A pair of Hilo all-star teams dropped opening games in PONY baseball’s Hawaii Region tournaments and finished with a flurry of excitement to challenge their divisions’ top teams along the way.
The Hawaii Region Mustangs (ages 9-10) and Broncos (11-12) tournaments continued play Monday at Central Oahu Regional Park on Oahu, with both Hilo teams bowing out after strong performances in the eight-team, double-elimination events. Hilo placed third in the Mustangs and second in the Broncos field.
In the Mustangs tournament, Hilo advanced all the way to the losers bracket final before falling to Mililani 4-2. The Big Islanders finished with a 3-2 record.
With the loss to Mililani, the Hilo squad, under manager Chris Honda and coach Walter “Bully” Ahuna, finished third in the tournament. With the win, Mililani was scheduled to play unbeaten Maui for the title at 10 a.m. today at CORP.
“It’s a tough loss, and the boys were disappointed,” Hilo business manager Lenny Paik said. “Overall, it was a well-played game by both sides. But our boys played like champions, and the tournament experience is something they’ll never forget.
“We told them, ‘The lesson is we didn’t really lose, but that we now know that we can compete with these Oahu kids.’”
Hilo outhit Mililani 9-5 in the morning game, but two errors in the fifth inning played a role in the final outcome.
“Mililani played well and didn’t make any errors,” Paik said. “The two errors that we made hurt us, but overall our boys never quit playing hard. That’s the way it was all tournament, and they know we had a really good tournament run. They learned a valuable lesson.”
Paik also noted that Hilo faced a difficult task in trying to figure out crafty Mililani hurler Aiden Martin, who kept the Big Islanders guessing with an assortment of off-speed pitches.
Martin went five innings and earned the win while teammate Connor Ajifu picked up the save. Bula Ahuna started for Hilo and pitched five innings before reliever Maui Ahuna took the mound. Maui Ahuna took the loss.
Bula Ahuna, Devon Hirata and catcher Cody Min each had two hits to lead Hilo. Maui Ahuna added an RBI single. No one paired hits for Mililani.
The Hilo All-Stars fell to Lihue 7-5 in their Broncos tournament opener, then battled back out of the losers bracket to reach the title game against Aiea.
On Sunday morning, Noah Chow ripped a two-run homer and Kyren Kai had a solo homer to spark Hilo to a 7-1 over Lihue.
Then in the afternoon, unbeaten Aiea held off the Big Islanders 8-4 to capture the tournament crown. Casey Yamauchi and Kyren Kai each had two hits to lead Hilo.
Stacy Jarneski was the Hilo manager with assistant coaches Lenn Miyao and Duke Waiki.
No other Broncos tournament information was available.