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Wongs’ world in 2013


Tribune-Herald sports writer

Kolten Wong had quite a year in 2013.

He batted .303 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 412 at-bats and 107 games at Triple-A Memphis. He was named the best defensive second baseman in the Pacific Coast League.

The St. Louis Cardinals called up Wong in August, and later added him to the World Series roster. Wong became the first Hilo-born major leaguer to play in the World Series.

The 2008 Kamehameha graduate was named the Tribune-Herald’s No. 1 sports story of 2013.

In 59 at-bats in 32 games with the Cardinals, Wong batted .153 and maintained his rookie status. (Rookies lose that status if they exceed 130 at-bats or 45 days on roster.)

Last month, the Cardinals traded third baseman David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels to clear a spot for Wong. St. Louis signed Mark Ellis, a second baseman with the Los Angeles Dodgers, to a one-year contract.

Wong has made a rapid rise since he was drafted in the first round, the No. 21 pick overall, out of the University of Hawaii in 2011. In less than three full seasons in the minor leagues, Wong, 23, has a combined .301 batting average during stops at Single A, Double A and Triple A.

In six postseason at-bats, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, he had one hit against the eventual World Series champion BoSox.

But the Wong family suffered a tremendous blow with the recent death of Keala Wong, often described as the emotional cushion for husband Kaha Wong, sons Kolten and Kean and daughter Kiani.

As much as the Wong siblings have become known for their hitting under dad Kaha’s tutelage, a bigger part of their profile is their grounded nature, Keala Wong’s handiwork. Not long ago, a Double-A public relations staffer sent an email, commending Kolten for the way he carried himself and treated others.

2.) Kean Wong drafted

The 2013 Waiakea graduate was drafted in the fourth round by the Tampa Bay Rays in June. That made Kolten and Kean the first pair of brothers on the Big Island to be drafted. Like his brother, Kean was named the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Player of the Year as a senior.

Kean Wong, a second baseman, was assigned to the Gulf Coast rookie league and batted .328 in 177 at-bats, and posted a .979 fielding percentage with just four errors in 191 attempts.

3.) Sweeping change at UHH

Baseball coach Joey Estrella announced his retirement in December, 2012 before he completed the 2013 season, his 37th year with the program. He finished with a 660-929-5 record, made three trips to the NAIA World Series, recorded five NAIA District championships, and participated in 12 straight postseason playoffs.

Men’s basketball coach Jeff Law resigned in March after 15 years with a 208-188 record, taking a similar job at Western New Mexico. Athletic director Dexter Irvin also resigned to become the AD at the College of Southern Nevada.

4.) Panaewa Alii football team

The Pop Warner midget division champion earned a berth to the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Florida. The Alii beat the Westside Eagles 24-8 for the Big Island title, and Maui’s Wailuku Rainbows 30-8 for the state championship.

The Alii had to scramble to raise funds after $100,000 or more in league travel funds disappeared. The community stepped up and the Alii made it to Florida, where they lost to Greensboro, N.C. 25-6 and to the Southside (N.Y.) Cyclones 33-32.

5.) Ciera Min’s golfing gold

In the 90-year history of the Big Island Amateur Golf Championship, the 2013 Waiakea graduate became the first female to win the event in August, overcoming a four-shot deficit. She was the only female in the 20-player field.

She closed her senior season at Waiakea with her second BIIF title. That’s not all. Min played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship in June and took down No. 1 seed Annie Park. Min also claimed medalist honors at the USGA Jr. Girls Qualifier, turning down her spot in nationals to allow another youngster to soak up that experience.

6.) Leahi Camacho’s channel swim

At 17 years old, Camacho set a new world record as the youngest person to cross the 26-mile Kaiwi Channel. She left Molokai on Aug. 17 at night, and arrived in Hawaii Kai, Oahu around 1 p.m. the next day.

After battling Portuguese man-o’-war stings and leg cramps, she landed at Sandy Beach and became only the 27th person to complete the swim. She finished in 14 hours, 43 minutes, the ninth fastest recorded time.

7.) Kamehameha girls basketball

The Warriors beat Honokaa 55-46 to capture their second straight Hawaii High Athletic Association Division II state championship. Kamehameha also won state titles in 2005 and ’07, and finished runner-up in 2006, ’09, and ’11.

The Dragons topped the Warriors 42-35 on Dec. 17 at Honokaa Armory. Chancis Fernandez, who sat out last year under the league’s transfer rules, scored 15 points. Honokaa’s defense held Kamehameha’s ace scorer Casey Poe to 13 points.

8.) Year of the Wildcat

Konawaena’s boys and girls basketball teams won BIIF titles; the girls finished second at states. The girls volleyball team was the BIIF runner-up; they claimed the Division II state championship. The football team won its third straight league title.

The boys and girls soccer teams seized the BIIF crowns; it was the first championship for the boys since 1981. The baseball and softball teams finished as the BIIF runner-up. Haley Eckstrom/Rayne Izumi-Baltero won the girls double tennis title. Aimee Shiraki won gold at states for judo.

9.) Hilo football turnaround

Dave Baldwin coached the Vikings to their first BIIF championship since 2003. He took over a winless team (0-10) in 2011 and finished with a 5-3 record last year, losing to Kealakehe for the league title.

Hilo beat Kealakehe 21-10 for the BIIF Division I championship, and finished with a 10-2 overall record, losing to Konawaena in the preseason and to Campbell.

10.) Southside boys 14 volleyball

The team, coached by Guy Enriques and Sam Thomas, won the boys 14 club division title at the United States Association of Volleyball national championships. Southside was seeded 20th in the 68-team field and finished with a 12-0 record.

Members of the champion Southside squad were Addison Enriques, Avery Enriques, Na’ia Makuakane, Tristen Cross, Abishai Campbell, Christopher Correa, Kameron Moses, Logan Thomas, Cole “Nakana” Labrie, Daylan-Blake Kalai and Chase Carter.


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