Of the handful of questions Tookie Hook fielded, one was particularly easy to answer.
What was the better birthday gift, his big blast or his handiwork on the mound?
“The home run,” Hook said quickly.
Hook turned 10 on Friday and provided an abundance of presents for his Kona Mustang 9s teammates, driving in four runs and pitching four smooth innings as Lil Soljahs pulled away to beat Hilo 13-2 in their opener at the state PONY League tournament at Walter Victor Stadium.
The five-team field includes three Big Island teams. Hilo will try to remain in the tournament at 1 p.m. Saturday against Makakilo-Kapolei/Central Oahu. Another Hilo All-Star team drew a bye and plays Makakilo-Kapolei/Central Oahu at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Kona earned itself a day off, so perhaps Hook can enjoy the “other gifts” he anticipated getting later Friday.
“The home run, it just came,” he said of a two-run shot to center field that gave Kona a 4-1 lead. “I was ready for the ball.”
After a lengthy postgame talk, Kona coach Kallen Hiraishi asked his players if they had any questions.
None raised their hands. On this day, they fulfilled all of their coach’s requests.
“They were focused and prepared for the situation,” Hiraishi said. “I want them to play tough defense, put the ball in play and not strike out.”
Led by Keanu Alokoa, Kona put the game away in the fourth by scoring nine runs. Alokoa got the rally started with a double and then secured the TKO victory with a two-run home run.
Evan Elarionoff doubled and scored on Hook’s home run in the third. Ioane Kaaekuahiwi tripled and Kethan Fujihara posted a run-scoring single in the fourth, when Kona sent 10 batters to the plate, coaxing for walks and taking advantage of two errors.
“Let the opponent make the mistakes,” Hiraishi said. “They were nervous at the beginning, but toward the end they settled down and hit the way they usually hit.”
Hook said he was calm from the start. Hilo’s Micah Timbresa produced run-scoring singles in the second and fourth, but Hook scattered six hits and struck out three.
At the plate he was 3 for 3. Hook singled to lead off the second and tied the game 1-1 on Kaaekuahiwi’s groundout. With the bases loaded in the fourth, Hook plated two runs with a single.
“He’s one of our better players,” Hiraishi said of a club that draws players from Kailua-Kona, Kohala and Waimea. “But we have a pretty balanced lineup and some other pitchers ready to step up.”
Dorian Roque-Kuamoo struck out four in two innings and took the loss for Hilo.
Hilo 010 1 — 2 6 4
Kona 022 9 — 13 8 0