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If you noticed a lot of baseball players in town recently, it was because Santa Ynez Pony Baseball hosted their annual Pre-All Star Tournament.

Teams came to play from nearby Santa Barbara, and as far away as West Hills, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita (Hart), Paso Robles, Westlake, Oceanview, Newbury Park and Ojai. Competition was tough in all four Divisions – Mustang A (9-10 year olds), Mustang 9 & B (teams with all 9-year-olds or B teams with 9-10 year olds), Bronco (11-12 year olds), and Pony (13-14 year olds).

At the conclusion of pool play, four teams in each division remained to play in the Semi-final rounds.

Playoffs started under sunny skies on Sunday. In the Mustang A Division, West Hills played a strong, undefeated Hart team, but handed them their first loss.

Westlake did their best against a determined Simi team, but soon were put to rest, leaving Simi and West Hills in the final game. When they had played each other earlier in the tournament, the showdown ended in an unsatisfying tie.

So, when the two cross-town rivals met head to head once again, it was sure to be a battle to the end. And battle they did, the score going back and forth over six thrilling innings.

Ultimately, in the bottom of the sixth, the final shot rang out: The loud crack of ball meeting bat echoed across the field, as Rayna Cohen – one of West Hills’ two female players – knocked a walk-off, two run, home run over the fence.

In the Mustang 9&B Division, Santa Ynez B played hard, but were outplayed by the Simi B team.

Newbury Park didn’t have any better luck against the Simi 9A team. Earlier, the two Simi teams had met in pool play, with the 9A team barely coming out on top.

Now, they would face off in the finals, the 10B team anxious to prove themselves. After a hard-fought game, the 9s were victorious once again to take the Mustang 9/B Championship. In the Bronco Division, Santa Ynez 12’s played a strong Santa Barbara team, but came out on top to land their spot in the final game.

The young, Newbury Park 11’s then came face to face with the unbeaten Simi Valley team.

They played with a lot of heart, but Simi once again triumphed, with its 3rd straight win by Mercy Rule in the tournament. Santa Ynez tried valiantly to end that streak, but after leading 1-0 early on, they too fell prey to the Simi bats.

In the Pony Division, there were only four teams competing. After the initial round-robin was over, they were seeded SoCal Stealth (a Santa Ynez Pony 13 Platinum team), Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara and Oceanview. Santa Ynez faced Santa Barbara in the first playoff game and dismantled the team, 11-1 by mercy rule in five innings. SoCal Stealth easily beat the Oceanview team by mercy rule as well, leaving the two Santa Ynez teams to face each other for the championship.

Both teams played hard, with the Stealth taking an early 2-run lead, but Santa Ynez was not about to give up.

They came back to tie the game at 3-3 in the top of the 7th frame and held the Stealth in the bottom of the inning.

The game continued into extra innings, with Santa Ynez going ahead by a run in the top of the 8th.

But the Stealth came back in the bottom half and briefly tied the game 4-4, before taking the lead to win the game 5-4. Both of these teams, as well as the teams from the other two divisions, will go to the Pony-sanctioned tournament in early July to compete with teams from Santa Barbara to the San Fernando Valley. In Newbury Park, Stealth will play in the Pony 13 division, while the Santa Ynez All-Stars will compete in the Pony division.

The Mustang All Stars will join them in Newbury Park, while the Bronco and Bronco 11 All-Stars will compete in Camarillo.

— Julie Everett