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Mon Yough faces Japanese team today

| Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jordan Zilka hits a two-run homer for Mon-Yough in the seventh inning of Friday's win over Bay County, Mich.

When the Mon-Yough Pony League All Stars take the field today, they will do something that previous Mon-Yough teams have not been able to — play a game in the winners' bracket.

The local all-stars will face a team from Okinawa, Japan, at 5:30 p.m. at Lew Hays Pony League Field in Washington, Pa.

The local team is comprised of seven boys from Rostraver Township, two from North Huntingdon Township and one each from South Park, West Mifflin and Hempfield Township.

The Pony League World Series, comprised of U.S. and international teams of 13- and 14-year-olds, will conclude with a title game Wednesday.

All Star teams are selected following the end of their regular season.

The Mon-Yough Team had to go through two previous sectional series to get to Washington.

The Pony League World Series started Friday evening. In the second game of the series, Mon-Yough played Bay County (Red), Mich., which is making its fifth consecutive trip to the World Series. The game, which began at 9 p.m., did not end until 12:30 a.m. and included 30 runs in a 16-14 slugfest.

Five Mon-Yough players hit home runs during the game: Eric Harkins, Jordan Zilka and Tim Labuda, all of Rostraver Township, Anthony Winkler of South Park and Cory Saus of West Mifflin.

The game was a back-and-forth contest with the visiting Mon-Yough team taking leads of 4-0 in the top of the first inning and 6-3 in the top of the next stanza. The Michigan squad squeezed in a three spot in between, courtesy of a couple of errors by Mon-Yough.

“We weren't playing a very good game defensively,´ Mon-Yough Manager Scott Callaway said. “I think it was the big atmosphere, the crowd. The electric lights were giving us trouble.”

Bay County proceeded to score 10 straight runs to take a 13-6 lead.

That's when Mon-Yough clawed — or rather blasted — its way back, using the longball to cut the lead to 13-9. After Bay County made it 14-9 in the fifth, Mon-Yough tied it at 13 in the sixth and took the lead for good at 16-13 in the top of the seventh. Labuda and Zilka powered the comeback with mammoth home runs.

In the bottom of the seventh, Bay County scored one run courtesy of a wild pitch, but Ryan Weaver got the home team to ground into a game-ending double play with two men on base.

The tournament is double elimination. Okinawa, Japan, beat Brownsville, Texas, 5-4, to advance to tonight's contest.

“To win, it meant a lot,” Callaway said. “If we had lost, that would have moved us to the losers' bracket and we would have had to play seven games. Now we could face just four games.”

Callaway said this is the first time a Mon-Yough team has won a World Series game. Three previous Mon-Yough teams advanced to the World Series, but were eliminated in two straight games — in 2002, 2009 and 2010.

Pony baseball is headquartered in Washington, Pa., where the international tournament has been played every year since 1981.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or