The Kawaihau Community Little League Intermediate 50/70 team is heading to the Little League World Series in Livermore, California, Aug. 2-8.
The team of 12- and 13-year-olds earned the trip by beating Washington 9-3 for the championship of the Intermediate 50/70 West Regional Tournament in Nogales, Arizona, on Wednesday morning.
“Right now, the boys are on Cloud 9,” said Justin Malina, head coach for Kawaihau. “I tell them to soak it up and enjoy the ride because for most of them, this is probably the highlight of their baseball career.”
With a 3-1 record at the regionals, Kawaihau earned the top seed of the A Pool of the tournament and faced Washington, the No. 2 seed, for the championship.
It was the second time the teams met. Kawaihau won the first meeting, 9-0.
“This was a stronger, different team than the first time,” Malina said. “But once the kids settled down, it was like the first meeting.”
Malina said Kawaihau struggled through the first couple of innings, giving up one run in the first frame, before exploding for seven runs in the third inning.
“The kids are clicking,” Malina said. “They have been hitting like I have never seen them do before. After that opening loss, 12-2 to the defending champion Nogales, the boys started hitting. They also cut down the errors which plagued us at the state tournament. They were down to none, or just a few, if any, in their games.”
Nainoa Cardinez picked up the win on the mound. Trevor Kaui came on in relief. He hit a batter and walked one before striking out the last batter for the win.
Kawaihau will take the field Sunday against the winner of the Central division at the Max Baer field in California.
There are six divisions, including the West, California District 57, Central, East, Southeast, and Southwest for the United States teams. The best two from pool play advance to the finals.
Malina said he and the other coaches as well as the parents are proud of the team.
“I don’t think Kauai has ever had a team play in the World Series,” Malina said. “We still have a lot of work to do, and from here, we’ll just have to take it one game at a time. It’s not about winning, or losing — just enjoy the ride.”