By JOE FERRARO
Lenn Miyao wants his players to remain humble. Entering his ages 11-12 Andrews Braves team in an ages 13-14 tournament in January certainly did the trick.
“We got shellacked a few times,’’ Miyao said. “It was good.”
But the Hilo-based Braves have had their fair share of success competing in the Bronco Division, and Randy Morris expects to see more of the same at this weekend’s Kona PONY Baseball Memorial Day Tournament.
The annual holiday tourney will take place at Kailua-Kona’s Old Kona Airport Park today through Monday, with 45 teams playing a total of 73 games.
Both the Bronco (ages 11-12) and Mustang (9-10) divisions have 16-team brackets while the 13-team Pinto Division (ages 7-8) features round-robin play.
Members of the Andrews Braves’ Bronco team won back-to-back Mustang titles in 2010 and 2011. Competing as the Andrews Chiefs last year, they advanced to the Bronco championship game, losing to Hilo’s Big Island Ballers.
Morris, the tournament director, said Big Island Ballers team members are now competing in Pony Division (13-14) play, making the Braves the team to beat.
Team members are: Stone Miyao, Casey Yamauchi, Maui Ahuna, Bula Ahuna, Jacob Igawa, Rekky Prudencio, Logan Respicio, Eric Riveira, Micah Bello, Jaime Ebersole, Dustin Asuncion and Bryce Furuli.
With eight of the 12 having played on the same team together for six years, Lenn Miyao attributes the group’s success to strong team chemistry.
Miyao also said 10 of the 12 soak up knowledge from well-regarded hitting instructor Kaha Wong, and while they do, they also receive lessons in humility.
“He’s always preaching that there are kids that are bigger, stronger, faster,’’ Miyao said.
Miyao’s players saw that for themselves while playing against older players in a Hawaiian Isle Athletics tournament last January in Hilo.
“It’s kind of humbling when they play against older, talented kids,’’ said Miyao, who credits his players’ parents for striving to achieve success on the field and in the classroom. “It kind of shows that they have to work hard.”
Morris also expects the Mililani Brewers and Mililani ESPNHD to fare well this weekend. The Braves wouldn’t play either of the two teams until Monday’s noon championship game.
At 2 p.m. today, Mililani ESPNHD will face Hilo RBI in a first-round game. Members of Hilo RBI played for a Waiakea Pirates team that won the Mustang title at last year’s Memorial Day tourney.
Morris sees this year’s Mustang Division as more wide-open. He said Hilo’s Andrews Braves and Andrews Chiefs, and Kailua-Kona’s Lil’ Soljahs could make runs at the title.
As it has in the past, the tournament will include a home run derby in each division, with the Bronco event set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The Pinto and Mustang derbies will take place at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., respectively, on Sunday.