The West Regional softball champion Hilo girls are set to leave today on their quest for the 2012 RBI World Series title in Minnesota.
It’s the fourth time in the past six years that the Big Island team, under manager James Hirayama and representing the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island, has played in the event. The Big Islanders captured the World Series crown in 2009.
The eight-team tournament runs Tuesday through Aug. 12 at the University of Minnesota Softball Complex in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“Everybody is healthy and ready to go,” Hirayama said. “We’re going there to have fun, but we’re also going to try to make a run at the World Series championship. I feel very confident with this team, and the girls are excited about the challenge ahead. The amazing thing about this team is that it’s a young team from ages 13 to 19, and it’s a fearless team. These girls aren’t afraid to fail and will go out swinging the bats.”
In mid-July, Hilo dominated the three-team West Regional with a 5-0 record, including a 10-3 win over host Anaheim in the championship game in Anaheim, Calif. The Big Islanders outscored their opponents 30-5 over the five-game stretch to clinch the World Series berth.
Hilo is part of the American League Central Pool, along with East champion Cleveland, Mid-Atlantic champion Harrisburg, Pa., and Northeast champion Hoboken, N.J. In the National League Central Pool are Southeast champion Atlanta, Caribbean champion Dominican Republic, Southwest champion Houston and Central champion Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club.
Hilo plays Hoboken, N.J. at 8:30 a.m. HST on Tuesday to open pool play. The Big Islanders will battle Harrisburg, Pa., at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and then play two games on Thursday: 3 a.m. vs. Cleveland and 6:15 a.m. vs. Hoboken.
The teams will be seeded by order of finish in pool play and start the single-elimination interleague playoffs on Aug. 11. The winners advance to the semifinals, and the championship game will be played at 8 a.m. Aug. 12 and televised on the MLB Network.
Hirayama said the Dominican Republic and Southeast champ Atlanta may be the early favorites, based on their strong rosters. But he also believes Hilo is in the hunt and will make a strong bid for the World Series crown.
“I think this year’s team is a better hitting team than some of the past teams we brought up,” Hirayama said. “They seem to hit all pitching well. We also have solid pitching and defense. But this team also does some of the little things that help us win. We try to make our opponents do what we want them to do and not play to their strengths.
“Like on defense, we scout the teams and make them hit the ball to the best part of our defense. We try to play to our strengths.”