Levittown, Puerto Rico’s hitters wowed the crowd Friday morning at Lew Hays Pony Field winning the team title in the home run derby by sending sent baseball after baseball over the outfield fences.
When Puerto Rico opened play against Corpus Christi several hours later, the reaction from onlookers was the same. The Potros scattered 12 hits over five innings as they defeated the Tigers, 12-1, in the first game of the Pony League World Series.
Levittown will face Chinese Taipei, the Asia-Pacific Zone champions, today at 5 p.m., while Corpus Christi will play the loser Friday night’s Bay County, Mich. and Johnstown game at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
“We made major strides today,” Levittown manager Willie Joe Ronda said. “Our offense is great, but their pitcher was better than the score shows. We just had good at bats and showed discipline.”
It did not take long for the Potros to flex their offensive muscles. First baseman Joel Santiago Diaz hit a RBI single in the first inning for a 1-0 lead to send the Levittown dugout into a frenzy.
While the Puerto Rico hitters dominated the home run derby earlier in the day, it was some balls that never left the infield that led to a big inning in the second. Jean Paul Santana drew a one-out walk before Ryan Rivera hit a soft grounder to the far left of the second baseman and beat the throw for an infield single. On the following pitch, Yadiel Narvaez fought off an inside fastball that rolled slowly up the third base line for an infield single to load the bases.
Kenneth Soto followed with a two-run single, Heliot Ramos smacked a two-run double to right-center field and Santiago drove in one more run as Levittown to 6-0 lead after two.
“No disrespect to them, but we’ve seen a lot better teams than that,” Corpus Christi manager Nick Sanchez said. “My team was antsy. I’m not sure if the atmosphere got to them or what, but we weren’t ready mentally. I guarantee we’ll be a much better team the next time we step on this field.”
Rivera added another run in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly, Soto drove in two more on a single to right and Santiago drove a breaking pitch to right field to score Soto for a 9-0 advantage.
“We’re motivated for being here,” Levittown catcher Josue Sanchez said. “We worked hard for years for this opportunity and we’re not going to waste it. It was uncomfortable with all the travel, but we’re here to prove something.”
Levittown starting pitcher Benjamin Negron held a no-hitter until the fourth inning when an attempted sacrifice bunt instead went for a single. It loaded the bases after Negron walked the first two batters of the inning and Jesse Regino drove an outside fastball to center field for a sacrifice fly to score a run, Corpus Christi’s only score of the game.
On the other hand, Puerto Rico added three runs in the fourth inning for a 11-run advantage before left-handed reliever Ian Diaz retired the side in the fifth to end the game with the mercy rule.
“This win gives us a lot of confidence,” Ronda said. “It broke the ice and we get to save our pitcher for the big game tomorrow.”
The Potros displayed flashy defense and were extremely aggressive on the base paths. They stole four bases, including a double steal in the third that resulted in two runs.
“We have to press and make things happen,” Ronda said. “In a tournament like this, you have to create runs. We’ll be facing some great pitching, so doing the little things will hopefully help us win games.”
Corpus Christi’s Jacob Flores won the individual home run derby title with Hilo, Hawaii’s Joey Jarneski finishing second. Kahale Huddleston Jr. of Hawaii took first place in the fastest runner competition and Bay County’s Dylan Beffrey finished second.