Bob Fitzgerald said after the Hawaii County tournament that he hoped his Kona Gold team would get another chance to play the Honomu Rockets for the Hawaii State Senior Softball Championship.
He nearly got his wish, but in the end Kona faced a team from Maui in the championship game of the tournament on Maui last week. Despite falling behind early, the Gold rallied for a 10-6 victory over Pookela to claim a second consecutive state title.
“It was a great season for Kona Gold,” said Fitzgerald, a player/coach for the Gold. “I was just proud to be leader that could make it happen a second time.”
Unfortunately, the celebration was a bit short-lived. With the championship game having been played Thursday at War Memorial Field in Kahului, team members were in a hurry to get back to the Big Island ahead of Hurricane Iselle.
No matter — the Gold will have a full year to celebrate their victory and then the opportunity to win the championship on their home soil. Kona will host the state tournament next year.
Fitzgerald, who worked for the Parks and Recreation Department for five and a half years, is excited to have the tournament here next year, no matter how his team fares.
“It’s hard enough to repeat, let alone threepeat,” he said. “I think the main thing the Kona community can expect is that more than 60 teams from across the state will come out for it. To see guys 60 and older playing is just rewarding. There is an honor in our senior activities that the state supports being competitive later in life. I think the Kona community will reap some of the benefits, between the hotels and the restaurants.”
Kona lost 11-5 to Pomakai during pool play in Maui, but thanks to 15-3 and 13-1 victories over teams from Oahu and Kauai, respectively, Kona advanced to the championship of the A Division on run differential, as every team went 2-1 in pool play.
Kona Gold, which went unbeaten in the regular season before losing a pair of close games to Honomu in the county tournament, nearly got a chance for redemption, but the Rockets fell just short.
“Honomu was just one hit or an extra catch from playing us for the state title,” Fitzgerald said.
Instead, the Gold faced Pookela, which Fitzgerald said had an advantage.
“They had an all-star team,” he said. “I understand they put this team together to win for the island. It’s usually the Maui Braves, and they had a few pick-up players.”
It didn’t matter, although it looked as if it might early in the game. Pookela went ahead 2-0 before Kona rallied for a 3-2 lead. The Maui team scored three more runs to pull ahead 6-3, but Kona closed the gap before a key hit by Martin Hauser helped them go ahead 7-6.
Pitcher Sol Alani shut down Pookela the rest of the way, thanks in part to a sparkling catch by Jack McMenimen that saved a pair of runs.
Kona scored three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Fitzgerald was impressed by the county teams’ performance.
“I thought all of the Big Island teams did well,” he said. “I was proud of all of our teams.”