Little League: North Hawaii wins Minor playoff opener


KEALAKEKUA — In less than favorable conditions, the North Hawaii All-Stars defeated Ka‘u 12-10 in the opening game of the Little League Minor division (ages 9-10) district playoffs at Greenwell Park on Friday.

Logan Neves led the way for North Hawaii, going a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with a pair of doubles, a triple, and a game-high three RBIs.

Gideon Rabang recorded the win on the mound for North Hawaii, throwing 1 2/3 innings and striking out four.

Sidearm ace Quentin Hook came in for the save, striking out the final Ka‘u batter.

“I was proud of the way our kids battled back and never gave up,” North Hawaii head coach Vern Karatti said. “The weather didn’t affect us too much because we play in wet conditions in Waimea a lot.”

The North Hawaii team is made up of players from the Waimea and Kohala areas.

It is the first year Ka‘u has participated in the event as its own charter. Previously, the players competed with Kona Coast Little League.

“We have always wanted this in Ka‘u,” head coach Rory Koi said. “It gets hard to always bring out the kids to this side to play.”

Ka‘u High School did not field a baseball team in 2013, but the Trojans managed to round up enough players this year to take the diamond. Starting at the youth level is a giant step in the right direction to grow the sport locally and keep the participation trending in the right direction in Ka‘u.

“I think having our own charter is helping the sport grow,” said Koi. “Everything has been positive from it.”

Both teams capitalized on errors during the seesaw affair. Neves ignited the first North Hawaii rally of the day, connecting on a two-RBI double to center field, giving his team an early 4-1 lead. The team tacked on a few more runs from wild pitches, and entered the third inning with a 7-1 advantage.

As the rain picked up, so did the errors. Ka‘u jumped on its own opportunities in the fourth inning, racking up eight runs — six on errors.

“We were lucky they had some passed balls,” said Koi, who rallied his players from his spot on the third base line. “Sometimes when it is back and forth like that, you need to keep the kids focused on the game. They can easily get distracted.”

No lead would be safe in the wet conditions. North Hawaii punched in five runs in the fifth inning to wrestle the lead away from Ka‘u, and a final strikeout from Hook in the top of the sixth sealed the victory for North Hawaii.

North Hawaii plays Hilo at 11 a.m. Saturday in the double-elimination format tournament. Ka‘u plays the loser of that game at 2 p.m., setting up Sunday’s matchup.

The team that comes out of the weekend victorious will travel to Maui for a playoff June 14 and 15. The winner of that series will compete for the state Little League crown June 26 to 29 on Oahu.

Ka‘u 020 800 — 10

North Hawaii 160 05x — 12