KAILUA-KONA — Falu Baclig’s been playing with coach Shon Malani since he was 4, earning the nickname Mr. Reliable.
But Malani probably could have handed the moniker to a handful of others. It was evident Monday he’s got a roster full of youngsters who looked primed to play their way off the Big Island again.
Kedren Kinzie collected four hits and Baclig restored order with three smooth innings on the mound as Hui Aumakua beat Alakai 18-7 to win the ages 9-10 title at the Kona PONY Memorial Day Tournament at Old Kona Airport Park.
Malani saw the type of well-rounded effort he’s come to expect from his players, many of whom he’s taken to the mainland the past two years.
“We’re back. They hit the ball, we play defense and we throw strikes,” Malani said. “We don’t beat ourselves, and at this age that’s very important.”
In 2012, Malani’s 7-8 Hilo team reached the Pinto World Series in California, and last year the Hilo Mustang 9s won the state PONY tournament to reach a California regional.
“For being 9-10, they have a lot of big-game experience in them,” Malani said.
Makakoa Auwae highlighted a seven-run first inning by clubbing a two-run home run to straightaway center field. Carson Kawaguchi ripped two of his team’s four doubles in the fifth as Hui Aumakua put the game on ice by scoring nine times.
Brock Malani registered three hits, including a pair of run-scoring singles, and Spencer Yoshizumi had two hits and two RBIs.
“The whole team supported each other,” said Kinzie, who had a run-scoring double.
It’s been that way for a while. Some have been working with Shon Malani for more than half of their lives, and the seasoning shows up mentally and physically.
“We know how to play baseball,” Baclig said. “I was confident.”
Said Kinzie: “It helps with my batting and working with my balance and my feet so I can be better.”
After an undefeated run in Kona, most will join a Hilo All-Star team for the island Mustang championships, slated for June 14-15 at Walter Victor Stadium.
Baclig took over in the top of the third with his team leading 9-7 and found a groove mixing a cutter and palmball with his fastball. Baclig allowed only one run and didn’t walk a batter with one strikeout.
“He’s always been there for me,” Shon Malani said.
Alakai of Kailua-Kona scored three runs in each of the first two innings against Kawaguchi.
Every member of its starting lineup had at least one single. Keyshawn Lorenzo, Kaden Baptista and Kamrin Kam each had two hits, and Kawana Soares drove in two runs.
Lorenzo started for Alakai, which will also participate in the island championships, and didn’t record an out. Brock Malani’s hard-hit comebacker ricocheted of Lorenzo’s wrist, sent him tumbling to the ground and left an imprint, but he remained in the game.
Alakai committed four of its six errors in the fifth inning.
“I think we’ll learn more from this than all the wins,” coach Ikaika Baptista said. “”This is our first year together and this is the first good team that we played. This is the one team we haven’t beat”
In the consolation championship, Kailua-Kona’s Lil Soljahs beat a team from Oahu by TKO.
Alakai 330 10 — 7 12 6
Hui Aumakua 710 10 — 18 14 1