KAILUA-KONA — As far as emotions were concerned, Hawaiian Isle Athletics hit for the cycle.
There was a scary moment when DallasJ Duarte took a high-hop grounder to his head. There was levity watching Eric Riveira rumble around the bases on a rare four-error play. Jaisten Cabatbat provided bits of angst working in and out of trouble. And, finally, there was a celebration after the Hilo team won the ages 13-14 title at the Kona PONY Memorial Day Tournament at Old Kona Airport Park.
Through it all, one of the team’s smallest members, Lester Iwata, stood tallest, delivering two hits and three RBIs in a 6-3 victory against the Big Island Bandits.
“He was big this whole tournament,” HIA coach Masa Pagay said. “If you asked me to choose someone who really stepped up their game this weekend, it’s Lester Iwata.”
The Waiakea High ninth-grader accounted for his team’s first three runs, then it took the lead for good during a whacky fifth inning.
“Everyone thinks I’m just a small guy, but I just want to show them I’m not,” Iwata said.
Cabatbat pitched five strong innings to get the win and Riveira struck out two batters in two hitless innings for the save.
HIA turned Cabatbat’s hit, two walks and five Bandits’ errors in the fifth into three runs. Riveira drove in the go-ahead run with a groundout, and when Curren Inouye’s grounder was misplayed, Riveira took two extra bases and scored on three throwing errors.
“That’s what ended it,” Bandits coach Tom Richmond said. “One of those things, that’s why they play baseball.”
The last throwing error plunked the husky Riveira in the back as he was getting ready to slide into home plate, drawing laughs from his teammates.
“His mind was thinking he was going super fast, but he was going kind of slow,” Cabatbat said.
Phillip Grace reached in the fifth for the Bandits when his ground ball to shortstop took a weird hop and temporarily knocked Duarte out of the game. Grace came around to score on an error.
Cabatbat also allowed Holi Bergin’s RBI single in the second, but he made pitches when he needed them, stranding two runners in scoring position in the third and fifth.
“I stepped off the mound and relaxed myself,” he said. “Looking at my friend DallasJ in the dugout when he was hurt, that motivated me to do better.”
Cabatbat struck out five and allowed three runs, six hits and two walks. Duarte came back in and finished the game at catcher.
Both clubs will have players participate on All-Star teams at a state tournament on Maui in the summer.
While HIA went 3-0 in Kona, the Bandits (3-2) got to the title game out of the losers’ bracket, beating the Kona Crush on Monday morning.
“They never gave up, and they played hard,” Richmond said.
The majority of the Bandits’ players, he said, are from Waimea. They were looking to become only the third West Hawaii team to win a title at the tournament. Hours earlier, the Kona Crush became the second with a 9-3 victory against Waiakea Uka in the 11-12 championship.
Joe Morales pitched into the fifth and took the loss, yielding four hits, five runs (three earned) with three strikeouts and six walks. He also finished with two hits and scored a run.
Big Island Bandits 011 010 0 — 3 6 5
Hawaiiam Isle Athletics 010 230 x— 6 6 2
Bula Ahuna pitched a complete game and AJ Alani compiled two hits as the Kona Crush won the title with their fourth straight win.
“We played good defense and the kids played hard all weekend,” coach Nick Kaawa said.
In a best-of-three series in the island championships June 14-15 at Hilo’s Walter Victor stadium, some members of the Crush will be part of a Kona club that will take on a Hilo team, with the winner joining another Hilo team that already has a berth at states.