PONY Baseball: Soljahs’ spirits still soar despite defeat
The run is over.
The fun is not.
Lil Soljahs bowed out of the PONY Mustang 9s World Series on Sunday night, falling to North Valley 6-0 in Walnut, Calif., after staving off elimination earlier in the day.
“They’re down,” coach Kallen Hiraishi said. “They wanted to get to the championship game, but they came up one game short.”
While the team with players from Kailua-Kona, Kohala and Waimea won’t get to play for the title Monday, Lil Soljahs will make the trip they’ve been eagerly anticipating since they won the state tournament more than a month ago: They’re going to Disneyland.
“They’re looking forward to that,” Hiraishi said.
On the strength of Kapaa Elarionoff’s two-run home run, Lil Soljahs routed Walnut, Calif., 15-5 in a five-inning TKO in the afternoon, setting up a rematch with North Valley (Calif.) under the lights.
Hiraishi said Lil Soljahs were excited to play at night, but it became apparent they weren’t quite used to the bright lights.
“It was different,” Hiraishi said.
Taven Hiraishi pitched a complete game with five strikeouts against North Valley, but Lil Soljahs managed just three hits, two by Jake Bannister, and committed four errors.
North Valley played errorless baseball and will play fellow unbeaten Santa Clarita, Calif., in Monday’s final.
“I told the kids that this is the first time a West Hawaii PONY baseball team made it this far,” Kallen Hiraishi said. “My favorite part is these kids accepted the challenge that I gave them. I asked a lot of them and they showed a lot of mental toughness for 9-year-olds.
“They made me proud.”
Against Walnut, Tookie Hook struck out five in three innings pitched and was given plenty of support. Elarionoff worked two innings of relief.
The blast by Elarionoff (2 for 4) fueled a four-run first inning, and Lil Soljahs tacked on five runs in the third to take an 11-0 lead. Lopaka Akau collected a two-run single, Hook was 2 for 4 with three RBIs and Mana Fujihara went 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs.
If Hiraishi’s team could win the regular-season title next season in Kailua-Kona, he’d have a chance to coach what would figure to be a veteran Mustang (9-10) All-Star team with many of these players.
“There is a lot of talent in Kona, but hopefully we can get this team together again,” Hiraishi said.
Lil Soljahs 435 03 — 15 10 2
Walnut 002 30 — 5 7 7
Lil Soljahs 000 000 — 0 3 4
North Valley 210 30x — 6 6 0
BRONCO WEST ZONE
For the record, coach Marvin Min did not catch the name of the train that derailed his team’s season.
But while he may not have known who the pitcher for Santa Monica was, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a memorable performance.
The left-hander slowed hard-hitting Hilo and even had an answer for Devin Midel. The All-Stars were eliminated Sunday in the championship game, losing 2-1 in Whittier, Calif.
“He threw hard and had good offspeed pitches,” Min said. “He was crafty.”
Especially against Midel, who entered the game hitting an otherworldly 26 of 30 in the postseason.
Santa Monica, Calif., had a plan in place for Hilo’s leadoff hitter.
Min said Midel went 0 for 4 facing a few knuckleballs.
“That’s news,” Min said.
Bula Ahuna was the tough-luck loser, firing a three-hitter with two strikeouts, and he drove in his team’s only run.
Hilo 000 000 1 — 1 8 1
Santa Monica 020 000 0 — 2 3 2
COLT WEST ZONE
Riverside Red Wave dealt Hilo its first loss, 8-3 in San Jose, Calif.
Hilo plays San Bruno, Calif., at 8 a.m. Monday at the 15-16 tournament. The winner gets the Red Wave of Riverside, Calif., at 4:30 p.m. Monday.