When the Tri-Valley 14-year-old Babe Ruth team captured the Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament in Hanford on July 30 to qualify for the Babe Ruth 14 World Series, you might be able to excuse them if they started to feel some added pressure.
I mean as if winning both state and regionals didn't present enough pressure, getting to the World Series is a whole other type of pressure.
It doesn't come from just playing in the World Series that is being held Aug. 11-21 in Williston, N.D., but rather representing Tri-Valley in the ultimate tournament of the year.
Tri-Valley Babe Ruth as an organization has captured nine Babe Ruth World Series titles since 2004 between their 13, 14 and 15 teams.
But for 14s coach Andrew Crabill, who was on a Tri-Valley Babe Ruth 13 World Series title team in 2011, the history of success helps the players.
"Tri-Valley Babe Ruth has a strong history," Crabill said. "And it does add pressure, but it also gives the kids confidence that our teams have been there before and knows how to win. We have high expectations every year, and the kids know they have to go out and win games."
And win they have this postseason, going through both of their tournaments -- state and regionals -- without losing a game.
After winning the state title, Tri-Valley went to the regionals and beat Santa Maria 15-3, Torrance 7-3, Hawaii 10-0 and then Hawaii again in the finals 6-5 to advance to the World Series.
On the surface it would appear Tri-Valley is an offensive juggernaut. While Crabill acknowledges the team can score, it is something else that has been the key.
"Pitching and defense is what wins games," Crabill said. "We love to go out and score some runs early, but pitching keeps you in the games."
Case in point, in the Torrance game Tri-Valley was down 3-0 heading into the sixth inning, using some clutch pitching and some nice defensive plays to stay in the game.
After holding Torrance scoreless in the top half of the inning, the team put seven runs on the board, turning over the lead to the defense that came through again.
In the first match against Hawaii the game was 0-0 through four innings before Tri-Valley put 10 runs on the board in the top of the fifth.
In the rematch with Hawaii, more strong pitching saved the one-run lead late and sent the team off to the World Series.
It's a great group of players.
"I have been with this group for two years now and I knew they were special," Crabill said. "My goal with these kids has always been to get them to the World Series and win it. It's been my motivation to try and get them there and spread the experience that I had getting to one and being on the winning team."
To follow the team through the World Series, go to www.baberuthworldseries.org and find the Baseball 14-year-old event.
Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division. To contact him about his Pleasanton Preps column, email email@example.com.