The Kaua‘i Pony All-Stars are only a week away from something that they lacked during the course of the regular season: competition.
After finishing the regular season with a perfect 14–0 record, the All-Stars are heading to Hilo next week to compete in the Hawai‘i state tournament.
Anchored by a strong core of experienced players, head coach Johnny Cox said he’s going to lean on his veterans to get through the tournament.
“We’re going to try and play the older guys as much as we can,” Cox said. “They got the experience and probably not the jitters that some of the younger guys might have.”
Although the All-Stars did see some competitive games during the season, the quality of teams at the tournament is going to be a step up, Cox said.
That competition is something that team leader, catcher Cal Koga, said the team is looking forward to.
“We’re excited,” Koga said Thursday before practice at Vidinha Stadium. “We’ve been waiting the whole year for this … to play other teams.”
This won’t be Koga’s first shot at a state title. His Mustang team a few years ago fell just short of the title, finishing second.
“It would be pretty special for me to win,” he said. “I’ve never won a championship.”
The Kaua‘i team will hit Big Island with its tandem of aces, pitchers Nick Vallatini and Keoki Planas. The team’s offense is anchored by first baseman Bryton Lumabao.
The All-Stars take June 30 night before opening the tournament July 1 in Hilo. The team won’t know who it will face in the eight-team double-elimination tournament until arriving in Hilo.
Until then, coach Cox will remain optimistic about his team’s chances.
“They play hard every game,” Cox said. “I’m expecting a good showing. We throw and hit well so I expect us to compete at the state level.”