SB Pony Baseball keeps winning, makes Super Regional

Santa Barbara Pony Baseball

The 2014 Santa Barbara Pony Bronco All-Star Team


Beginning Friday, Santa Barbara Pony’s Bronco All-Star Baseball Team will be stepping into new territory when the 12-and-under squad takes the field in Whittier. It will be the first time in program history that a Pony League team from Santa Barbara has played in a Super Regional playoff game.

Getting there has been a remarkable run highlighted by a thrilling walk-off victory in Bakersfield and making the championship game in seven of eight tournaments.

“The last four tournaments we’ve made all four championship games and we’ve gone 18 and 2, so the kids have just put it together,” said coach Wes Warrecker on Thursday as the team gathered for practice at MacKenzie Park.

The roster features 12 players drawn from eight regular season teams: Alex Bermudez, Bryce Warrecker, Nick Oakley, Conner Chavez, Eli Sada, Jake Keoper, Carter Park, Ben Partee, Kai Uchio, Udy Loza, Noah Nuno and Kyle Cekada. The players come from Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and Goleta.

The team is coached by Warrecker and Billy Oakley – lifelong friends – and Oliver Sada. All three coaches have sons playing on the team. Warrecker and Oakley have been coaching together since their sons played tee-ball and have a history of teamwork that goes back to the days when they themselves played Pony League on the same field together as kids. They then went on to play together at Santa Barbara High and at Hancock College. Their fathers, Fred Warrecker and Bill Oakley Sr., were also once teammates playing for the Santa Barbara Foresters.

“Our boys are best friends so we said, ‘let’s coach and do it,’ and it’s been crazy the whole time for sure,” Warrecker said.

There are other sons of local sports figures on the team. Carter Park is the son of athletic trainer Peter Park and Udy Loza’s father is a football coach at Santa Barbara High School. Ben Partee’s father is former SBCC Athletic Director Ben Partee.

SB Pony Baseball

The team took ground balls at practice on Thursday at MacKenzie Park. (Presidio Sports Photo)

The craziest moment of the all-star season so far was Kai Uchio’s game-winning home run. The second baseman, not known as a power hitter, slugged a leadoff home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to win an 11-10 game. The team had just needed to score three runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game and Uchio made sure it wasn’t wasted.

“It was his first home run I believe in his whole Pony experience, so to get that to win the semifinals is one of the coolest thing ever,” Warrecker explained.

It came in front of a large crowd on the facility’s main diamond.

“Boom. He hits one to right-center field. It was just loud. Parents screaming and jumping.  It was so cool. The director of the tournament said, ‘wow, that was one of the most exciting games we’ve seen here’,” Warrecker recalled.

Coach Sada was impressed too.

“That’s as good as it gets right there. That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in little league, and we’ve had some great moments,” he said.

SB Pony - Bill Oakley

Coach Bill Oakley leads fielding drills in a tune-up for Friday’s Super Regional opener in Whittier.

But it is the time on the road that Warrecker believes is the favorite moment for the players.

“I would say the hotels and travel are what they love the most, they’re with their buddies,”Warrecker said.

It doesn’t hurt that at one hotel there were also 20 youth softball teams

It’s now on to the Super Regional.

“To get to this point, you definitely have to earn it,” Sada said.

Santa Barbara will have its work cut out for them in Whittier. Sixteen teams will be playing there in two eight-team brackets.

Pitching and managing innings will be key to possibly playing six times in the next five days. The Bronco team has been winning with solid defense and a reliable group of starting pitchers, including ace Bryce Warrecker, Nuno, Park, Chavez and Eli Sada.

“This one is going to be really, really tough,” Warrecker said. “It will be a war of attrition on the arms for sure.”

The team begins the Super Regional against Placentia at 5:15 p.m.