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Hanoi tops Ho Chi Minh City Univ. of Sports in first-ever PONY Vietnam Mustang Championships

On April 22-23, the first-ever PONY Vietnam National Qualifying Tournament was held in the capital city of Hanoi. The tournament was held to determine a qualifying team for the Asia-Pacific Zone Mustang (10U) Tournament, which is being held for the first time in Singapore this upcoming June. The Asia-Pacific Zone Mustang (10U) Tournament winner will serve as the representative from the Zone at the Mustang World Series in Youngsville, Louisiana, United States from August 3-6.

The Hanoi qualifying tournament featured three teams: the Hanoi Capitals (formed in 2008), the newly-formed host St. Paul School Patriots, and the Mustang (10U) Youth Team of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Sports Baseball Club (HUS), which flew two hours from Saigon to join the tournament.  In previous years, because Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon) did not have organized youth teams, local teams or all-star teams from Hanoi, such as the Hanoi Capitals and Japan School Blue-J’s joined all international youth tournaments.  This year, the HUS Baseball Club in Ho Chi Minh City set up 12U (Bronco) and 10U (Mustang) teams, which were coached by Ngo Duc Thuy, a local physical education teacher in District 9 of Ho Chi Minh City who played baseball for Vietnam in the 2011 Southeast Asia Games.  All of the players are students at Phong Phu Elementary School in District 9.

The tournament was held at the new baseball field at St. Paul School in Splendora City. The tournament was professionally run, with qualified PONY umpires sent from Manila by PONY Asia-Pacific Zone Director Rod Tingzon. Thank you to umpires Mr. Ronaldo Binuya Eustaquio and Mr. Amorsolo Selpides Guevarra. After the first day of the tournament, the Capitals and HUS qualified for the championship game, after Hanoi beat St. Paul American School 20-4, HUS defeated 23-9 and Hanoi upended HUS 19-9.

In the championship game, HUS jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the third inning thanks to its team captain catcher Ngo Chi Hao, their leadoff batter, rapping out a single and an RBI double in his first two at bats. However, in the bottom of the fourth inning, Hanoi rallied on a lead-off single by clean-up hitter Tuan Minh, an RBI-double by David Center and then a pinch-hit RBI single by Tong Gia Khanh. A walk and a single by Nguyen Ba Truong Giang and Nguyen Dinh Minh loaded the bases. Finally, Ha Ngoc Anh Kiet delivered for Hanoi with a three-run triple to give Hanoi a 12-10 lead. The Capitals held the HUS team at bay in the top of the fifth with a key double play recorded by shortstop Danny Klink and third baseman Truong Giang.

In the top of the sixth behind a double by Nguyen Ha Minh Thai and a two-run home run by starting pitcher Pham Hong Quan, the boys from Saigon rallied to take a 16-15 lead heading into the bottom of the inning. A one out walk by Ha Ngoc Anh Kiet put the tying run on base. Then Liam Ballew recorded an RBI single to knot the score at 16. Ballew stole a base and scored from second on a passed ball to end the game, as the Capitals came out on top 17-16. David Center was the winning pitcher for the Hanoi.

MVPs for the tournament, as voted by the organizing committee were Ngo Chi Hao and Pham Hong Quan of the HUS team from Saigon. Although the HUS team was only formed one year ago, their players greatly improved and learned the game quickly. For the tournament, Ngo Chi Hao went 11-for-12 at the plate with two doubles and eight runs scored. Pham Hong Quan was 11-for-11 with two home runs and nine runs scored, and he pitched very well also. Huynh Anh Minh was 6-for-10 with eight runs scored.

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