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Youth baseball: Back-to-back jacks

Versatile Hart Mustang team wins league’s second straight World Series title

Posted: August 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The William S. Hart PONY League Mustang All-Stars brought home the league’s second consecutive Mustang World Series championship, winning five games by a combined score of 65-10 from Aug. 3-6 in Burleson, Texas. Hart Mustang will take part in the 2011 10U National Youth Baseball Championships later this month.

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There are a lot of different ways the William S. Hart PONY League Mustang All-Stars can beat teams.

At the Mustang World Series from Aug. 3-6, Hart Mustang only beat teams one way.

Convincingly.

“The boys played pretty amazingly,” says head coach Roland De La Maza. “It’s almost like somewhere down the middle of the road, the boys clicked.”

For the second straight season and the third time in the past five years, Hart Mustang brought the World Series title back to the Santa Clarita Valley from Texas.

This year’s event was played in Burleson, which is about 15 minutes south of Fort Worth. Irving had hosted the event every year prior since 1995.

Hart Mustang will now take part in the 2011 10U National Youth Baseball Championships in Memphis, Tenn., for the second straight season. Nationals will take place from Aug. 25-28, and will be broadcast on the Major League Baseball Network.

Hart Mustang’s versatility makes it a dangerous matchup for any opponent.

“We’re a well-rounded team,” De La Maza says. “When the pitching wasn’t there, the defense did some good things. When neither was there, we were able to outscore some people.”

Hart Mustang won its three group games at the World Series by a combined score of 47-8, beating teams from Illinois, Mexico and the Philippines. In the final four championship round, Hart Mustang beat Houston-based South Post Oak 10-0 in the morning before winning the title over Puerto Rico-based Villa Nueva 7-2 in the afternoon.

Through the entire World Series, Hart Mustang hit .537 as a team with 25 extra-base hits, and the pitching staff combined for a .285 ERA and allowed just 18 hits.

Before the championship game, starting pitcher Alex Burge had never gone six innings in a game.

He picked a great first time to do it.

Thanks in part to his championship game performance, Burge was named the top pitcher of the World Series.

“I was really excited before the game that I was pitching,” Burge says. “I got stronger while I was pitching, too.”

Burge is a good example of the kind of player and team Hart Mustang has. Not only is he an excellent pitcher, he’s also a good outfielder and consistently reaches base as the lead-off hitter.

Hart Mustang is littered with talented and versatile players like Burge. Jared Staub is also a starting pitcher and outfielder, while Zack Beliveau, Joseph Jacobellis, Jonathan Polanco and Bryce Collins can all pitch and play other positions.

Whoever’s on the mound, starting catcher Shane Hubbard provides a reliable presence behind the plate. Hart Mustang is solid in the infield with shortstop Weston Eget, second baseman Davis Cop and third baseman Mason Todd.

Additionally, Daniel De La Maza, Nick Balingit and Rocco Saldivar are all good utility players who can line up wherever Hart Mustang needs them.

Together, the team has played in a number of different tournaments this summer. Hart Mustang won the district tournament, which was played at Hart High School, and finished as runners-up in the section tournament at Simi Valley and the regional tournament in Newbury Park.

The team went on to win the super regionals in San Marcos to qualify for the zone tournament in Los Alamitos, and after winning that tournament, Hart Mustang qualified for the World Series.

For the second straight year, the Hart Mustang team won it.

“To me, I think it has to do a lot with the families in this valley, the dedication these parents have to baseball,” coach De La Maza says. “It also has a lot to do with coaching in this valley, the dedicated dads and moms who are willing to take time and work with young kids. The love for baseball in Santa Clarita is strong.”

It could also have something to do with a special visit earlier in the summer.

Coach De La Maza has several members of the 2010 World Series champion Hart Mustang team visit this year’s squad.

“After seeing everything that went down with that team, I think these guys wanted a taste of that,” coach De La Maza says.

Hart Mustang will try to carry that hunger into the national championships. Last season, the Hart Mustang team won its first game at nationals but lost the next two.

Despite a long summer of playing baseball already under its belt, this year’s team hopes to improve upon that performance.

“We just want to go out there, have fun, play our usual game and represent PONY,” Burge says. “It’s really cool because you’re on TV. People are watching.”

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