Playing for the first time in almost a month, it took the Hilo 13-14 All-Stars some time to connect.
But once they did, they were hard to stop.
Hilo beat Chula Vista 8-3 on Thursday, forging ahead with a six-run sixth inning in its opener at the PONY West Zone tournament in Whittier, Calif.
David Nakamura (2 for 2) and Kahale Huddleston (2 for 3) each fueled the rally with triples, and coach Stacey Jarneski said pinch-hitter Curren Inouye provided one of the biggest blows of the inning with a single that tied the game.
Nakamura also tripled in the fifth as the All-Stars finally broke through against the starter for Chula Vista, Calif., and started to chip away at a 3-0 deficit.
“He was short, but he was mixing up his fastball and curveball and it took us a while to start hitting,” Jarneski said. “But we kept it going.”
Hilo’s Ryan Ragual used a split-finger fastball to keep hitters guessing, striking out three in six innings. Joey Jarneski struck out two during a scoreless seventh.
“We had confidence that (Ryan) would go out and do what he did,” Stacey Jarneski said.
Joey Jarneski delivered two RBIs, and the Hilo sophomore would be available to pitch at 4:30 p.m. Hawaii time Friday when Hilo takes on Long Beach, a frequent visitor to West Zone.
“From what we’ve been told, they’re one off the top teams here,” Stacey Jarneski said.
Long Beach beat North Seattle 12-2 on Thursday.
The All-Stars took the field for a competitive game for the first time since they wrapped up the state championship July 1 on Maui.
“I think we’re as prepared as we can be,” Stacey Jarneski said.
Though most of its members are different this year, Hilo is the defending West Zone champion.
Chula Vista 012 000 0 — 3 4 2
Hilo 000 026 x — 8 11 1