By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
The way Hilo All-Stars coach Tracy Miyashiro saw it, if his talented team played to its potential in the 2013 RBI Softball West Regional, only good things would happen.
On Sunday, fired-up Hilo crushed Anaheim 11-1 in a five-inning TKO victory to capture the West Regional championship in West Minister, Calif. The win propels the Big Islanders into the RBI Softball World Series, scheduled Aug. 3-14 in Minnesota.
The RBI Softball program is sponsored by Major League Baseball and involves girls ages 14-19.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” Miyashiro said. “Today, they came out hitting from the beginning and never stopped. And our pitching, with Aliesa (Kaneshiro) and Chelsea (Camello), shut down Anaheim. It was all a great team effort.”
Shaniya Kamekea-Wong, a Keaau High School standout, led Hilo’s 13-hit attack with two doubles and two runs batted in.
Ashlyn Van Zandt (Kohala) added two hits and three RBIs; Tomiko Coito (Kohala), two hits, including a double, and an RBI; Gayla Ha-Cabebe (Kamehameha-Hawaii), two hits, including a double, and an RBI; and Bethany Batangan (Konawaena), two hits.
No one paired hits for Anaheim (3-2).
Kaneshiro, a gutsy right-hander out of Hilo High, started and pitched four innings to earn the title-clinching win. She allowed three hits and a run, to go along with two strikeouts and no walks. Camello, a former Waiakea star who just completed her freshman season on the Chaminade University squad, dominated Anaheim in her lone inning on the mound. She struck out one and didn’t give up a walk.
“Aliesa has really come along and developed a lot of confidence pitching,” said Hilo assistant coach/coordinator Agnes Yamauchi. “She pitched well throughout the RBI tournament.
“Chelsea really improved this year as a college pitcher and you could see it when she pitched in this tournament.”
Hilo, representing the Nobu Yamauchi League on the Big Island, scored a run in the bottom of the first inning, then plated two in the second, and four in both the third and fourth innings on its way to the TKO decision.
The Big Island team spent four days in Las Vegas before the RBI tournament, scrimmaging teams in the area to prepare for the tournament in West Minister. The scrimmages were set up by former University of Hawaii at Hilo softball coach Callen Perreira, who now coaches at Southern Nevada Community College.
“Five or six of our girls caught colds on the trip and we were really sluggish in our first game in the regional tournament,” Yamashiro said. “But as the tournament went on, they started to feel better and get back to 100 percent. And as a team, we got better every game.
“Today, when we really needed to play well, the girls put it all together and earned the World Series berth.”
Yamashiro said the Hilo team flies home today and will head to the RBI World Series in early August.
“Our goal is to get to the championship game and just see what happens,” he said. “If we can perform well there — win or lose, I’ll be extremely proud of all of these girls and their efforts.”
Members of the West Regional champion Hilo All-Stars are Tavian Taketa, Leisha Nakagawa, Gayla Ha-Cabebe, Chelsea Camello, Bethany Batangan, Skylar Thomas, Camille Kiyota, Shaniya Kamekea-Wong, Kadence Coito, Ashlyn Van Zandt, Kayla Requelman, Stacie Doi and Aliesa Kaneshiro. Tracy Miyashiro is the head coach with assistants Solomon Thomas, Craig Camello and Fred Entilla, along with team coordinator Agnes Yamauchi.
At West Minister, Calif.
Anaheim 010 00 — 1 3 1
Hilo 124 4x — 11 13 3