In just a few weeks, a team of local boys banded together to take on the state.
Local youth baseball team Kauai Pony 13 went undefeated on Oahu to win the Pony-13 (13-and-under) Hawaii Region Championship.
“We just brought this team together just to play in the state tournament,” said Kauai Pony 13 coach Kevin Akita. “Just picked a bunch of kids and went to the state tournament. They played in their respective leagues prior to that.”
Kauai Pony 13 was a perfect 3-0 in the double-elimination tournament to earn a berth at West Regionals.
The team defeated a team from Kapolei on Tuesday, 3-2, to win the state crown at Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park in Waipahu.
Down one run in the bottom of the seventh inning, Akita said the team got a walk-off win with two runs on two squeeze bunt attempts.
“Two suicide squeeze plays to win it. … With two strikes,” Akita said. “It was amazing. The kids just did what they had to do. They executed everything well.”
Akita said the team was put together about three weeks before the tournament.
“Not a lot of time. Got some new faces. Like I said, everybody was playing in their own leagues,” he said. “Everybody finished up. They did what they did. Brought this bunch of kids together and went up there, and gave it a try.”
Some of this team’s members were with Akita’s 12-and-under Pony League team, the Kauai Aces, which last year won the United States Specialty Sports Association 12AAA World Series championship in Texas.
“We also won the Bronco state tournament last year,” Akita said. “So, the core kids are there. They’re still with the same team. Just, kind of, half of the team was (from) the same team that we took to the Texas World Series. We won that one. Now, they’re all 13 years old. So, we got the core there and a couple of new players. They did well.”
Kauai Pony 13 will head to Whittier, Calif., next month for the Pony-13 West Zone Championships, which begins July 20.
“I’m guessing for some of them, this is going to be their first time going up there playing a tournament,” Akita said. “For the core, we went there last year. … The core, they’re excited to play up there again.”
He added about the new players: “I think it’s going to be a good experience for them go get up there. A different type of tournament play — the kids up there are very good, too. When you play against better players, you become a better player.”