Eric Riveira provided strong pitching, and Aiden Ah Hee cracked a three-run homer to lift Hilo to a 6-4 win over Molokai in the state Little League majors baseball tournament Saturday in Kailua, Oahu.
Hilo, fighting out of the losers bracket, will take on Kauai (0-1) at 10 a.m. today in an elimination game. The Big Islanders (1-1) fell to Nanakuli-Maili, Oahu, 10-1 in Friday’s opening round.
The five-team, double-elimination event for players ages 11-12 is being played at the Keolu Elementary School field.
Riveira started and went the distance to earn the victory. He struck out five and didn’t walk a batter.
“Eric was awesome today,” Hilo manager Clayton Ah Hee said. “He threw 79 pitches, and most of them were strikes.”
Ah Hee helped the Big Islanders grab momentum early, ripping a line drive three-run homer over the center-field fence to give Riveira a cushion to work with.
“Aidan’s home run was crucial because it gave us momentum right away and it gave Eric the confidence that his teammates had his back,” the Hilo manager said.
“Like I said after Friday’s game, these kids aren’t ready to go home, they’re fighters — it’s no 0-2 and barbecue, they want to win. Today I told them we had to win to stay alive in the tournament and they told me, ‘We don’t want to go home yet.’
“They’re fighters all the way.”
Molokai rallied for two runs in the bottom of the second inning and two in the third to grab a 4-3 advantage. One of the big blows was a two-run homer by Kairos Umi.
But Hilo struck back in the fourth with three runs to take a 6-4 lead. Nathan Minami had a two-run double, and Cullen Cariaga scored on a passed ball to close scoring. The hard-throwing Riveira shut out Molokai the rest of the way.
Ah Hee (three-run homer), Minami (double, two RBIs), Cariaga and Riveira each had two hits for the winners. Kekai Maliu went 2-for-3 to lead Molokai, and Umi drilled his two-run homer in the third inning. Hilo outhit Molokai 10-8.
Kekai Adachi pitched five innings for Molokai and took the loss.
Like manager Ah Hee, Hilo assistant coach Kelly Minami was impressed with Riveira’s gutsy pitching.
“Eric was hitting his spots,” Minami said. “He was throwing his fastball and mixing it up with a slider. He did a really good job.”
Ah Hee said Kauai is similar to Molokai, and his team must play well to advance. If Hilo wins today, the Big Islanders will face the loser of today’s game between unbeatens Honolulu and Nanakuli-Maili in the losers’ bracket final. The Honolulu vs. Nanakuli-Maili winner will advance to Monday’s championship game, while awaiting the survivor of the losers’ bracket.
The state tournament champion will capture a berth in the West Regional, slated Aug. 4-15 in San Bernardino, Calif. The regional champion moves on to play in the World Series, Aug. 20-29 in Williamsport, Pa.
Hilo 300 300 — 6 10 3
Molokai 022 000 — 4 8 2
Juniors state tournament
c Pearl City 11, Hilo 5: Nicholas Au fired a three-hitter to lead Pearl City, Oahu, to an 11-5 win over Hilo and eliminate the Big Islanders from the state Little League juniors baseball tournament on Saturday.
The five-team, double-elimination event for players ages 13-14 is being played at the Ala Wai and Halawa fields in Honolulu.
Au gave up four runs in the third inning before shutting out Hilo the final four frames. He struck out three and walked six while picking up the win in the losers bracket contest at Halawa Field.
“Their pitcher (Au) did a good job,” Hilo manager Luke Octavio said. “We came out of the gates pretty strong, but the second half of the game we couldn’t put anything together. Pearl City played good and got their timely hits when they needed them.
“But it’s like I told our team, baseball is a funny game — one day you can get 14 hits and the next day, just three.”
Hilo (1-2) had 14 hits on Friday in an impressive 11-4 win over Kaneohe, Oahu.
Tryson Kenui started on the mound for Hilo and went 2 1⁄3 innings before running into trouble in the third when Pearl City broke loose for six runs. Octavio replaced Kenui with reliever Bryce Yamashita and he also struggled in the inning. Makoa Andres then came on to finally put out the fire, but not before the Oahu squad built an 8-5 lead.
“We had a tough day pitching,” Octavio said. “As a pitching staff, we had a combined nine walks, including three in the third inning when Pearl City scored the six runs. Today, home plate seemed more like the size of a little saucer — there were way too many walks.”
Pearl City (2-1) added two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth to cap scoring. The Oahu team outhit Hilo 7-3 but it was Pearl City’s ability to hit in the clutch that made the difference.
“We had some opportunities, but we just couldn’t come up with the timely hit,” Octavio said.
Yamashita was tagged with the loss.
Noah Higa-Gonsalves had a single and two runs batted in for Hilo. RJ Ragual had a double, and Gehrig Octavio added a single off Au.
Hilo 104 000 0 — 5 3 1
Pearl City 026 210 x — 11 7 1