Team effort nets state title

KAPAA — Wednesday afternoon, the 11 players and full compliment of coaches turned out for practice at the Mayor Bryan Baptiste Memorial Sports Park Colt Field.

“We gave the boys a little vacation following the weekend when Kawaihau Intermediate 50-70 won the state championship on Oahu,” said Justin Malina, the team’s head coach. “This is the first time a Kawaihau team has come home with a state title in 25 years, the last one being in 1990 when the Kawaihau Majors All-Stars took the state title.”

Coach Malina said what lies ahead is the Little League Regionals in Arizona, and possibly the Little League World Series in California.

“If you thought the weekend was a journey, what we have coming up is a battle,” Malina said.

Regionals run July 20-30. If they succeed there, the Little League World Series takes place in Liverpool, California, Aug. 2-8.

Following the three games, Malina said there is still work to be done.

“If you thought the weekend was a journey, what we have coming up is a battle,” Malina said.

The Kawaihau Intermediate opened with a heartbreaking loss to Makakilo, 7-6, Saturday in 10 innings.

“The game was tied 6-6 after nine innings Friday when the game was called due to darkness,” Malina said. “Saturday we took the field, but we lost the game. We didn’t just lose the game, we lost Keoua Sibayan after a player stepped on his hand. That left us with just 10 players, and I think losing Keoua pulled the boys closer together.”

Sibayan, playing third base, said all he could do was cheer the team on from inside the dugout after he was pulled from the game in the third inning.

“I only got to hit once,” Sibayan said. “But we had some good hits which helped keep the boys in the game. This was real tough. There were no blowouts, so Arizona is going to be tough.”

Kawaihau Intermediate came back to win the next two games, 7-6, Saturday, and 6-5 for the title Sunday.

“This was a true team win,” said Kaimi Malina who maxed out on pitches in Kawaihau’s 7-6 win.

Coach Malina said it was the pitchers — Kaimi, Nainoa Cardinez and Trevor Kaui — who carried the team.

“We used every ounce of energy we had,” he said. “This was a team win. In the first game, Noa maxed out on pitches in the sixth inning and we pinched our other pitchers, knowing we were only in the first game. Noa struck out 14 batters and walked three in his six innings of work.”

Kaimi continued the pace in Game 2, maxing out on pitches, but not before striking out 11 batters and walking one over six and three-quarter innings.

In the third game, Malina said it was the final inning and Makakilo had the tying run at third base with two outs.

“They made the move, and Cole Frye tagged him out at the plate for the win,” he said. “This was very exciting.”

The head coach said the team made errors through the three games.

“I kept telling them everyone makes errors — it’s how you recover,” Malina said. “This is something we need to work on before we leave for Arizona.”

In addition to practice, he said the team is faced with the task of trying to raise $18,000 for the 15-day trip.

“If we can get past Arizona, it gets better financially,” Justin said. “Little League will pick up the costs of getting us to California and back to Hawaii, including feeding us, and lodging. But we need to get to Arizona.”

He said people are able to contribute to the team through a Go Fund Me website at www.GoFundMe.com/Kawaihau.

Additionally, the team will be hosting a laulau sale Saturday at the Mayor Bryan Baptiste Memorial Sports Park from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The team will head over to the First Saturday event in downtown Kapaa where the players will man fish nets and offer baked goods as a fundraiser.

On Sunday, they’ll return to the Kapaa ballpark where they will offer a smoked meat sale from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Following this weekend’s push, Malina said the boys will be manning fish nets at the Safeway store in the Kauai Shopping Village and at the Foodland store in Princeville on several days.

“This is a real true team effort,” Malina said.

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