Hilo PONY team wins state championship
Makoa Andres struck out 15 batters, and Gehrig Octavio and Taylor Mondina each drove in two runs to spark Hilo to a 4-3 win over Maui Blue in the state PONY baseball tournament championship game Tuesday.
The eight-team event for players ages 13-14 was played at Iron Maehara Stadium in Kahului, Maui. Hilo (4-0) earned a berth in the West Zone tournament, which starts Aug. 1 in Whittier, Calif.
“It was a very good game,” Hilo coach Eric Kurosawa said. “We got down early, but these kids are so resilient. They keep bouncing back and never quit. Once Maui Blue went up 2-0, we came right back with two runs to tie and then were able to win it with two more runs in the seventh.”
Andres had watched teammate Edgar Barclay strike out 15 batters to lead unbeaten Hilo to a 4-2 win over Maui Blue on Monday in a winner’s bracket game. And then the determined Andres went out against the same dangerous team Tuesday and matched the southpaw Barclay’s eye-popping strikeout total.
“Makoa just had a good curveball today and spotted his pitches well,” Kurosawa said, noting he had never heard of two Big Island youth pitchers tossing back-to-back 15 strikeout games.
“That’s a pretty incredible feat.”
Andres, a right-hander, went the seven-inning distance to earn the win. He scattered eight hits and walked two while keeping Maui Blue in check. Maui reliever Micah Gio was tagged with the loss.
But even with Andres’ heroics on the mound, Hilo couldn’t have captured the championship without clutch hitting Tuesday.
After Maui Blue grabbed the 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning, Hilo rallied in the fourth.
Trayden Tamiya and Kegan Miura ignited the with back-to-back singles, and Octavio doubled in both teammates to tie the score at 2-2.
In the top of the seventh, Octavio singled and moved to second when Sean Kurosawa was hit by a pitch. Brett Komatsu came in to pinch-run for Kurosawa. Then both Octavio and Komatsu advanced a base when Daylen Calicdan’s ground ball was mishandled at first base, loading the bags.
With two outs and the bases still filled, Mondina ripped a two-run single to right centerfield to plate Octavio and Komatsu, giving the Big Islanders a 4-3 lead.
“Clutch hitting has been a big part of this team, and the kids came through again today when we needed it,” Kurosawa said.
In the bottom of the seventh, Andres shut out Maui Blue as Hilo clinched the tournament title.
Octavio led Hilo with two hits. Octavio and Mondina each had two RBIs.
“It was all a team effort,” Kurosawa said. “The kids really played well. They were a pleasure to be around on the trip. They behaved and treated it seriously while also having a lot of fun.”
After Monday’s loss to Hilo, Maui Blue had to rally to eliminate Kona 7-6 with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning in the late evening game.
Kona had a strong run in the tournament. The West Hawaii team dropped its opener, then battled all the way until the final loser’s bracket game against Maui Blue.
Logan Canda, Markus Degrate and Vohn Yamaguchi (two RBIs) each had two hits to lead Kona against Maui Blue.
Members of the state champion Hilo Pony All-Stars include Brett Komatsu, Kaylen Cabatu-Gapusan, Trayden Tamiya, Gehrig Octavio, Jaron Kawaguchi, Mackanzy Maesaka, Daylen Calicdan, Baron Victorino, Shaun Kurosawa, Kaden Cypriano, Kegan Miura, Taylor Mondina, Edgar Barclay and Makoa Andres.
The Hilo team is coached by Eric Kurosawa and Jensen Sato. Robert Narimatsu is the business manager, and 9-year-old Ryan Ota the team’s batboy.
“Ryan is our good-luck charm,” Coach Kurosawa said. “He’s been our batboy all year. He’s having the time of his life being with the team. He told me today, ‘This is the best summer I’ve ever had.’”
Hilo 002 000 2 — 4 6 3
Maui 000 210 0 — 3 8 2