Post Oak had to beat juggernaut Pearland

Post Oak has produced excellent 12-year-old all-star teams before. Had a Little League dynasty not stood in its way, maybe Post Oak could have made some Little League World Series runs earlier this decade.

Pearland East Little League simply would not let it happen. Pearland grew into a Little League juggernaut starting in 2010 and reached the Series that year, 2014 and 2015. Twice, Pearland reached the U.S. championship, finishing third in the world three years ago. Never in those appearances did Pearland finish lower than third in the country.

The problem for Post Oak was that this Little League giant played in its own Section 3. As good as the Texas East region is, Pearland repeatedly reigned supreme, winning six state titles in seven years. If Post Oak was ever going to make history and capture its first state championship, it new it would have to beat Pearland first.

Consider that, mission accomplished.

Post Oak slayed that giant earlier this summer, sweeping two games from Pearland. It then won the first state title in the league’s 62-year history and now is competing at the Little League World Series. Finally, Post Oak is having its moment in the sun.

“Getting past Pearland is the biggest challenge,” Post Oak Little League president Todd Johnson said. “It’s getting past them in Sectionals and sometimes in states.”

“Pearland was the best team we faced (through regionals),” Post Oak manager David Rook said. “They had four kids throwing over 70 and it was the best pitching we had seen. They were really deep. They had won the Section eight out of the last 10 years. They are a powerhouse of Houston for sure. Beating them was a big accomplishment.”

Post Oak actually defeated Pearland two years ago as it captured the 10-year old state championship. Pearland, however, exacted revenge last season, beating Post Oak and winning the 11-year old title. Looking back, that loss might have provided the extra push to exorcize past demons at the 12-year old level.

Post Oak defeated Pearland 4-0 early in the Section 3 tournament, but Pearland fought through the loser’s bracket and earned a rematch. Pearland took a two-run lead into the fifth-inning and appeared poised to force an if game for the championship. Instead, Post Oak reserves Cade West, Andrew Stover and Parrish Facciponte helped spark a seven-run rally and Post Oak won the crown, 8-4.

Perennial powers like Lamar and Richmond awaited in the Texas East tournament, but beating Pearland provided a huge lift and Post Oak outscored three teams, 20-1 while capturing that elusive state championship. It then overpowered four Southwest opponents, 43-5 and reached Little League’s biggest stage.

“Losing last year was absolutely the best thing that could have happened. It gave them that little bit of extra incentive,” Post Oak Major Division coordinator Ramsey Evans said. “Failure always helps you grow and you always learn more from failure than success. Pearland has been one of the best Little League teams for a long time and there are a lot of great teams in the Houston area. I’m really impressed that the team didn’t get too high. They stayed focused on the whole goal. Sometimes you get over that hump and then get complacent and get beat, but they stayed level-headed and kept moving forward.”

Pearland players, coaches and representatives now are among Post Oak’s biggest fans. Pearland coaches are in near daily contact with Rook and his coaching staff. They are offering any help they can. Pearland and Post Oak may be rivals on the field but they represent the same section and state. They are teammates now.

Watch Post Oak play and one sees the qualities that made those Pearland teams such tough outs at the Series in 2010, 2014 and 2015. This is a well-rounded, fundamentally-sound team that features weapons throughout the roster. It also is a hard-working group that has sacrificed a lot, but that has a lot of fun as well. Post Oak not only has made history by winning state and Southwest championships for the first time, but also by becoming the first team in league history to win districts as 10, 11 and 12-year olds.

These players showed they could do big things at an early age and have kept growing better ever since.

“We thought this team was special since they were 10 when we put the team together. Eight of these 13 kids were on the 10-year old team and 11 of the 13 players started in our Little League when they were at 8,” Rook said. “We thought we had the talent the chemistry to do it. Getting past Pearland and becoming the first Post Oak team to win states is special.”

This Post Oak team has become quite special itself. It has laid the foundation for future success and provided a blueprint for how to achieve greatness. For much of this decade, Pearland had a monopoly on Houston area championships.

Post Oak is showing this summer that a dual-monarchy might now be forming.

“It was neat to see half the 11 year old state championship (Post Oak) team supporting them in Waco at regionals. It’s important for them to learn what that situation looks like,” Evans said. “Everybody has something to shoot for. I’ve been a lifelong Astros fan and have experienced a lot more bad than good and now that it’s like them winning the World Series last year. Now that it’s been done, it opens up the opportunity for a lot of things. You’re seeing that with these guys and it’s pretty great.”