It was only four days ago that the Washington County team was celebrating its second Pony League World Series win, a victory over Simi Valley, Calif., that opened eyes and gave the host a rare two wins to open the tournament.
How quickly – no matter what Mother Nature has in store – things can change.
“It all goes back to the Bay County game,” Washington coach Ben Miller said, referencing the Monday night winners’ bracket game.
A win would have advanced the host further than any World Series since 1998.
“We came in on Cloud 9, on top of the world,” Miller continued. “We had a tough loss and when you’re 14 (years old), it can be hard to fight back from that.”
It’s also hard to fight back from a 5-1 deficit before a pitch was thrown Wednesday afternoon. The opening 37 minutes, which were played Tuesday before the game was suspended because of rain, might have been tougher to recover from.
Keeping momentum it built with a four-run lead, West Zone champion Simi Valley kept the pedal down and never had its lead threatened in a 12-2 Mercy Rule win over Washington in an elimination game at Lew Hays Pony Field.
Play was resumed Wednesday with two outs, a runner on second and Simi Valley holding the commanding lead in the bottom of the first inning.
The team in command, either Tuesday or Wednesday, never changed.
“The start was huge, especially with the weather we knew we had coming,” said Simi Valley coach Ken Gill. “We had to get hot and get a lead because we didn’t know what was going to happen. It’s one game at a time, trying to take care of business each day.”
It was Simi Valley’s second elimination game after Washington sent it to the losers’ bracket from the start with an 11-1 Mercy Rule victory in six innings.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t play well that first day,” Gill said. “The first game, we didn’t have many baserunners and were putting together quality at-bats.
Those troubles were gone against Washington the second time around for Simi Valley as seven different batters had at least one hit and stole 15 bases as a team.
The West Zone champs made the deficit even greater than the four-run advantage it entered with. David Laranjo led off the second inning with a double, stole third and scored on a throwing error. In the fourth, Laranjo hit another double to right-centerfield, Ethan Pena found a space in the left side of the infield for an RBI single and another throwing error brought home a run to extend Simi Valley’s lead to 9-1.
“We had great momentum going yesterday,” Gill said. “It’s certainly hard to pick that type of momentum up again. You were able to feel the momentum coming back. We built upon it.”
The early chances Washington had were spoiled with sloppy baserunning. Tyler Johnson led off the second inning with a single and was caught stealing. Two innings later, Luke Dantry opened the fourth with a single. He was caught too far between second and third and was thrown out.
The lone run Washington scored was when Tyler Johnson singled home Andrew Kocan in the sixth but the inning ended with the bases loaded.
“Our team goal was to get to Thursday,” Miller said. “The way we thought we could get there was to try and win every inning, not thinking about the scoreboard as a total. Even though we were down 5-1, we were looking at it as we were only down 1-0. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
Simi Valley ended the game in the bottom of the sixth inning with three additional runs to extend the lead to 10 runs.
“This is something I’ll never forget,” Miller said. “It’s my first summer as a head coach. This is my first team. I just appreciate everything they’ve done for me. It’s been unreal. It’s crazy to think that it’s over.”