Crowley Americans set for Pony Zone Tournament

CROWLEY – The Crowley Americans stormed through the Pony Super Regional last weekend, winning four straight games to earn the tournament title.

Now, the Americans have their sights set on a much bigger prize - the Pony Zone title.

The Americans begin play in the Zone tournament Thursday evening in Texas when they take Laredo, the 2010 defending champion, at Burleson’s Chisenhall Sports Complex. First pitch is slated for 8 o’clock.

“I think this will be a good trip and a good experience for our guys,” said Crowley Americans’ coach Timmy Robichaux. “There’s going to be some pretty strong teams in this tournament and it will be a good test for us.”

The 10-team tournament field consists of seven Texas teams, including the two host squads from Burleson - the Strikers and the Bobcats. Regional champs from Texas include Palmview, Kyle Chapman, Benbrook, Laredo and League City . Joining Crowley as out-of-state teams include Druid Hill, Georgia and Margate, Florida .

“I don’t think there’s going to be many weak teams, if any, in this field,” said Robichaux. “I think everybody is going to be pretty solid and the better teams are going to be deeper in pitching. That will be our biggest challenge, that and the depth of some of the teams with their hitters.”

Crowley enters the competition having a steep hill to climb right off the bat, having to face the defending Zone champion with an ace that has already thrown a no-hitter and a perfect game in the previous two tournaments.

However, a victory would put the locals in prime position. The winner of the Crowley/Laredo contest gets Friday off and doesn’t play again until Saturday while the loser goes right back to action Friday evening.

In the best-case scenario, it would take just four victories for the Americans to claim the Zone title.

“The first game is key for us,” said Robichaux. “I really believe our best shot is to stay in the winner’s bracket. It’s a 10-team tournament and it’s a long road back once you fall into the loser’s bracket. Not saying you can’t do it, but it is where we really don’t want to end up.

“We’re going to hopefully try and fight that first game and see if we can’t stay in the winner’s bracket.”

In order to remain in the winner’s bracket, the Americans will have to do the same thing they did during the Super Regional Tournament - pitch well and put the ball in play.

On the pitching side, Joe Faulk is slated to get the start in the Zone opener. Robichaux relied on Faulk heavily in the Super Regionals where the hard-throwing right hander logged three of the Americans’ four victories.

“We did throw Joe probably a little bit more than we wanted to during the course of the (Super Regional) tournament,” said Robichaux. “But we also have some other guys that can get up there on the mound. We have Bradley Ancelet, Caleb Istre, Luke Ancelet, Shea Zaunbrecher, Pate Broussard… All those guys will likely see some action this tournament.”

That depth on the mound will play a big role in determining how much of a run the Americans are able to make.

“The biggest thing is, it’s going to be tough to win a game with just one pitcher,” said Robichaux. “The quality of the teams that we’re playing and the hitters, they’re going to have to work to get outs and their pitch counts are going to get up. It’s going to take more than one guy so I would think some more guys are going to see the mound this go around.”

Offensively, the Americans have not had a problem producing runs. The locals averaged nearly 10 hits and just under 12 runs a game during the Super Regional Tournament.

“We’ve been doing a good job at the plate and I think everyone has pretty much contributed,” said Robichaux. “The biggest thing that we try to get across to them is to put the ball in play. At any level, but especially this level, you have to put pressure on teams and make them make plays and we’ve been doing a pretty good job of that thus far.

“And that’s what we’ll have to continue to do, especially facing good pitching up here. We’ll have to cut down on our strikeouts and work to put the ball in play.”

The Americans have had a little under a week to prepare for their trip to Burleson and now, Robichaux says his squad is anxious to get back on the diamond.

“We’re looking forward to getting there and looking forward to the challenge,” said Robichaux. “The main thing now is just to try and execute. There’s not a whole lot more to cover here. We just have to get in there and play the game the way that we’ve been trying to teach them to play it. (We need to) fight all seven innings and see what happens.”

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