JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — Despite having a great grasp on the fundamentals of a sport, it sometimes takes a little extra, something you can’t necessarily see, to give a team the edge. That’s what Marble Falls Pony coaches faced with the 14-and-under squad during a sectional tournament June 10-12.
“We couldn’t get them to start clicking,” coach Leno Garza said.
He and the other coaches, John Hamilton and Jimmy Grubbs, did what all team leaders at sometime must do: hold a heart to heart with their team. They needed to make sure the girls were committed to the game and, particularly, the sectional tournament and possible upcoming tournaments.
A trip to the regional Pony League softball tournament was on the line. Could they bring the team together and make it happen.
The Marble Falls Youth Baseball and Softball Association is in the midst of a great all-star summer. After the sectional tournaments, six teams locked up spots in their respective regional competitions with a shot at the Pony League championships.
On the baseball side, the Pinto (8U), Mustang (10U) and Pony (14U) teams locked in trips to the Pony regional tournament June 24-26 at the Hays Youth Sports Complex, 100 Hays Youth Drive in Buda. All three teams play their first games at 6 p.m. June 24.
The softball side is enjoying equal success.
During the sectional tournament June 10-12, the Pinto (8U) Purple Crush squad endured an onslaught of games. They played one the opening day of the tournament then faced five games the second day. On the final day of the sectionals, the Purple Crush only played one game. The girls posted a 5-2 record during sectionals.
They, along with the Mustang (10U) softball team, travel to the Cedar Park Youth League complex, 1225 Cypress Creek Road in Cedar Park, for the regional tournament starting June 24. The Mustang team takes on the Hondo Spikes at 3:30 p.m., and the Pinto softball Purple Crush face Buffalo Valley Youth Association Storm at 2:15 p.m. opening day.
The Pony softball squad also had a tough sectional tournament, but coaches’ concerns lingered during the competition.
That was until the “heart-to-heart” meeting. Ultimately, the coaches said, they were concerned that most of the players were simply going through the motions of playing instead of putting in a winning effort. So they asked the girls if they wanted to continue playing this summer. If not, it’s fine, they said, but they should be fair to everyone by letting the adults know.
Garza and Hamilton reminded the girls that most of them would be playing for the Marble Falls High School program in 2017. They saw this all-star season as a way to help the players learn how to perform under pressure and get ready for the high school level, where the pitching will be solid and they’ll be expected to make even more defensive plays.
After that, the players had their own meeting and told coaches they wanted to continue to play.
The girls had a 5-3 record at the sectional tournament, finishing second and earning a spot in the regional bracket. They will play the winner of the Westwood Terrace Mustangs-Balcones North Express at 5 p.m. June 24 at the CPYL complex.
Garza praised the Pony softball squad.
“They’re unbelievable,” he said. “They all defend, that stays true. These girls are hitting the ball. They make very few errors.”
Garza said the pitchers are better in this age group and so are the hitters, so the key has been to stay patient at the plate and make routine defensive plays, which is the hallmark of a solid squad.
“If we can keep the ball low, we’re hard to beat,” the coach said. “We’re really excited to have three (softball) teams advance. I don’t know how long it’s been since we’ve had that.”
In 2011, Garza coached a team that earned a spot in the 2011 Pony World Series. Now, six Marble Falls teams — baseball and softball — have a shot at making those dreams come true in 2016.