After a nearly flawless winning streak, the Ramona Pony 13U All-Stars advance Friday to the International World Series — most likely the first Ramona Pony team to do so.
Eight 13U teams will compete in a total of 15 games at the July 22-25 World Series in Modesto.
RTown’s baseball team of a dozen mostly 13-year-olds will be playing teams from Bani in the Dominican Republic; Manila in the Philippines; and Monterrey in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, along with teams from Alton, Texas; Hagerstown, Md.; Covina, and the hosting team, Bel Passi Pony.
Team Manager Jeff Nightingale said to his knowledge no other Ramona Pony team has made it to the Pony International World Series. The last time a team was close was in 2012, when an 11U team competed in the Zone tournament, he said.
“It’s huge,” said Nightingale, whose son Zack Nightingale, 13, plays center field. “Most of these boys have been playing together since they were around 7 years old. We had known they had the talent. It’s really awesome to see them put it all together and get this far.
“They’re representing our town,” he said. “Being the first 13U team in Ramona to make it to the International World Series is a gigantic accomplishment. It’s something these boys will cherish and remember. As teammates they’ll get to experience the ride together.”
The team’s first game is at 4 pm Friday vs. Hagerstown. To view the games online, visit the website https://www.pony13worldseries.org/ for links.
The game that sent Ramona Pony 13U to the World Series was an 11-0 shutout Saturday against High Desert Apple Valley in West Hills. Noah Bedia was the pitcher, Nightingale said.
“The energy level was really high and they were all very pumped up, energized and feeling really good.” he said. “At that point, the competition is getting tougher and tougher. To be able to secure that spot and win it as we did was a real confidence booster for the kids.”
Ramona Pony 13U All-Stars players get doused by water buckets after winning a semi-final game.
Now the team is looking forward to stretching their skills against top-level players in their age bracket from the US and abroad.
Team member Justin Jarrett, who plays shortstop and pitcher, said he’s excited about the prospect of playing against kids who are from other countries.
Teammate Alex Wilson, also a shortstop and pitcher, added that he’s happy that he and his friends from a small town get to play against international competitors.
“I am very excited to keep playing with you guys and very proud of how this team has progressed over the last couple of weeks,” said Derek Taylor, who plays second base. “I know we have the potential to win this World Series and make our town proud. We just have to play hard and have fun.”
Success came early for the Ramona team, which won all four games in a pre-All-Stars warm-up tournament in Murrieta from June 10 to 12. Beating the four Riverside-area teams gave them their first championship.
From there, the team went undefeated in a three-game Region tournament in La Jolla June 26 to 29. The wins gave them the Championship title of the Southwest Region and advanced them to the next level, Super Region.
Ramona Pony 13U hit a speed bump with one loss to Covina during Super Region play in West Covina, July 7 to 12. With three wins and one loss, the Ramona team placed second in Super Region and advanced to a Zone tournament in West Hills July 14 to 17
Ramona battled it out in Zone, where they went 3-1, losing again to Covina and getting the second-place title. After playing their final Zone tournament game July 17, the Ramona team was named runner up to first-place Covina, and both teams learned they would be competing in the Pony-13 International World Series.
Ramona Pony 13U All-Stars coaches celebrate after winning the semi-final game that secured a spot in the Pony-13 International World Series. From left, Kris Taylor, Kevin McGhen and Jeff Nightingale.
Stephanie Ogilvie, Southwest Region Pony field director, said the players have done an incredible job of working together as a team. She attributes some of that to their camaraderie off the field, bonding after the games and during their travels while having homemade team dinners together at the same hotel.
“Our defense has been very consistent at making plays both in the outfield and in the infield,” Ogilvie said. “Our team of pitchers have also stayed consistent and executed the game plan. They trust each other and they support and cheer each other on from the dugout.”
The trio of coaches, who include Kevin McGhen, whose son Tucker, 13, plays left field, and Kris Taylor, father of 13-year-old Derek, have confidence the Ramona boys can go all the way to the end and win the World Series, Nightingale said.
“It all works great together with the coaches, the parents, we’re one big family and have known each other for a long time,” he said. “The parents are really proud of the kids and the whole team.”
Ramona Pony 13U Southwest Region Tournament Champions advanced through Region, Super Region and Zone tournaments to qualify for the Pony-13 International World Series.
Ogilvie’s son, Tallon, 13, who is the team’s catcher, said he’s proud of his team and all the work they’ve put in to get to the World Series. Tallon says he can’t wait to meet different people from around the world and play ball with them.
Tucker McGhen said he’s also happy and proud of how the Ramona players have done as a team to progress forward as the first Ramona Pony team to make it to the World Series.
“I think we will take it all home if we just play as a team and have fun like we have been doing,” said teammate Jacob Parker, third baseman and pitcher.
Zack Nightingale added, “I am super happy and proud of our team. We have the talent to win it all if we play hard and work together as a team. Thank you coaches and parents for believing in us.”
His dad acknowledges it’s been a tough road, playing a lot of games back-to-back and week-to-week to advance through the ranks. Even though the players have traveled to different cities and dealt with the weather, they’ve 100 percent risen to the challenge, he said. Local businesses, parents and the Ramona Pony organization have also helped out with travel expenses, he added.
Winning the Pony-13 International World Series will be very difficult, Nightingale said, adding that the coaches and players will have to bring their A game and do it together as a team.
“The kids are excited for the next stage and it’s amazing to think we’re even here,” he said. “You stand back and think about it for a little bit, and you get a little emotional to think how far these kids are going.”
For more information or to donate to the team’s travel expenses, visit the RamonaBaseball.com/donations website.