In the years gone by of Little League, coach Earl Moses recognizes Hilo already would have owned a berth to the state tournament.
As it was, his All-Stars had one more obstacle en route to Oahu, and a Maui team with a strong pedigree proved far too large of an object to move.
Strong in all facets and hoping to take another step to get back to the mainland, Maui swept Hilo 9-0 and 11-3 on Saturday at Walter Victor Stadium to capture the district championship series for ages 11-12.
“We did our best,” Moses said. “They got a way better caliber (of player) than us; very tough.
“We won the Big Island. We’re supposed to be on Oahu.”
The doubleheader marked the first Little League postseason tournament in Hilo in a handful of years — since before the Big Island lost its automatic qualifying spot to states.
It also marked a successful homecoming for Maui coach Calvin Chaves. His team advanced from the Valley Isle with a series of pulverizing TKO performances in which it outscored the competition 57-4 and clubbed 18 homers in four games.
Maui heads to the state tournament, Friday through July 22 in Waipio, Oahu. Many of its players were on the team last season that advanced to the West Regional in San Bernardino, Calif.
“The kids had to work a little harder (here) than Maui,” Chaves said. “We know it’s not going to be cakewalk all the way through the state tournament.
“We pride ourselves on our defense and pitching, and we complement it with hitting.”
Chaves had to use just two pitchers, with Kaipo Haole (four-hit shutout, no walks, five strikeouts) and Roy Meinen spinning complete games.
Isaiah Duarte combined for six RBIs, ripping a two-run triple in the first game and a three-run home run to fuel a six-run first inning in Game 2.
Kama Ching smacked a solo home run in the first game.
However, James was content Hilo twice forced Maui to go the distance.
“They had to play us two full games; they didn’t TKO us,” James said. “We gave them a harder time. My kids are happy. Nobody is crying.”
The highlight on the day for Hilo came as it tried to battle back and connected for seven hits in the second and third innings of Game 2. But when Hilo tried to take the extra base, Maui made the Big Islanders pay by twice throwing out Dayson Moses attempting to score at the plate.
Moses, who took the loss, doubled and singled, and Cody Kunimitsu and Rustyn Bautista also each collected two hits.
Hilo’s Paul Antony struck out six in five innings of relief.
In the first game, Ocean Gabonia started and allowed five runs and three hits with two walks and two strikeouts, and Ryan Cabreira was 2 for 3.
Chaves admitted it was nice to come home and win in front of family and friends. He remembers playing PONY League baseball in Hilo as a youngster.
“We’ve got great kids and they’re bonding together,” he said. “Hopefully we can take this momentum into the state tournament.”
Walter Victor Stadium
Maui 014 004 — 9 8 1
Hilo 000 000 — 0 4 3
Hilo 021 000 — 3 8 0
Maui 602 30x —11 7 3