Chesterfield County, Va., manager Jack Horner had never been so excited to see the sun shining. As Horner and his team toured Lew Hays Pony Field in Washington Park Thursday, they could not help but reflect on how far they have come.
Just a week ago, a rainstorm postponed the East Zone tournament, which decides which team will advance to the Pony League World Series.
The tournament began last Wednesday and Chesterfield County lost its opening game against High Point, N.C. A storm began Friday, postponing several games to Saturday and creating a predicament for Horner.
With potentially four games remaining in the tournament, should they play all four in one day or come back Sunday for a championship matchup?
The players did not hesitate.
“It was tough having to go through all those games, but at the end, we wanted to keep going and not lose our mojo going back to the hotel,” said second baseman Jackson Horner, the manager’s son.
Chesterfield County arrived for batting practice at 10:30 a.m. and left the field at 1 a.m. the next day with a trophy and a spot in the Pony League World Series, which begins 5:30 p.m. today. Chesterfield won all four games – averaging more than 13 runs per game – which was capped by an 8-4 victory over New Haven, Conn., in the championship game.
Chesterfield defeated High Point in a rematch Saturday before defeating New Haven twice to clinch the title and a spot in the World Series. Chesterfield will play its first game Saturday (11:30 a.m.) against Hilo, Hawaii.
“That was one of the most rewarding days as a coach I’ve had,” Jack Horner said. “It was something else. You almost had to be there to feel the energy. It was against really good competition. All three teams were outstanding.”
The road to Washington for Chesterfield’s players began almost five years ago. Seven of its players have reached the Bronco, Mustang and Pony World Series.
The Pony League World Series runs through Wednesday with the championship game scheduled for 7:30 p.m. A team must win a minimum of four games to claim the title.
For a Chesterfield squad that played four elimination games in a 14½-hour span, the challenge is not daunting.
“You don’t know your opponent, but again, they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t good,” Horner said. “You know you are going to face a good team. They aren’t going to bring a bad team from Hawaii to Washington, Pa.”
As Chesterfield County prepares to cement itself as one of the best youth baseball organizations on the East Coast – this will be its fourth Pony World Series apperances in nine years with a title in 2010 – its starting second baseman is relishing the atmosphere of one of the biggest youth tournaments in the nation.
“It’s crazy. This is my third or fourth time going to a world series and every time it’s been special,” Jackson Horner said. “This will be different because its Pony and I think this is where I’ve been trying to get ever since I started playing the game. It’s going to be a great opportunity.”
Washington will open the tournament Saturday against Brno, Czech Republic, at 2 p.m. Brno won the European Zone after dominating the competition at the SUMA Open in late-April.
In six games, Brno scored 138 runs en route to a European Zone championship title. The streak included a 25-4 win over Vilnius, Lithuania, and a 42-0 victory over Srbosko, Serbia. It is the first time the nation will be represented at the Pony League World Series.
Last year, Washington lost to Paderborn, Germany, 8-1, in the first round and was eliminated by Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico.
Taoyuan County, Chinese Taipei, was the final international team to qualify for the series despite a severe storm almost wrecking its chances of completing the Asia-Pacific Zone tournament.
The tournament was delayed a day in Sto Nino, Markina City, Philippines, after Super Typhoon Rammasun hit the nearby capital of Manila on July 16. Crews cleared the field of debris to make it playable the next day.
Taoyuan County won four straight games, including a no-hitter against the Phillipines, to win the zone title. The team plays its opening game Saturday (5 p.m.) against the winner of tonight’s game between Corpus Christi, Texas, and Levittown, Puerto Rico.