By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The Hilo Mustang 9s received their pregame instructions from their coaches, and then they collectively bolted out of the dugout as if they had been shot out of a canon.
The Mustangs rounded the bases with equal enthusiasm, and they didn’t think about slowing down until they had scored 21 runs.
Next stop, according to Carson Kawaguchi: Disneyland
Kawaguchi, Brock Malani, and Makakoa Auwae each drove in three runs to fuel Hilo’s offense and Malani earned the win in relief Monday as the Mustang All-Stars beat Windward (Oahu) 21-11 to win the state PONY Baseball tournament at Walter Victor Stadium.
“They’re little, tiny kids, but a bunch of terriers,” coach Shon Malani said. “It’s just in them. They love to play. Scrappy and hard working. The gratitude I have coaching them is amazing.”
Hilo earned a berth in the West Zone Regional from July 20-23 in Walnut Creek, Calif. The West Coast trip is becoming an annual part of many of the players’ summers. Shon Malani took 10 of the team’s members to San Jose, Calif., last year for a Pinto tournament, which could explain why Hilo looked so composed playing in front a vocal crowd Monday.
“They were confident,” Shon Malani said. “They weren’t afraid of the big stage.”
In fact, Hilo made full use of the home-field advantage.
“All the energy, I could just bounce off it,” Brock Malani said.
That extra boost especially showed when Hilo was at the plate.
The Mustangs broke the game open with a 10-run fourth inning en route to the five-inning TKO victory, and it scored 37 runs in sweeping the best-of-three series from Windward.
“Our hitting was a surprise,” said Kawaguchi, who ignited a five-run second inning with a two-run single.
Kawaguchi, Malani, Auwae and Kedren Kinzie, the Nos. 2-5 hitters in the lineup, each collected two hits apiece, but Hilo got contributions from all over.
No. 7 hitter Dylan Honda contributed a pair of run-scoring singles, and Elijah Igawa and Kayla Kodani both came off the bench to provide RBI hits in the fourth.
It was easy too see that many of them have been putting time in with local hitting coach Kaha Wong.
“As small as they are, they put the ball in play,” Shon Malani said. “Strong at plate and throw strikes on the mound. That’s the winning formula (at this age).”
Pitching in relief after Dante Medeiros worked the first two innings, Brock Malani started to settle down as he found his groove with his curveball. He pitched three innings and did enough to hold Windward in check, allowing five runs.
“I was just happy to do my job for my team, and happy that my team could rely on me,” he said.
“Looking forward to seeing how the teams are on the mainland.”
Alea Poole led Windward with two hits and three RBIs, including a two-run double, and Aiva Arquette smacked an RBI triple.
The other members of the Hilo Mustangs are Keamalu Baclig — who drew three walks and scored three runs Monday — Aiden Shikuma, Mason Hirata, Spencer Yoshizumi and Dacen Hisashima.
Shon Malani is assisted by Ronald Auwae and Grant Baclig.
• Kona 6, Makakilo-Kapolei 4: Coach Nick Kaawa pointed to the ugly scorebook from Friday’s opening loss to Makakilo-Kapolei as the tournament turning point.
“We went back to our old model,” Kaawa said. “Win one game at a time.”
That certainly worked. The early loss is ancient history these days.
Kona ran its winning streak in the ages 11-12 tournament to four games with a pair of wins Monday to force an all Big Island final. The Crush will face unbeaten Hilo at 9 a.m. today and need a victory to force a winner-take-all game at noon.
With Kona these days, anything is possible.
“We just keep fighting,” Kaawa said. “We’re not blowing away guys, but we’re fighting.”
“We’re not running around from anybody, but the biggest test is (today).”
Analei Emmsley and Andrew Udac came through with clutch hits in the rematch with Makakilo-Kapolei as Kona scored four runs in the sixth inning to take the lead for good.
“Keep your head up. It’s not over until it’s over. Never give up,” Udac said of Kona’s mentality the past three days.
Udac collected two hits and pitched the final two innings to get the save. Toby Estrella pitched two innings to get the win.
With two outs in the sixth and Kona trailing 4-3, Emmsley ripped an RBI triple to left and scored on Udac’s single to give Kona the lead. Tevin Canda added a double to increase the lead.
Emmsley is the team’s only female player.
“She’s stronger then some of the boys,” Kaawa said.
Earlier on Monday, Jarom Hook pitched a complete game, Canda homered and Harvey Alani hit three doubles as Kona beat Maui 11-6.
• Maui 13, Hilo 7: Tai Kauhaa-Po ripped a two-run double during a seven-run second inning as Hilo was eliminated from the 9-10 tournament.
Nainoa Kane-Yates had two hits for Hilo, including a solo home run, and Kala‘i Rosario finished with three hits. Kobe Kagimoto also had two hits.
Adam Yamashita and Keoni Painter each had three his for Maui, which will face unbeaten West Coast at 9 a.m. today in the final.