The Hilo Pony All-Stars are packing up and ready to hit the road for pool play in the West Zone baseball competition in Fullerton, California for 13 and 14 year olds.
Hilo Pony was selected to represent Hawaii as a result of beating a good Kona all-star team to win the island championship then went on to win the Hawaii Zone competition held at Central Oahu Regional Park, from July 2-6.
“We needed to get by a tough KAC (Kalanianaole Athletic Club) team to advance to the West Coast Regional,” head coach, Eric Kurosawa said.
“It was a double elimination tournament on Oahu and we lost to KAC in the semi’s (4-1) which set up the championship game,” he said.
The team from Hilo put it all together in the finals to edge past KAC 5-3 in what the coach considered a thriller. “Reyn Kihara provided us with good pitching and we got a key hit from RJ Iyo in what turned out to be the game winner during the finals,” Kurosawa said.
“The boys never gave up on that game and it was a full team effort,” Coach Kurosawa said.
Kurosawa, who coaches the Waiakea Pirates for the past two years, has been around baseball for nearly 30 years.
“The keys to playing well in West Zone competition will be our pitching and timely hitting, which is always needed. The talent level on the mainland is really good and this will be a good test for our boys,” he said.
The 2009 Hawaii Pony Team will carry a roster of 15 boys to Fullerton when they depart on July 29.
The Hilo All-Star team is made up of players from the Waiakea Pirates (which include Kihara and Iyo as well as Rylan Kawazoe, Alika Guillermo, Tyler Shibata, Rex Daquep, Davey Camacho, Korin Medeiros and Keenan Nishioka), Kamehameha Warriors (Kaimana Moike and Kupono Correa) Andrews (Dean Hosaka and Jace Okutsu), Kaumana-Ainako Twins (Robbey Meguro) and Boys and Girls Club (Brandon Tanoue).
“We’re all very excited to be going on this trip, but I don’t know what to expect” said third baseman Korin Medeiros. “This is the first time that any of us has made it this far in regional competition as we lost in the state finals last year.”
“This year we’re experienced and we work better as a team. I think the key is our pitching. Our hitting has to be there and we need flawless defense,” Medeiros said.
Hilo will travel on July 29 and open pool play on Friday, July 31 against a yet to be named opponent.
Fourteen of the team’s fifteen players have just completed their freshman year of high school with the only exception being Alika Guillermo who will be entering the 9th grade. The Hilo Pony team has the experience to take their game to the next level, but Coach Kurosawa remains cautious in his remarks.
“We’re cautiously optimistic as we don’t know what’s in store for us at this point,” Coach Kurosawa said.
“We just need to play well and not get caught up on other things. We need a full team effort,” he said.
Utility player, Robbey Meguro, echoed some of his coach’s thoughts. “We have a good chance at winning in California as we have good hitting, good pitching and a good defense,” Meguro said.
“We know that the mainland teams will be pretty good and we have to work extra hard if we want to go to the World Series in PA. We have to play as a team and we all have to do our jobs,” Meguro said.
“This team makes it easy for our coaches to look good as we have good kids and good parents,” Kurosawa said.
“We have great parents and a great coaching staff,” he said. Kurosawa will bring with him coaches Steven Guillermo, Curtis Nishioka and Jensen Sato.
Whoever wins the West Zone regional tournament will advance to the Pony World Series which will be held in Washington, Pennsylvania from August 7-15 and the squad from Hilo is hoping to be that team.
“We’d like to represent Hilo and the Big Island well and we need to stay focused on what needs to be done,” Coach Kurosawa said.
The Hilo Pony Team is also looking for financial help to make the trip as a series of car wash fundraisers didn’t produce enough revenue to pay the high cost of traveling to the mainland. “We’re still looking for sponsors or anyone that would like to help,” said parent Helene Meguro.
Anyone interested in helping the Hilo Pony Team can call Meguro at 936-3791 or Coach Kurosawa at 989-5353.