By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
The Hilo All-Stars will battle Houston in pool play to open the 2013 RBI Softball World Series today in St. Paul, Minn.
The eight-team tournament for girls ages 19 and under runs today through Wednesday. Pool games will be played at softball fields around the St. Paul area and the championship game will be held at the University of Minnesota Softball Stadium in Minneapolis.
West Regional champion Hilo, under head coach Tracy Miyashiro, plays Southwest champion Houston at 8:30 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time today at Neiman Field No. 4. Both Hilo and Houston are part of the National League Central pool, along with Caribbean champion Santo Domingo and Central champion St. Louis.
“Our girls are excited and ready to play,” Miyashiro said. “We just want them to go and play the game and see what happens. We want them to relax and have fun. If they can play like we did in the regional, we should be in good shape.”
Hilo will also face Santo Domingo at 10:45 a.m. today and St. Louis at 5:30 a.m. Sunday to close pool play. The teams in each pool will be divided into cross-pool action that begins Sunday afternoon and runs through Monday morning, leading to Tuesday’s interleague playoffs. The final two teams advance to Wednesday’s championship in a 6 a.m. that will be televised on the MLB Network.
“Santo Domingo is strong again, they have their ace pitcher back,” Miyashiro said. “They’re the team to beat. But if we can play like we can, we’ve got a good shot, too.”
The American League Central pool features East champion Cleveland, Mid-Atlantic champion Harrisburg, Pa., Northeast champion Hoboken, N.J. and Southeast champion Atlanta.
Hilo is representing the Nobu Yamauchi RBI softball program in Hilo. The Big Islanders crushed Anaheim 11-1 in a five-inning TKO win to capture the West Regional championship last month in West Minister, Calif.
Hilo finished 4-1 in the four-team regional behind the strong pitching of former Hilo High standout Aliesa Kaneshiro and ex-Waiakea High and current Chaminade University pitcher Chelsea Camello and a potent hitting attack.
Besides Monday’s softball games, the participating teams will attend the Cleveland Indians vs. Minnesota Twins professional baseball game that evening at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Members of the Hilo All-Stars are Tavian Taketa, Leisha Nakagawa, Gayla Ha-Cabebe, Chelsea Camello, Bethany Batangan, Skylar Thomas, Camille Kiyota, Shaniya Kamekea-Wong, Tomiko 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.
In the title win over Anaheim, Kaneshiro and Camello shut down Anaheim while Kamekea-Wong, a Keaau High standout, led Hilo’s 13-hit attack with two doubles and two runs batted in.Van Zandt (Kohala) added two hits and three RBIs; Coito (Kohala), two hits, including a double, and an RBI; Ha-Cabebe (Kamehameha-Hawaii), two hits, including a double, and an RBI; and Batangan (Konawaena), two hits.
PONY World Series
The West Zone champion Hilo All-Stars were awarded back-to-back byes to open the 2013 PONY Baseball World Series in Washington, Pa.
The 10-team, double-elimination tournament for players ages 13-14 started Friday and runs through Thursday at Lew Hays PONY Field. Hilo and Okinawa, Japan were awarded byes in the tournament because their zones finished 1-2 in last year’s event.
“But we don’t mind the extra rest since we had a long, rough day on Thursday to get here,” Hilo coach Eric Kurosawa said Friday in a telephone interview from Washington, Pa. “The kids had to get up at 2 a.m. and we caught a 6 a.m. flight out of Los Angeles to Phoenix. Then we flew here and arrived around 5:30 in the afternoon. It was a long, long day.”
The World Series started Friday with two games and was scheduled to shift into high gear today with more action. Hilo plays at 9 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time on Sunday against the Paderborn, Germany vs. Washingon, Pa. winner from today. If the Big Islanders win, they’ll play at 3 p.m. Monday against Saturday’s Chesterfield, Va. vs. Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico winner.
If Hilo falls on Sunday, the Big Island team would drop into the losers bracket and battle the Germany/Washingto, Pa. loser at 3 p.m. Sunday.
“Our kids are having a great time,” Kurosawa said. “They’ve met and spent some time with players from the other teams. We want them to really enjoy their overall experience here. But we know once we start playing the games, every team is going to be good. There won’t be any easy games. We’re going to take it one game at a time and not look ahead.”
A highlight on Friday came when Hilo’s Gehrig Octavio won the tournament’s base-running contest in 13.5 seconds, going home to home in that blistering time. There was also a home-run derby and other contests among the participating teams.
“(Today) there will be an all-star game with some of the tournament’s players participating with Special Olympians,” Kurosawa said. “It should be a good day for everyone, then we get our chance to play on Sunday.”
Kurosawa added that after the Big Islanders came from behind to win the state tournament on Maui, he told them “I’ll never doubt you guys again.”
Hilo then topped the Maui performance by coming from five runs down to Lakeside, Calif., late in the PONY West Zone tournament title game in Southern California to win 6-5 and clinch the World Series berth.
“We have a great group of kids and they’re an incredible team,” Kurosawa said. “We’re going to give it our best in the World Series. But with these kids, you have to believe anything is possible.”
The Hilo coach said some of the players’ parents have arrived to watch the tournament and more would fly in before Sunday’s first game.
“We got a great bunch of parents and all the families have been very supportive,” Kurosawa said. “This is an incredible opportunity for everyone, and all of us want to enjoy what might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Members of the West Zone champion Hilo All-Stars are Brett Komatsu, Kaylen Cabatu-Gapusan, Trayden Tamiya, Gehrig Octavio, Jaron Kawaguchi, Mackanzy Maesaka, Daylen Calicdan, Baron Victorino, Shaun Kurosawa, Kaden Cypriano, Kegan Miura, Taylor Mondina, Egar Barclay and Makoa Andres.
Eric Kurosawa is assisted by Jensen Sato and business manager Robert Narimatsu.