vs. Winner Game 10, 12:30 p.m.
Game 15 — Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 13, 5:30 p.m.
Game 16 — Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 14, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 15
Game 17 — Winner Game 15 vs. Loser Game 15 (if necessary), 10 a.m.
Game 18 — Loser Game 16 vs. Winner Game 16 (if necessary), 12:30 p.m.
Game 19 — Championship, 7:30 p.m.