Pony All-Stars set for Southwest Zone Tournament

CROWLEY – Crowley Pony League All-Star coach Timmy Robichaux is hoping that more experience, more size and a deeper pitching staff add up to more victories – and maybe even a title – when the Rice City team begins competition today in the Pony Southwest Zone Tournament in Burleson, Texas.

It will be the second straight year that the Crowley team has advanced to the Zone tournament. They were swept in two games in 2011’s Zone appearance.

The winner of the tournament advances to the Pony League World Series beginning next week.

“We’re going there this year with a little more experience so I don’t think it will be such a big deal when we get there,” said Robichaux, who returns six players from last year’s team. “We were probably one of the smaller teams there last year and this year, we have a lot more size.

“We’ve got a pretty solid team, I believe. We’re much deeper on the pitching side and we’re pretty solid at every defensive position. I think that we will be able to go in there this year and actually compete instead of just kind of being glad to be there.”

Crowley’s quest for the tournament title begins this evening when the Americans take on Brownsville, Texas at 8 o’clock.

“There are 10 teams in this double elimination tournament,” said Robichaux. “So, hopefully, we can pick up a victory in the opener. If you fall in the loser’s bracket early, it’s tough to come back from. We’ve got to fight to stay in the winner’s bracket as long as we can.”

Although Robichaux knows nothing about his opponent, he expects Brownsville to be quite competitive – which is why he is likely to send his ace, Joe Faulk, to the mound in the opener.

“I think Joe is going to be our first guy up,” said Robichaux. “He’s been our No. 1 so we’re going to go after the first game hard and hope we won’t be playing again until Saturday.”

Faulk proved his No. 1 status last week in Super Regional action when he tossed two no-hit shutouts in leading the Americans to the tournament title. He struck out 15 in a 2-0 victory over SATS of Scott in the first game before setting down 13 on strikes in a 2-0 victory over Jennings in the winner’s bracket finals.

Pate Broussard also picked up a pair of victories in the regional. Broussard struck out seven in a 10-3 win over Mamou and then gave up just one run on three hits in a 2-1 victory over Jennings in the finals. In that game, he struck out 11.

Shea Zaunbrecher pitched three innings against Mamou and gave up one run on two hits while striking out five.

“After Joe (Faulk) and Pate (Broussard), we have Shea (Zaunbrecher), Pete Brown, Bubba Daigle, Jon-Riley Mouton...so we’re pretty deep in pitching,” said Robichaux. “Last year, we were pretty much riding Joe. We did it in the Super Regional and again in the Zone tournament. This year, we’re much deeper and I think that will give us a better chance.”

Although the pitching side is always important, Robichaux says the difference between wins and losses this week will depend on his team’s offensive production.

The Americans scored just two runs in three of their four victories during the Super Regional and they logged just 22 hits in the four-game stretch.

“We’ve hit good at times during some of the time in the tuneup tournaments, but, of course, we weren’t facing really strong pitching then,” said Robichaux. “So this week, we’ve been working a lot on hitting the curveball. The breaking ball gave us a lot of trouble in this past tournament so we’re trying to work on those things.

“I think if we can put the ball in play consistently, I think our pitching and defense is going to be there.”

Defensively, the Millers were nearly flawless in the regional as they committed just three errors in the four games.

“We’re pretty sound at every position,” said Robichaux. “We played good defense in the Super Regional and we got good pitching. That’s what gave us a chance to win even though we didn’t hit the ball that well. “

The winner of the Crowley-Brownsville game gets Friday off before playing again Saturday while the loser will play at 6 p.m. Friday in an elimination game.

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