By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Not much seems to bother the Hilo All-Stars about playing far from home against Southern California’s best. But just in case, Baron Victorino likes to give his teammates a daily reminder: Let’s go out and just play. This is just another game.
The words have worked wonders so far, with unbeaten Hilo reeling off its third consecutive victory Sunday.
“One more step,” coach Eric Kurosawa said.
If the All-Stars can take it, they’ll reach the ages 13-14 PONY Baseball World Series.
Makoa Andres struck out eight for his second complete game in four days and Taylor Mondina was 3 for 3 with two RBIs as Hilo beat Lakeside, Calif., 5-2 to move to the championship game of the West Zone tournament in Whittier, Calif. Hilo would have to lose twice today against Lakeside to be denied the title. The first game is at 11 a.m. Hawaii time.
“It’s like Baron says. Nothing fazes this team,” Kurosawa said. “They do the small things.”
Andres walked six batters and wasn’t as sharp as in his win Thursday against Long Beach. But he worked in and out of trouble against a Lakeside team that’s had its way against everyone else at the tournament, combining to score 35 runs in its three victories.
“They’ve been hitting the snot out of the ball,” Kurosawa said of Lakeside (3-1), which eliminated Long Beach 8-6 later in the day to advance. “Lakeside and Long Beach were considered the two best teams here.”
Instead, Hilo has turned York Field into its personal playground. On the outskirts of Los Angeles, the All-Stars appear as comfortable in the eight-team, double-elimination field as if they were playing at home.
“The best fun is winning,” Kurosawa said. “They do everything together and have fun together. No bickering, no jealousy.”
Andres was 2 for 3 with a triple and two runs scored for Hilo, which briefly trailed for the first time in the tournament after Lakeside scored in the top of the first inning.
Andres, however, thwarted further damage and left the bases loaded.
“That helped everybody get up,” Kurosawa said.
Andres singled in the second and tied the game 1-1 on Mondina’s double to left. The Nos. 4-5 hitters clicked again in the fifth, with Andres tripling and scoring on Mondina’s base hit
Daylen Calicdan’s triple and steal of home gave Hilo the lead in the third and spurred a three-run rally. The All-Stars promptly loaded the bases on Mondina’s hit and two walks, and Trayden Tamiya’s grounder was misplayed for an error, allowing two runs to score.
Lakeside loaded the bases again in the fourth, but Andres wiggled out of the threat unscathed. One key, Kurosawa said, was that the right-hander worked in a curveball and changeup to complement his fastball and was able to locate all three of his pitches. He allowed six hits.
“Usually we hope they have two pitches working,” Kurosawa said. “When someone has three going, it’s a luxury.”
Another luxury for Hilo: Left-hander Edgar Barclay will be eligible for an encore performance today after throwing a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts Saturday against Napa Valley, Calif.
“The furthest thing I’m looking ahead to is getting back to the hotel,” Kurosawa said shortly after the game Sunday.
If Hilo beats Lakeside again, it will repack its bags and head east to Washington, Pa, for the World Series, which starts Thursday.
Tristan Salinas was 3 for 4 for Lakeside and took the loss on the mound.
Lakeside 100 001 0 — 2 6 2
Hawaii 013 010 x — 5 8 1