LIHU‘E — The Kawaihau Big League All-Stars completed the first step in their quest to repeat as state champions.
The Kawaihau team, comprised of various talents from around the island, swept Kahulu‘u in a best of three series to win the District 1 Big League Tournament Sunday on O‘ahu.
Kawaihau advances to the State Big League Tournament beginning Friday on O‘ahu. Last season, the Kawaihau team won the state tournament and advanced to the Big League Western Regional Tournament in Bremerton, Wash.
“They played awesome,” Kawaihau coach Phillip Kamakea said. “Both sides, in fact. Kahulu‘u played really great as well.”
Kawaihau clinched the series with a 3-1 win in Game 2. The team was led on the mound by the 2012 KIF baseball most valuable player Mikeo Rita.
The recent Waimea graduate pitched 6.1 innings in the clinching game before a line drive hit him on the hand and he had to be removed due to injury.
“He would have finished the game,” Kamakea said. “One of the batters just hit a screamer right back at him. He told me last night he was feeling OK.”
Kamakea said in the state tournament, Kawaihau’s advantage is going to come on the mound. Rita was the most dominant pitcher in the KIF this past season, but Kawaihau’s other starters are just as good. Kaua‘i High’s Erin Doi and Kapa‘a’s Turtle Kuhaulua make up just a fraction of the strong Kawaihau rotation.
Kamakea said although the bats were good enough to propel Kawaihau to victory in the Districts, the team needs to be more efficient on offense starting Friday.
“Everyone was hitting but we just couldn’t bring runs home,” he said.
The biggest thing the Kawaihau team has in its favor, though, may be experience. Kamakea said many of the players on the team are veterans from last year’s squad, and although they’ve played on different high school teams throughout the year, the team has come together quickly.
“These kids have been playing together for years,” he said. “It’s a seamless transition.”
•Tyson Alger, sports writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or by emailing talger@ thegardenisland.com. Follow him on twitter.com/tysonalger.