PONY League state tournament: Hilo squads set for battle royale
On Sunday, Hilo’s Bronco All-Star teams can rest.
That should give the remaining clubs at the state PONY League tournament (ages 11-12) a chance to exhale.
Hilo Red was dominant again while Hilo Blue received another dominating performance at Walter Victor Stadium, setting up a 9 a.m. contest Monday with a ticket to the championship game on the line.
True to his one-game-at-a-time philosophy, Hilo Red coach Marvin Min wasn’t sure what was next after he watched his team belt Mililani, Oahu, 13-0 in a TKO on Saturday on the strength of a nine-run, 11-hit second inning.
His players sure knew who was on deck.
“The other Hilo team,” said a smiling Kalani Marquez, who pitched a five-inning shutout and allowed only one hit.
Hilo Blue has been pretty good, too.
If coach Jason Silva had any concerns entering Saturday, it was his team’s hitting.
But with Khaden Victorino coming into his own, the tournament has been worry-free.
A day after weaving a 17-strikeout masterpiece, Victorino carried Hilo Blue with his bat, clubbing two home runs with a grand slam and seven RBIs in a 9-4 victory against Kapolei, Oahu.
“Khaden is proving that he is a leader that we all believe he is,” Silva said of a 12-year-old he’s been coaching for four years. “He’s grown tremendously over the last couple of years.”
Hilo Red was the first group of All-Stars selected after the regular season, while Silva got second choice.
“That’s the one we wanted,” Silva said, referring to Monday’s matchup. “That was the goal.
“We’re all friends outside of competition.”
Hilo Red’s second inning resembled batting practice.
With one out, eight consecutive batters reached on hits, highlighted by Bula Ahuna’s three-run home run, a shot to the opposite field that gave Hilo Red an 8-0 lead.
Stone Miyao homered for the second consecutive day, a three-run shot in the first, and finished with four RBIs, just like he did in a 17-6 victory Friday against Maui. He was 3 for 3 against an overwhelmed Mililani pitching staff.
“We just looked for the fastball and took our time,” said leadoff hitter Devin Midel.
Midel added three more hits, including a double, and is 7 for 8 at the tournament.
Rydge Ishii was 2 for 2 with an RBI double and Maui Ahuna went 2 for 2 with a two-run single.
“We had a hunch of what pitches were going to come,” said Min, who substituted liberally.
Marquez allowed a hit to begin the second, then retired 10 in a row before giving up his only walk. He struck out three.
“My favorite part was when they started hitting, my defense backed me up,” he said. “Just knowing they had my back, I decided to throw strikes.”
Hilo Blue won the first game of the day, and Silva looked forward to going to the beach and watching Hilo Red later in the day.
“We’ll let the bodies heal and come out strong on Monday,” he said.
Victorino’s grand slam in the sixth extended Hilo’s lead to 9-3. He gave starting pitcher Izeth Owens-Kalaola a cushion in the first inning with a three-run home run.
Owens-Kalaola pitched what Silva described as three “dominant” innings, striking out one and allowing a run. Kaimi Like followed with two innings and Safae Mauai worked the sixth and seventh.
“Izeth did his job,” Silva said. “The defense was on and the bats showed up today.
“The offense was cold yesterday.”
Coming off a 6-0 victory against Windward, Oahu, Hilo had multiple contributors in compiling 14 hits.
Kalia Agustin and No. 8 hitter Kypp Miyashiro each produced two hits for the second consecutive day, Kalai Kamalii finished 2 for 3 and drove in a run and Noah O’Hara also batted 2 for 3.
Midel looked forward to Monday, saying the “key is to have fun.”
There has been plenty of that to go around for both Hilo teams.
Hilo Gray 8, Kapolei 5: Devin Garza ripped a bases-loaded triple in the fourth and Hilo won its opener to set up an East Hawaii-West Hawaii matchup in the winners bracket.
At 9 a.m. Sunday, Hilo faces Kona with the winner advancing to Monday’s championship game. Lil Soljahs got a bye Saturday after defeating Hilo B 13-2 on Friday.
Mixing a changeup and palmball in with his fastball, left-hander Mana Kuamoo pitched a complete game for Hilo Gray, allowing just three hits with four strikeouts.
“He’s my go-to guy,” coach Kyle Wada said. “He’s throwing a little harder than the normal 9-year-old.”
Joshua Ward had two extra-base hits, a run-scoring triple in the second and an RBI double in the third.
Hilo trailed 5-4 entering the fourth. Kyson Wada was hit by a pitch, and Krysjyn-Kydyn Nakamura and Macen Ducusin reached on errors before Garza cleared the bases with a line drive to center field.
In the second, Kaikua Kokubun singled and scored on Ward’s triple, and four batters later Nakamura delivered a two-run double from the No. 9 hole.
Wada estimated half of his team has been playing since T-ball at age 5, and some of his players went to Las Vegas for a Memorial Day tournament.
“That gave them an experience and they really enjoyed that,” Wada said. “But it was nothing like this.
“They were nervous, but having (a bye) Friday was an advantage.”
Mililani 13, Hilo B 3: Mililani remained in contention by eliminating one of the three Big Island clubs in the five-team field.
Jarrett Tulang and Salvatore Martino each reached on base hits and scored runs for Hilo.
Pitcher Kamren Mehau came on in relief in the second and got out of a jam and worked three strong innings.