The Hilo Red Mustang All-Stars weren’t perfect.
There were a few too many errors in the field for coach Shon Malani’s liking, and their first attempt at a postgame shower for their coach didn’t hit the mark.
But the All-Stars eventually got their man. Malani’s bunch usually does when it comes to playing baseball on the Big Island.
The budding ages 9-10 dynasty overpowered Kona 17-7 on Sunday and reached the state PONY League tournament, with many players capping their second consecutive undefeated season at Walter Victor Stadium.
“The balls bounce certain ways and kind of put our kids behind the 8-ball, but that’s baseball. It’s a game of failure,” Malani said. “You can always get better. You’ve got to strive to be excellent, even though it’s tough, especially at this age, but that’s the expectation we like to put on them.”
His players, many of whom he’s been working with since they were 4, rarely let him down.
Hilo will try to play its way to the mainland for the third consecutive year at the state tournament, which runs June 27-July 1 on Maui.
Naturally, Makakoa Auwae has bigger travel plans in mind.
“I want go farther: Texas,” said Auwae, referring to the site of this year’s PONY League World Series.
Hilo scored five runs in the first inning, and when Kona answered with five of its own, Hilo batted around again during a seven-run second and outscored Kona 32-11 in a pair of wins at the three-team tournament.
“It wasn’t a typical game,” Malani said. “But they battled and were relentless; just relentless.”
He’s got a soaked shirt to prove it.
Hilo tried to blindside him with a water bucket after the game. Malani moved away just at the right moment, but his players weren’t to be denied.
“We kept on going,” Auwae said. “We got all of our coaches.”
Auwae ripped a two-run double in the first inning and finished with two hits, three RBIs and three runs scored. He and Falu Baclig each tossed two innings and combined to allow Kona only three hits. Auwae was touched for five unearned runs in the second inning because of three errors.
“We had a bit more errors than we usually do, but we redeemed ourselves with hitting at the plate,” Auwae said.
Brock Malani and Dylan Honda delivered run-scoring singles in the second as Hilo took advantage of four Kona errors to go ahead 12-5, and Kedren Kinzie doubled to ignite a four-run rally in the third.
Kinzie posted three hits and three runs scored. Baclig doubled among his two hits from the leadoff spot and secured the TKO victory when he scored on Malani’s single with one out in the fourth. Malani and Honda each had two hits.
“Those guys with their bats are unbelievable,” Kona coach Ben Lorenzo said. “I’ve got to give it up to them.”
James Kapela was 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI and took the loss in relief. Keyshawn Lorenzo drove in two runs.
Kona got to the title game earlier Sunday by beating Hilo Black for the second consecutive day, 21-11 behind two-run home runs by Kawana Soares and Elisha Martin.
But Kona lost to Hilo Red for the third time in three weeks, including a defeat in the title game at the Kona PONY Baseball Memorial Day Tournament.
“Like I was telling my boys, we’re going to be competing against these guys all the way,” Ben Lorenzo said. “They worked very hard and never gave up.”
Kona 050 2 — 7 3 6
Hilo 574 1 — 17 12 4