When Kayla Requelman tried to bunt, she couldn’t get it down.
When Requelman swung away, she had a hard time keeping the ball fair.
But coach Tracy Miyashiro called on her again anyway. He didn’t see Requelman as a strange choice for a pinch hitter. He saw her as the perfect candidate to become a hero.
Requelman lifted Hawaii into the RBI World Series on Sunday, delivering a game-winning single in the bottom of the seventh inning to help the All-Stars edge Arizona 3-2 in the West Regional final in Compton, California.
“I was surprised he picked me because I had been struggling,” Requelman said. “He saw something in me.”
With runners on second and third and one out, Miyashiro figured Requelman was “due” and told her to straighten the ball out. On a 3-2 pitch, the Honokaa senior’s hard-hit single up the middle scored Aliesa Kaneshiro and sent the All-Stars screaming out of their dugout in celebration.
Afterward, Miyashiro said Requelman couldn’t stop crying.
“I’m so proud that we’re going to the World Series,” Requelman said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“My head hurts from everybody slapping me.”
Kamehameha’s Mykala Tokunaga pitched a complete game and struck out six as Hawaii reached the under-19 World Series for the third consecutive year. This year’s event is in Dallas next month.
The Big Islanders last brought home an RBI title in 2009, when they were also playing in the World Series for the third year in a row.
“I’m hoping for deja vu,” said Miyashiro, who’s in his second season as head coach after previously being an assistant.
His initial plan was to also use Kaneshiro in the circle Sunday, but he liked the way Tokunaga battled and kept her team in the game as Hawaii squandered its scoring opportunities.
The All-Stars scored twice in the first inning but left the bases loaded in the first and sixth, and stranded eight runners.
Tavian Taketa and Bethany Batangan each had hits to lead off the bottom of the first and scored when Kekai Wong Yuen and Tokunaga reached on errors.
A pair of Arizona errors also contributed to Hawaii’s rally in the seventh. On the second one, a bunt by Shaily Moses, Miyashiro said Kaneshiro was nearly thrown out at third but avoided the tag with a nifty slide.
Requelman was on the World Series team that went 2-4 last year. She said this year’s team is special because it has players from eight high schools.
“It’s good because we get to learn about each other,” Requelman said. “We have a bond you can’t break.”
But she was proud two of her fellow heroes in the regional were Konawaena’s Batangan and Kealakehe’s Leisha Nakagawa.
“We’re all from the west side and we represent,” Requelman said.
The team will remain in Los Angeles until Wednesday and plans to visit Six Flags Magic Mountain, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Beverly Hills in the next two days.
“Shopping is always a priority with the girls,” Miyashiro said.
Because of what he called a new Kamehameha policy involving missed class time, Miyashiro said his four players from the school might not be able to make the trip to the World Series.
“Hopefully it can be worked out,” he said. “I just want them to get the experience. That’s what RBI is all about.”
Note: In the RBI West Regional baseball final, Los Angeles beat Hilo 7-3 at Dodger Stadium.