South Whidbey’s Pony League club team has come a long way in just two years.
From winning only four of its 12 games in 2015 to achieving a 19-7 overall record so far this season, the team is finally clicking on all cylinders.
They’ll be put to the test this weekend, however, when they compete in a pool play tournament July 23-24 at Bender Sports Complex in Lynden.
“It’s just good for our kids to compete against kids from over town and see how they stack up,” said head coach Josh Coleman.
Utility player Nick Young was confident the team has what it takes to make a run at a team title when they take the field today.
“We’re looking pretty good, we did really well this year,” Young said.
Young, 14, said the team’s turnaround could be explained by the players’ experience, as well as their improved rapport.
“I think we just got to know each other better and we’re also older,” Young said.
Brent Batchelor, a 6-foot-2, 13-year-old pitcher, was looking forward to the opportunity to test the team’s skills against the Bellingham-area teams.
“I think our hitting has come a long ways; pretty much everybody on the team can hit the ball which is really good,” Batchelor said. “In this age, it’s more of a hitter’s game than a pitcher’s game right now. That’s what changes from Little League to up here.”
South Whidbey’s club team consists of players mostly from the South End ranging from 12 to 14 years old, and is in its second year of existence under head coach Josh Coleman and assistant coaches Trent Fallon and Campbell Albertsen. All three are South Whidbey High School graduates.
Pony League baseball has all the same rules as Major League Baseball but at a smaller proportion. The fields and distances between bases and home plate to the mound are slightly bigger than Little League, but slightly smaller than the pros. The intermediate-sized fields and rules, such as not having pitch counts, prove valuable in the growth of the young baseball players, Coleman said.
For Young and Batchelor, Pony League baseball serves not only as a means of improving their ability as players, but it’s also enjoyable.
“Days like these are just fun to come out and hit baseballs,” Young said during a sunny day of practice.
Coleman said the team’s strong suits is its defense, which parallels a primary focus for South Whidbey High School’s baseball team.
“We’re a really good defensive team,” Coleman said. “We’re trying to make the South Whidbey baseball club into a feeder program for the high school, so we stressed that a lot this year and the kids improved so much defensively, pitching and communicating with each other.”
The team’s batting is slightly less predictable.
“It’s weird; some games we can’t get a hit, and then other games they’ll scratch together like 25 hits,” Coleman said. “But when they’re on, they’re on.”
It will be the second tournament of the season for the team, after it placed third at a Memorial Day tournament in Mountlake Terrace. Due to scheduling conflicts and obligations of certain players, the club team picked up four athletes from Anacortes to fill the roster, though they will be a strong addition to the team, Coleman said.
“Our team for this tournament won’t have a weak spot,” Coleman said. “They’re going to be really solid.”
Coleman said the team is always looking for more players and even opened the invitation to athletes from Coupeville and Oak Harbor.
“Anybody who is interested can come and try out next year,” Coleman said. “Most of our team is going to be gone as they go to the high school next year.”