For the Crown Point Bulldogs, the Cal Ripken 12U (46/60) Northern Indiana Tournament, which would give the champion a leapfrog berth to the Cal Ripken Major/60 World Series, seemed to be theirs to lose.
But losing has never been part of the team's lexicon.
With a 6-1 championship win over Griffith on Sunday, the Bulldogs punched their cross-county ticket to the World Series being held at the Hammond Optimist Youth Sports Complex Aug. 9-16 while earning some well-deserved rest and recuperation.
"We're not playing in the (Ohio Valley) regionals, and our next game isn't until Aug. 10 (at the World Series), so for the time being we're just going to leave baseball alone," Bulldogs manager Bob Bauner said.
The Bulldogs went undefeated during the tourney, which they hosted, while outscoring the opposition 44-2.
The bulk of the team has been together since its players were 8 years old. This is the fifth-straight Northern Indiana title the Bulldogs have won.
"It's always been a team effort with these guys," Bauner said. "I know you hear that term a lot, 'team effort,' but really that's the case with us.
"We always have different players coming through for us. When someone is down, someone else always steps up."
With the HOYS Bulldogs having already secured the host berth (there are going to be at least two Bulldogs in this WS fight), there is a chance for a third Northwest Indiana team getting in. Though Griffith lost in the championship game, the team advances to the Ohio Valley Regional being held today through Sunday in Vincennes.
The OVR champion, as well as seven other regional champions from across the country, all advance to the Major/60 World Series.
"This is the last year for Cal Ripken for these guys," said Bauner, who admits he has to lean on the social media savvy of his assistant coaches Larry Geisen, Chris Krutz, John Paris and his son Mike Bauner, as well as that of his players to keep seasonal logistics organized. "People expected us to win this, and that's a lot of pressure when people expect you to win. But our players handled it."