Central East Maui proved to be the strongest team in sweeping through the competition at the Hawaii Little League District 3 Tournament held Friday through today at the Kaunakakai Ballfield.
Five teams of 11- and 12-year olds representing Molokai, Lanai and Maui converged on Kaunakakai for the first time since 2007. Central East Maui now qualifies for the state tournament to be held at Kilauea District Park on Oahu next month in hopes of advancing on the next step to the Little League World Series. Also from Maui were teams from Kihei and West Maui.
As the host team, Molokai earned a bye and played its first game on noon Saturday against Lanai. With a consistent pitching performance from Jayz Paleka-Wright, combined with timely hitting, the Molokai boys won 10-0 after four innings under the mercy rule.
Molokai held a 4-0 lead heading into the fourth inning. A string of hits by Chevy Augustiro, Cody Hiro, Iverson Kaapuni and Felicity Pastrana (the team’s only girl) helped chalk up six more runs in the inning to finish off Lanai.
On Sunday, Molokai met Central East Maui, which had beaten Kihei in the opening round on Friday. CEM had no trouble catching up with the pitches of Augustiro in the first inning. The rally culminated with a grand slam home run, leaving the score 7-0.
Augustiro settled down and shut out CEM in the second inning. Pastrana had a single in the bottom of the inning to drive in Molokai’s only run in the game. The Maui team came back with two runs in the third and two more in the fourth to win 11-1 by the mercy rule in four innings.
Molokai faced Kihei on Monday in the loser bracket for a chance to play CEM in the championship game. With Chaice Alcon on the mound for Molokai, the game started out as a pitching duel.
Trenton Takata of Molokai broke the scoreless tie with a home run over the right center fence to lead off the fourth inning. Molokai threatened in the fifth inning but the rally was cut short when Tekoa Torres-Umi was caught off second base.
Molokai’s Royden Abafo drove in a couple of insurance runs in the sixth inning and Alcon was able to preserve the 3-0 shutout.
Molokai played CEM again today in the championship game. If Molokai had won they would have played a second game to determine the district champs. A second game was not necessary as CEM held down Molokai 8-0.
The best scoring threat for Molokai came in the top of the first inning. Augustiro led off the game with a double followed by Kaimana Nakayama with a single. A bunt to move the runners over did not work but the runners were able to steal second and third base. A line drive out and strike out ended the scoring chance.
Takata pitched well and held CEM scoreless in the first inning. But in the second inning, CEM’s pitcher, Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa, launched a monster home run that cleared the tents in centerfield.
The Maui team added four runs in the third inning and another three in the fourth inning to end the scoring at 8-0.
CEM could easily have added to their lead in the sixth inning if not for the defensive play of the tournament by Molokai centerfielder Cody Hiro. With a runner on first, the CEM batter smacked a long line drive to center field. Despite a wet field because of the light rain, Hiro made a diving catch on his stomach after an all-out run. He then had the presence of mind to quickly stand up and whip the ball to first base to double up the runner and end the inning.
With many of Molokai’s top players having one year of eligibility remaining, expect the team to come back strong again next year.