Washington’s players heard it all summer. The Pony League World Series’ host team never defeated an international opponent, has not claimed a series title since 1955 and did not stand a chance.
With attendance numbers dropping in recent years, in part because Washington’s teams bowed out of the tournament early, the team wanted to do its part to help keep the World Series in the city and justify the automatic bid as the host team.
With its performance Saturday afternoon against Brno, Czech Republic, Washington made history and silenced the criticism. The team slashed 17 hits and starting pitcher Logan DeFillippo struck out nine batters as Washington defeated Brno, 17-4, in six innings in its opening game of the tournament at Lew Hays Pony Field.
It was Washington’s first mercy rule victory since the 1998 team defeated Bay City, Mich., 13-0.
Washington advances to the winner’s bracket where it will face Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico today at 3 p.m., while Brno will face Chesterfield County, Va. at 8 p.m.
“No one really believed in us,” Washington third baseman Bobby Proudfit said. “We want to keep the series in Washington, and we definitely have something to prove. It’s good to get a win and show everyone we can play.”
Washington grabbed an early 2-0 lead, but a mental mistake in the bottom of the third inning cost them. DeFillippo hit the first batter of the inning before Brno third baseman Tomas Kovala doubled to left field to put runners on second and third. Brno second baseman Tomas Chadim hit a slow roller to Washington shortstop Tanner Hudak, who threw home to attempt to throw out the lead runner.
Catcher Aaron Archer did not apply the tag as Brno scored and added a run on a wild pitch during the next at-bat to tie the game at two.
“It brought us down when they tied it, but we told ourselves it was still early,” Proudfit said. “Usually, we may get down on ourselves, but this team stuck together.”
Washington broke through in the top of the fifth inning with eight hits and nine runs. Kyle Steele hit an RBI single to break the tie, Jared Watson scored on a wild pitch, Jared Embert hit a two-run single to left, Lane Zook hit an RBI triple over the center fielder’s head, Proudfit drove in a run on an infield single and Watson gave his team an 11-2 lead with a single to right.
“All we’ve heard is we have no shot and we won’t win a game,” Washington manager Jay Murphy said. “We obviously have something to prove. It was great to see us come back and I could not be more proud of these kids. That’s the best we’ve ever played.”
As the offense hit everything in sight and Brno’s defense committed six errors, DeFillippo was dominant on the mound. Using an outside fastball and a curveball inside, he struck out seven batters in the first three innings and only allowed five hits in five innings.
Brno manager David Winkler said his team had not seen breaking pitches with such regularity.
“They had a great pitcher,” Winlker said. “We’re not used to seeing curveballs like that and he was locating his stuff nicely. He did a great job.”
Washington allowed two runs in the fifth, but added six in the top of the sixth; highlighted by Proudfit’s three-run double to give his team a 17-4 lead. Steele came on in the bottom of the inning and did not allow a hit, striking out two batters as Washington secured the mercy rule victory.
“We made big plays on offense and defense, which always helps,” said DeFillippo, who was charged with all four runs. “It boosted my confidence and after those first few innings, I felt great. We needed this win and I could not be happier.”