By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
Reese Mondina pitched a four-hitter and Eric Riveira’s sacrifice fly in the sixth inning drove in the winning run as the Hilo All-Stars edged host Whittier, Calif., 2-1 in the winners’ bracket of the PONY Baseball West Zone tournament on Friday.
The eight-team tournament for players ages 11-12 is being played in Whittier, Calif.
The Hilo Broncos (2-0) play Vacaville, Calif. (2-0) at 9:30 a.m. today with a berth in the championship game at stake. Vacaville beat Columbia Basin (Wash.) 13-8 on Friday.
Mondina, a right-hander, went the distance in a hard-fought contest to earn the victory. He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter in a sterling performance. Whittier right-hander Jeremy Salgado was also razor sharp, holding the potent Hilo offense to three hits while striking out five and not allowing a walk. Salgado took the loss.
“Reese kept us in the game — from the first inning to the last inning,” Hilo coach Lenn Miyao said. “He really pitched well. He threw strikes, and our defense played really well.
“We also had a very impressive double play earlier in the game with one out and Whittier threatening to score. That was a big help to us.”
Hilo scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Stone Miyao singled, stole second base and scooted home on Jacob Igawa’s RBI double.
Whittier tied the contest at 1-1 in the top of the fifth, using two hits to plate the run.
But the Big Islanders rallied in the sixth. Maui Ahuna tripled and then scored on Riveira’s sacrifice fly to make it 2-1.
Mondina closed the door on the hosts in the top of the seventh, recording another scoreless inning.
No one paired hits for Whittier (1-1).
“It was a really good game,” Hilo scorekeeper Agnes Yamauchi said. “Both pitchers pitched strong games and both teams played outstanding defense. Their pitcher (Salgado) had a good slider, curve and fastball that kept us off balance.”
Coach Miyao said the Hilo All-Stars face a big challenge today against Vacaville.
“They have a 6-foot-1 southpaw who throws hard, hits his spots, and is very poised,” Miyao said. “He’s very impressive and will probably be the best pitcher these Hilo players have ever faced at this age group.
“Our players know we’re only going to get one pitch to hit in each at bat. We’ve got to be ready for that one pitch. He’s not going to give us much. But our guys like this kind of challenge. It should be a really good game.”
Miyao will wait until today to decide on a starting pitcher against Vacaville. He has a pair of aces in Riveira and Ryan Ragual available.
In Thursday’s opening round, Hilo rode a pair of home runs from Ragual and strong pitching from Riveira to beat Bakersfield, Calif., 15-6. Whittier clobbered Farmington, Utah 11-1 in its opener.
The West Regional champion will earn a berth in the Broncos World Series, which starts Aug. 1 in Los Alamitos, Calif.
Whittier 000 010 0 — 1 4 1
Hilo 000 101 x — 2 3 0