As PONY Baseball trips to the mainland go, it’s far from Eric Kurosawa’s first rodeo.
But his current group of 13- and 14-year-olds is fast making this visit one of his favorites.
Trayden Tamiya came through with a go-ahead two-run hit Thursday and Makoa Andres struck out 11 in a compete game as the Hilo All-Stars beat Long Beach, Calif., 3-1 in their opener at the West Zone tournament in Whittier, Calif.
Andres, who is set to start his freshman year at Waiakea High, pitched a four-hitter and mixed a fastball and curveball to overcome five walks.
“He set things up with a hard fastball, then used a curve,” said Kurosawa, who stopped short of calling Andres his ace. “We have a lot of pitching.”
Shaun Kurosawa was 2 for 3 and gave a Hilo a 1-0 lead in the first inning when he scored on Taylor Mondina’s RBI fielder’s choice. Mondina was 2 for 4 and Mackanzy Maesaka doubled.
Long Beach tied the game with a run in the third, but Tamiya singled in the winning runs in the sixth.
Including its 4-0 run through the state tournament on Maui, Hilo remained unbeaten in the postseason under Kurosawa, who is taking a third PONY team to the West Zone in the past five years.
This group, however, is starting to stand out.
“It might not be the most talented, but this may be the best team,” he said. “The camaraderie, the friendship, it’s just really strong.
“Just a lot of good teammates. It’s a pleasure to be around them.”
Hilo and Napa Valley both draw a bye Friday in the eight-team double-elimination tournament before meeting at 6 a.m. Hawaii time Saturday in the winners’ bracket.
Kurosawa said the team had only one goal in mind for its day off: “Practice and more practice.”
“I told them that it’s just one game,” Kurosawa said of his postgame speech. “We could easily lose twice in a day and be out of the tournament.”
Long Beach starter Miller Davis slowed down Hilo over five innings and took a no-decision.
Notes: The tournament winner advances to the World Series, which starts Aug. 8 in Washington, Pa. … Other players on the Hilo All-Stars are Brett Komatsu, Kaylen Cabatu-Gapusan, Gehrig Octavio, Jaron Kawaguchi, Daylen Calicdan, Baron Victorino, Kaden Cypriano, Kegan Miura and Edgar Barclay.
Long Beach 001 000 0 — 1 4 2
Hawaii 100 002 x — 3 7 3