HILO — Hilo’s Khaden Victorino silenced Kona’s bats and in the process soothed his team’s jitters.
Chalk up sweeps Saturday for Victorino’s Mustangs and the Hilo Broncos at the PONY League Big Island sectionals. Just as important to Mustangs coach Chris Honda, score the day as another big success for Big Island baseball.
The left-handed Victorino threw a one-hitter to carry Hilo to a 2-1 victory at the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Island, and the all-stars went on to sweep the best-of-three series with a 14-8 win to advance to the state tournament.
“Khaden did an excellent job on the mound and pitched well,” Honda said. “Kids were a little nervous because of the large crowd — and it was great to see the support from both sides. A great showing for these kids to experience, just amazing.
“We kind of settled down in the second game, made fewer errors and definitely played a little better.”
Hilo scratched across two runs in the fourth inning on wild pitches, and Victorino made it stand up behind nine strikeouts. Maui Ahuna collected six hits on the day and picked up the victory in the clincher, striking out seven in four innings of relief. Noah Ohara had two hits in both games, and Bula Ahuna was 2-for-4 in the second game.
Honda, who went to high school at Kaiser on Oahu and played for Joey Estrella at the University of Hawaii at Hilo before graduating in 1994, has been around baseball his whole life and now says he’s “giving back.” However, he’s getting back plenty in return as well.
“The skill set at this level (ages 9-10) is definitely improving every year, which is great for Big Island baseball,” he said. “When I look back when we were growing up, we didn’t have the kind of coaches and the commitment that I see today. No matter where you play, there’s good coaching behind it.
“Our projection is to create good fundamental players for the next level: high school, college and, who knows, maybe even the major league level. It starts here. It’s great to see the caliber of play.”
Victorino certainly has the bloodlines. He’s a cousin of the Philadelphia Phillies’ Shane Victorino.
Kelii Pelekane and Canen Perreira-Lau each had two his for Kona in the second game, and A.J. Alani took the loss.
Bronson Rivera was the tough-luck loser in Game 1.
In the 11-12 division, the Hilo Broncos got their bats going early and often in 28-4 and 13-2 victories against Kona.
DallasJ Duarte had three hits in each game and was one of five players to collect multiple hits in Game 1 to back winning pitcher Noah Chow. Joseph Jarneski was 3-for-4, Ryan Ragual belted two doubles, and Trayden Tamiya, David Nakamura and Jaisten Cabatbat also had two hits apiece.
Vohn Yamaguchi had a home run and a double for Kona. Toby Estrella took the loss.
Stone Miyao was 3-for-3, Chow added two hits, and Noah Kalaola-Richardson got the victory on the mound in Game 2 as the All-Stars secured their state berth — both the Mustang and Bronco tournaments are scheduled for June 29-July 3 on Oahu.
Caden Perreira-Lau was the losing pitcher, finishing 2-for-3 at the plate.
c Note: Hilo and Kona will meet in a Pony (13-14) sectional next weekend at the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Island. A noon doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday, and if necessary, the deciding game will be at noon June 24.