Crowley Americans claim Pony Super Regional title
CROWLEY – It’s been a long time, but Crowley finally has a Pony League All-Star team headed to Zone competition in Pony Baseball once again.
The Crowley Americans earned a berth in the Zone Tournament which begins this week in Burleson, Texas, by scoring 11 runs in the first three innings and then holding off a late St. Mary rally for an 11-7 victory in the Super Regional finals Thursday at the Pony League diamond.
“This is the first time in a while that a team in this age group has advanced this far,” said Americans’ coach Timmy Robichaux.
“I just think this will be a good experience for the kids. They’ve worked hard and they have bought into what we’ve been trying to teach them. Whether we go up there and win two or lose two right away, I think it will be a good experience for them.”
Thursday’s title game was certainly an experience for Robichaux’s squad.
The Americans jumped out to a 6-0 advantage in the first inning and led 11-2 heading into the bottom of the fourth. They were one hit away from ending the game early via the mercy rule, but they left a runner stranded at third base in the fourth frame.
St. Mary took full advantage of Crowley ’s inability to put the game away and got back in the contest two innings later by scoring five runs.
“Things started like I hoped they would,” said Robichaux. “We hoped we could get some runs on them early and force them to make some pitching changes.
“We were kind of the aggressor to start. The only disappointing thing was that we had a chance to end the game early a couple of times and we were unable to do that. Every time you don’t do that, your opponent gets that much more momentum and fights you back.”
St. Mary’s early woes were mainly self inflicted, products of walks and errors.
Crowley logged just two hits in the first inning but took advantage of four walks and one St. Mary error to score six runs.
Back-to-back walks to Luke and Bradley Anclete started the frame before a balk forced in the first run of the game. Alex Ashby drove in another run on a groundout and Shea Zaunbrecher’s single to the right center field gap plated two more runs.
Pate Broussard, who drew a walk, later scored on a passed ball and Zaunbrecher crossed the plate on a throwing error by the catcher.
St. Mary answered with one run in the top of the second inning when Jake Hebert walked and scored on a single to center field by Seth Legendre.
The Americans threatened again in the second inning when Ashby singled and Joe Faulk doubled with one out.
But back-to-back flyouts to the infield ended the inning with no runs scored.
St. Mary wasn’t as fortunate in the third inning.
Crowley scored five more runs, all unearned, on four hits and four errors.
Broussard started things off with hard hit line drive to third base and Hunter Miller reached base on a fielder’s choice with one out. Luke Ancelet picked up an RBI on a grounder that was misplayed at second base. Miller also scored on the miscue.
Ashby then recorded his second hit of the game, a single to right field, before stealing second and third base and scoring on a throwing error. Faulk put the finishing touches on the inning with a solo home run deep over the left center field wall.
Trailing 11-1 heading into the top of the fourth, St. Mary rallied to keep the game alive.
Kenny Singleton singled to start the inning. But he was eventually thrown out at the plate trying to score on an infield hit by Grant Perry. John Hebert, who doubled, eventually scored to cut the lead to 11-2.
Crowley had a chance to put the game away in the bottom of the fourth when Broussard walked, stole second and advanced to third on an error.
However, a strikeout and back-to-back flyouts to the infield ended the inning.
St. Mary made a game of it in the sixth inning.
Faulk, Crowley’s starting pitcher, was tagged for five runs on five hits and two walks in the inning before being replaced on the mound by Luke Ancelet.
Ancelet walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, but he got out of the jam one batter later when John Hebert lined out to center field.
After a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh, Luke Ancelet was replaced by Bradly Ancelet. The younger of the two cousins coaxed Legendre into a groundout and then picked off Perry, who walked, for the second out. He then struck out Chet Aucoin to end the game.
Faulk picked up the victory, his third of the tournament, after giving up seven runs on 12 hits and three walks. He struck out five in 5 2/3 innings.
“Joe did a good job of getting us deep into the game,” said Robichaux. “You know, we’ve asked a lot of him this tournament and he’s pitched a lot of innings. We’re going to have to share innings more over there in Burleson. Even though he had three days rest, I still don’t think he was quite as sharp as he was against Jennings the other night.
“But he still got us deep enough into the game to get Brad in. We tried Luke for a little while and then came in with Brad and he did a great job of getting right into the strike zone.”
St. Mary aided in Crowley ’s victory with six errors that led to six unearned runs.
“If you can put the ball in play and make people make plays, put pressure on them, eventually they will make errors,” said Robichaux. “They kind of helped us a little bit along the way.”
Crowley took advantage of nearly every St. Mary miscue, maximizing the errors with nine hits on the night.
Faulk paced the Americans at the plate with a 3-for-4 performance that included a double, a home run and an RBI.
Zaunbrecher followed with two hits and two RBI while Ashby had two hits and one RBI. Colby Istre added a double and Broussard rounded out Crowley’s nine-hit attack with a single.
St. Mary was led by Legendre and Delaune with three hits each while Perry and Hebert each had two hits.
Overall, Robichaux was pleased with his team’s tournament performance in which they outscored their opponents 45-19 in four games.
“Like I said, this group bought into what we’re trying to teach them...you know, throw strikes and play defense,” said Robichaux. “I think they did a great job the whole way and I couldn’t be prouder of them.
“You know, at this level, a lot of those kids are fixing to enter high school so they have to learn how to play the game and I believe that’s what has helped us move on. We might not be the best team around, but together, they play the game well.”