Bula Ahuna belted a three-run homer and drove in four runs to spark Hilo to a 10-6 win over Ewa/Ewa Beach in a loser’s-bracket game Saturday at the state Little League Mustangs (ages 9-10) baseball tournament.
The eight-team, double-elimination tournament is being played at Central Oahu Regional Park.
Hilo, under manager Chris Honda, improved to 1-1 in the tournament, while Ewa/Ewa Beach (0-2) was eliminated. The Big Island squad plays Saturday’s Lihue/Mililani winner at 10:30 a.m. today in a sudden-death contest. If Hilo wins, it will play again at 3:30 p.m. today while trying to battle out of the loser’s bracket.
“We played much better today, a good team effort,” Hilo business manager Lenny Paik said. “We really hit the ball well. We had 13 hits, and Cody Min pitched a heck of a game.
“Cody pounded the strike zone, and both his curve and change-up were working. Plus, our defense played solid and came up with two double plays.”
But it was Bula Ahuna who carried the hot bat. He ripped a 210-foot, three-run homer to right-center field in the top of the first inning and finished the afternoon going 3-for-3. His other two hits were singles, and one of them plated another run.
“We asked the boys to hit the ball today and play to win every inning,” Paik said. “Bula started us off, but everyone else picked it up, too.”
Maui Ahuna, Devon Hirata, Noah Ohara and Rydge Ishii each contributed two hits off two Ewa/Ewa Beach pitchers. Ikaika Ganancial was the lone Oahu player to pair hits.
Min went five strong innings and earned the win. Bula Ahuna finished and picked up a save. Ganancial started for Ewa/Ewa Beach and pitched three innings, allowing four runs. He took the loss with relief help from Sean Malama Kahele.
“We’re really happy with how the boys played today,” Paik said. “They relaxed and played good baseball. Hopefully we can keep it going (today).”
Hilo fell to Kapolei 8-6 in the first round on Friday.
Big League team eliminated
The District 3 all-stars’ shot at a state Big League title came up short on Saturday when District 1 Kawaihao prevailed 6-2 in the championship game.
The three-team, double-elimination baseball tournament for players ages 15-18 was played at the Ala Wai Field on Oahu.
Kawaihao, from Kauai, finished the tournament with a 3-1 record and earned the right to represent Hawaii in the Western Regional, which starts July 14 in Washington.
District 3, under manager Kaha Wong and assistant coaches Jimmy Park and Alan Filoteo, fell to Kawaihao 12-8 in its tournament opener on Friday, then eliminated District 6 (Aiea/Halawa) 7-2 on Saturday morning. But the Big Islanders couldn’t knock off Kawaihao in the title game later in the afternoon to force a winner-take-all finale.
In the title game, Anoai Moe-Keahi and Jodd Carter each had two hits to lead District 3. Big Island starter Dylan Shiraki went six innings and took the loss.
In District 3’s win over District 6, Lloyd Edwards pitched a seven-inning complete game and got the win. Teammates Carter, Kean Wong and Quintin Torres-Costa each had two hits.
In Friday’s loss to Kawaihao, Kian Kurokawa started and pitched two innings before Shiraki and Moe-Keahi finished up on the mound.
“We had the pitchers on a pitch count so we could bring them back the next day,” District 3 scorekeeper Ernie Ugalde said.
Ekolu Martin and Kean Wong each had two hits to lead the way. Martin also had two runs batted in.