Tracking the travel plans of the West Raleigh Baseball Association’s many all-star teams is no easy task. They’ve gone bi-coastal with teams playing for World Series titles in Maryland and California.
In all, the youth organization with a half-century history of championship results advanced four age-group squads to various state, sectional, regional, zone, national and World Series tournaments this summer.
The two World Series qualifiers ranged from West Raleigh’s 9-and-under Pony Red team advancing to Walnut, CA., and its 12-under Cal Ripken squad returning to Aberdeen, Md., to defend its 2014 CRWS title.
Two other rosters that advanced to regional play before elimination were West Raleigh’s 12-under Pony Blue team and the Cal Ripken 10-under squad.
West Raleigh All-Star Commissioner Kevin Rhew is charged with tracking who is playing where.
“We’ve had teams on both coasts before, but it’s still cool to have again,” said Rhew, an 11-year veteran of the association. “It’s great to have West Raleigh’s 9-year-olds representing the East.”
Cal Ripken 12-under
This marks West Raleigh’s third straight entry as Southeast Regional champion into the CRWS national tournament. The 2013 squad won the national title before losing to the international champion. Last year, West Raleigh won the national title and then the World Series crown with a 5-2 win over Mexico.
This year’s trip began with Friday exhibition title as West Raleigh left fielder Blake McCain, a 6-foot 12-year-old, won the Home Run Derby.
In Saturday’s opening game, West Raleigh won a pitchers’ duel, defeating Ohio Valley 1-0. Evan Ashworth had the game-winning RBI. West Raleigh’s bats came alive in the second game Sunday with a 13-3 victory over Harford County. The outburst included McCain’s solo home run over the left-field fence.
This year’s West Raleigh 12-under team coached by Rick Pate has won state titles in 8U, 9U, 10U, 11U and 12U. It won regional crowns in 8U, 9U, 10U and 12U.
“I’ve got about eight kids that are still with me from the original 8U team,” Pate said. “It’s been incredible to watch them grow, mature and learn the game since they were 8-year-olds.”
There is no better example than McCain. Pate said McCain was an awkward runner as an 8-year-old, but he is now possibly the team’s fastest player.
“He was growing so fast, he couldn’t figure it out,” Pate said. “Now he’s 6-foot and can hit shots 350 feet.”
Pate says opposing coaches tell him they haven’t seen a better shortstop than West Raleigh’s Payton Green. The team features two No. 1-caliber pitchers with right-hander Timothy Pate and lefty Garrett Moffett.”
The pool play competition was Saturday through Thursday and followed by national and international brackets that begin Friday. The World Series championship is Saturday.
West Raleigh Pony Blue 12-under qualified through Sectional play before losing in the Regional at Suffolk, Va. Pony Blue lost two one-run games, 11-10 and 7-6. In the 7-6 elimination contest, Pony Blue rallied from a second-inning 7-1 deficit behind five shutout innings from Jay Allmer before suffering the loss.
“The team bonded and had fun,” Pony Blue coach Tony Adkins said. “The No. 1 goal is to have fun. We only had four returning players among the 12, and it was great to see them come together as a team.”
Pony Blue was one of three 12-under West Raleigh teams and highlighted the association’s depth. Pony Blue defeated Pony Red in the Sectional semifinals to advance and earn its Regional berth.
“Our kids really came alive in the Sectional,” Adkins said. “Jay Allmer pitched five strong innings. Josh Siddoway hit four home runs in the quarterfinals and semifinals (two in each).”
Cal Ripken 10-under
Coach Sean Gallaher’s team won area and state titles before elimination in the Regional at Glen Allen, VA.
West Raleigh was 4-0 in pool play before losing 5-2 to the host team from Glen Allen in the semifinals.
“The best part of our team is it wasn’t just one player that carried us,” Gallaher said. “If one guy would have a bad day someone else would pick us up. We had 12 guys that could all play.”
West Raleigh’s Pony 9-under Red team won the East Zone it hosted to advance to the Pony 9U World Series. West Raleigh faces the Caribbean Zone champion on Thursday in Walnut in the Los Angeles area.
West Raleigh went 3-1 in pool play and defeated Youngsville in the final, 10-2. Will Gilbert walked only two while throwing a complete game. He had a 1-2-3 fourth inning on three pitches – all groundball outs. Nathan Bunch’s three-run double in the top of the sixth broke open a 3-1 lead.
“Our pitching was strong,” 9U coach B.J. Christman said. “We walked only nine in 24 innings. That’s pretty good for 9-year-olds.”