LIHUE — Maui Bronco All Star Nycholas Facuri pulled the Valley Isle team to within a run, 6-5, against the Mililani Bronco All Stars with one out in home half of the seventh inning Friday morning at the Lihue County Ball Park.
With two outs, Maui’s Vincent Iwamura hit into the third pitch from Mililani’s Kale Ho for a three-run homerun to give Maui an 8-6 win over Mililani, the players and coaches mobbing the rightfielder as he trotted home.
“I knew something was up,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., waiting to render the national and state anthems at the opening ceremonies for the Hawaii Region Protect Our Nation’s Youth baseball tournament at the Lihue County Park. “All I could see was this mob of players, and I knew something was up. What a way to end a game!”
The opening games set the stage for the excitement which will carry through Tuesday at the regional tournament featuring Mustang, Bronco and Pony teams playing for their respective division titles.
“There will only be one team for each division advancing as the Hawai‘i Region Champions, but you are all champions for being here,” said Gwen Earll, the Hawaii Region PONY baseball director. “For most participants, this will be your World Series. It is neither the thrill of victory, nor the agony of defeat, but that players, coaches, and officials will look back some day and recall names, faces, and friendships made during this tournament that will benefit everyone. These are events of our youth that we will all remember and treasure for a lifetime.”
Sperry Burley, coach of the Kauai Mustang 9 team, said it’s up to the young people to hang in and pass along the legacy of baseball.
“This is a first for Kauai,” Burley said. “We have never had a Mustang 9. The tournament organizers said because we are hosting, we need to develop a team. We were able to select and train for a few weeks to get this team what we gotta learn to play. I’m confident they’ll do well. We have a lot of talent on this team, and the good thing, is no matter what happens, they get an opportunity to come back next year as Mustang 10s.”
Larry Moises and his wife Marlene were enjoying the remaining pitches of the opening Bronco division game in the shade of the monkeypod tree back of the Bronco Main Diamond.
“We have to be in Kekaha this afternoon where there is another tournament,” said Marlene. “Tyson coaches the Mustang 10, and Noah Moises doesn’t even play for him. He plays on the Mustang 9. You missed the tournament when Tyson, after winning the tournament, gave his father the trophy because Larry was the one who brought PONY baseball to Kauai.”
Kauai will field four teams, the Mustang 9 coached by Burley, the Mustang 10 coached by Tyson Moises, the Bronco coached by Kevin Akita, and the Pony coached by Jay Koga, for this tournament.
“Kauai is rocking and rolling in the world of youth sports,” Carvalho said. “The Department of Parks and Recreation staff has done a remarkable job maintaining and getting these facilities in shape. I know. I hear the comments from the coaches and parents. There’s a basketball tournament with more than 40 teams playing at four sites, there’s another baseball tournament featuring three teams from California that I have to attend Saturday night, and there is this PONY tournament. We’re definitely rocking and rolling.”