A team that sticks together wins together.
Or so is the case with the 13U Pony Baseball Bellingham Baysox, with eight of the 12 players sharing the diamond for four years now.
The Baysox went 6-0 to win the Pony Northwest Regional Tournament in Lacey, Wash., earning the right to travel to Fullerton, Cal., for the Western Zone National Pony League Tournament July 18-21.
The theme on the season for the Baysox (29-11 overall) has been "execute."
"Have a plan whether you have a bat in hand or while pitching," coach Chris DeLisle said.
With a team batting average of .321 and an ERA of 1.27 in the postseason, it's fair to say the team has caught on to the mantra.
Averaging just over eight runs a game, the Baysox come into the Western Zone tournament swinging hot bats. No bat could be hotter than Chase Abshear, who hit an even .500 in the regionals, going 10 for 20 to lead the team in extra-base hits.
"We live and die with the bats," DeLisle said. "We're offensively sound and have good fundamentals on the bases."
This, however, is not to say that the Baysox don't have the pitching to succeed in the tournament.
Rather than having one powerful shutdown pitcher, the Baysox have pitching depth, where every member of the team is capable of throwing quality innings, DeLisle said. Eight players threw at least an inning during the regional tournament.
Team captain Ethan Paxton said the success of the team centers on the friendships in the dugout.
"You can't have a good team unless you have good relationships with the guys," he said.
He said teammates Shane Jamison and Lukas DeLisle are like yin and yang and maintain team chemistry. Where Jamison keeps the game light and fun, DeLisle keeps it focused and fires up the team.
Defensive wizard Mitchell Sage, or "Wheels" as he is sometimes known for his speed, is an emotional leader that puts the team first, Paxton said.
It all amounts to a focused but relaxed group in tune with each other and in tune with the game.
Bellingham will start the double-elimination tournament against Mission Viejo from Southern California Friday, July 18.
Brackets were only announced a day before tournament play, and DeLisle said he was a bit nervous going into the competition without knowing who their opponent would be, but said they've been preparing for a high level of competition regardless.
"I tell the boys they are riding high in confidence and they can play with anyone," he said.
The team has had a lot of preparation and a track record for success coming into the tournament.
The group won the Cal Ripken Washington State tournament as 11 year olds and has since been challenging itself by entering select baseball tournaments around Washington.
One of those tournaments, the Triple Crown Washington State Championship, held a team already very familiar with the national spotlight.
The Baysox went head to head with Eastlake Little League out of Sammamish, Wash., a team which reached the quarterfinals of the 2013 Little League World Series.
While Eastlake eventually won the game, the Baysox were up 6-4 late in the game to put the pressure on the defending Northwest Regional Little League champs.
"All the tournaments have led them to be more comfortable and more suited to handle the pressure," Chris DeLisle said.
The Baysox represent the second team in a row from Whatcom County to reach the 13U Western Zone National Pony League Tournament. The Whatcom Reign was eliminated after three games in 2013.
Chris DeLisle said he is proud to continue the run of quality teams coming out of Whatcom County.
"A big part of it has been the unity and the backing of all 12 families," he said.
The Bellingham Baysox start the double-elimination tournament against Mission Viejo at 6 p.m., Friday, July 18. A total of six wins are required to become Western Zone champions. The winner of the Western Zone is entered into the Pony World Series to face winners from other zones, which runs July, 25-29, in Fullerton, Cal.