Kauai baseball boys headed for Las Vegas
LIHUE — With the exception of two players, none of the boys aged 12 years and under have played outside the state.
All of that will change this week when Justin Malina, Mikey Cardinez and John Melchor lead the 11-player Team Kauai 12s to a tournament in Las Vegas.
“This is a great opportunity for the boys to experience play at the next level above states,” Malina said. “We found the tournament about eight months ago, and have been working to get the boys exposed as well as give them the experience of playing at a national level.”
Malina said the tournament has more than 100 teams participating in age groups 12, 15, 16 and 18 and under.
“We wanted to face the best,” Malina said. “We’re in the 12 and under, division 1 with more than 40 teams. We could’ve gone into division 2, or division 3, but we feel the boys can handle division 1 and can hold on against the other teams.”
Ricky Rego, a pitcher and infielder for Team Kauai, said he’s played as part of a Hawaii mixed team in Arizona, California, Las Vegas and Japan.
“The most important thing is not to get down,” Rego said. “I’m excited because this is the first time I’m part of an all-Kauai team. We heard the defense was hard to beat, but the coaches are telling us to continue to practice hard and stay focused.”
Noah Cardinez, a pitcher for Team Kauai, said he’s played in Japan as part of a Hawaii mixed team, too.
“Baseball in Japan is very different from how they play here,” Noah said. “It’s better than playing on Oahu. I’m excited about going to Las Vegas and just have to stay focused, work hard and get the other boys motivated.”
Infielder and pitcher Kaimi Malina said he’s nervous about going to Las Vegas.
“We’ve played together for about a year now,” Kaimi said. “The hardest team we faced was Kaneohe in the Little League Majors state title. Our hitting just didn’t come through on that game. Now, we need to focus and practice hard because we’re going up against teams better than Kaneohe.”
Team members making the trip include Ricky Rego, Noah Cardinez, Kaimi Malina, Keoua Sibayan, Isaac Nagahisa, Makoa Gorospe, Keilan Ibaan-McCarthy, Trevor Kaui, Levi Cummings, and Malu Ralston. Hailama Swartman, going to school at St. Louis on Oahu, will be joining the squad when they leave Wednesday.