By Greg Gulas
For the second consecutive year and fifth time overall, a Youngstown team has qualified for the Dick’s Sporting Goods 14-U PONY League World Series, which begins today in Washington, Pa.
Coached by Doug Widrig, the Youngstown All-Stars are one of six United States squads in this year’s 10-team field. They will take on Vienna, Austria, the European Zone representative, in a first-round game at 8 p.m.
In addition to Youngstown, other domestic teams include Bay County, Mich; Bronx, N.Y.; Brownsville, Texas; Long Beach, Calif.; and host Washington County, Pa.
Rounding out the international field is Yaguate, Dominican Republic, Asia Pacific Zone qualifier Taipei County, Chinese Taipei and Mexico Zone representative Tijuana. Mexico.
“This will be a great experience for everyone,” Widrig said. “We’re eight-deep on the hill, have plenty of interchangeable parts and when you break everything down all 15 players can pitch, if necessary. If we expect to win, then we must remain aggressive at the plate, our offense needs to continue to produce and pitchers must avoid the big inning.
“There are 10 excellent teams in this year’s championship series and while Chinese Taipei has typically been the team to beat, you cannot look ahead and must take it game by game.”
Youngstown finished runner-up (they went 3-2) in the Mount Lebanon, Pa. regional July 27-29 to advance as one of the top two teams to the Zone Tournament in McCandless, Pa. from Aug. 3-5.
They won their first two games by a combined 32-4 count, rallying from a 7-0 deficit in the title tilt to score 11 runs in the sixth inning, adding three more tallies in the seventh frame for a 14-7 win as they outscored opponents 46-11 in its three Zone tourney contests.
Colton Shaffer of Astro Falcons is expected to get the start tonight against Austria with Andrew Kirkpatrick (Creekside Fitness), Brady Shannon (A2Z Sports), Joe Roth (Roth Brothers), Braden Gebhart (Roth Brothers), Tyler Rekich (A2Z Sports), Nathan Klodowski (Astro Falcons) and Tyler Staub (Prospects) rounding out the staff.
Shaffer, Kloodowski and Roth are available to catch with A.J. Havrilla (Astro Falcons) and Gebhart sharing first base chores.
Staub, Kyle Yost (A2Z Sports) and Parker Lyons (A2Z Spots) are second basemen, shortstop boasts Shafer and Brady Shannon (A2Z Sports) with Havrilla, Klodowski and Kirkpatrick taking turns at the hot corner.
Outfielders include Griffin Widrig (Astro Falcons), Rekich and Dean Boyd (A2Z Sports) with brothers Anthony and Jarrod Malagise, both of A2Z Sports, also set to see action.
“It’s a real testament to the Class B league that they have placed two teams in the World Series the past two years,” said Poland native Bob Richards, current PONY East Zone region director. “They chose to affiliate with PONY about 10 years ago and by sending a team to the World Series two straight years and three times overall during that affiliation is a true testimony to their leadership.
“I just hope that they can appreciate the experience.”
Last year, Youngstown advanced to the semifinals before losing to Seoul, South Korea.
The first PONY World Series was held in 1952 with a Youngstown delegation qualifying in 1955, 1960 and again in 2011.
The tournament’s first game will pit Bay County against Yaguate at 5:30 p.m. at Lew Hayes Field.
YSNLive.com will stream the games that Youngstown plays while MLB.com will stream four selected games.