RBI: Nobu Yamauchi claims World Series title

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The culmination of James Hirayama’s vision was still three outs away, but for him the pinnacle came in the top of the seventh inning during an otherwise obscure coaching move at the RBI World Series.


The culmination of James Hirayama’s vision was still three outs away, but for him the pinnacle came in the top of the seventh inning during an otherwise obscure coaching move at the RBI World Series.

Hirayama removed Trayden Tamiya for a pinch-hitter, Jamieson, his son.

“Trayden looked at me and said, “What took you so long?,”’ the elder Hirayama said. “For him to say that I thought was phenomenal.”

Besides, what’s an inning or two when a plan has been five years in the making?

That Jamieson Hirayama doubled was just gravy for the Hilo-based Nobu Yamauchi’s Senior baseball team, where everybody plays and everybody wins. It roared to the 19-under championship Saturday in Cincinnati with a 6-3 victory against Patterson, N.J.

“I’m just blessed right now to have these kids playing in the organization, and blessed to have the baseball coaches that we do in the community,” James Hirayama said. “I get them for two months, but the other coaches work with them for 10.”

He is believed to be the first RBI coach to guide softball and baseball teams to championships. The MLB-sponsored Reviving Baseball in Inner cities program is in its 25th year.

“To be honest, I can’t explain how I feel,” James Hirayama said.

He won a title with the Nobu Yamauchi Senior softball team in 2009, but switched over to the baseball side in 2013 “so my son could experience a World Series.”

And what an experience it was.

“I think it’s been an amazing journey,” Jamieson Hirayama, a 2017 Waiakea graduate, said. “This is hard to beat. This might be the best experience of my life.”

More than half of the team’s players are Waiakea graduates or students, so it’s no surprise Nobu Yamauchi thrived largely on Warriors staples such as defense and timely hitting in finishing 5-1 at the tournament.

But it was another kind of Warrior, Kamehameha senior Justyce Ishii, who held free-swinging Patterson in check on the mound with a heavy sinker, striking out six in 5 1/3 innings. Waiakea senior Casey Yamauchi got two outs in the sixth, and Hawaii Prep junior Jonah Hurney allowed an RBI double in the seventh before inducing the final out, a drive to deep left-center that nestled harmlessly into the glove of 2016 Hilo graduate Austin Damate-Aina.

Waiakea senior Jacob Igawa accounted for his team’s first two runs with a run-scoring single in the first and a RBI double in the third, and Nobu Yamauchi tacked on three runs in the sixth with the help of three Patterson errors and hits by Caleb Freitas-Fields (2016 Waiakea graduate), Dustin Asuncion (Kamehameha junior), Damate-Aina, who finished with two hits, and Matt Aribal (Pearl City junior).

Igawa, a catcher who was trusted to call most of the pitches at regionals and the World Series, and Freitas-Fields each finished with six RBIs, which for the tournament high.

“I love how everybody is always on the same page,” Jamieson Hirayama said. “Once somebody gets the energy, we all get that energy, and we’re hard to stop.”

And if Nobu Yamauchi played as if it was unaffected by the six-hour time difference in Cincinnati, there is a good reason for that.

“After we won regionals, we came back and practiced at 2:30 a.m. (HST),” James Hirayama said. “When everybody showed up at practice, I knew we had something special.

“Patterson is no joke. They are good. To be honest, we are pretty good, too.”

This is the second world title for Tamiya and fellow Waiakea senior David Nakamura, who were each on Hilo’s PONY League 14U champion in 2014.

Back then, James Hirayama said, he and assistant coach Blayne Sato were still working on their “World Series road map.”

Nobu Yamauchi found its destination Saturday, but it’s final stop will come at 8:24 p.m. Sunday when its United Airlines flight is scheduled to touch down at Hilo International Airport.


“All I can say is I hope Hilo and Hawaii are proud of these 15 young men,” James Hirayama said. “They represent the state with humbleness and class.”

Also on the team are Brett Fujii (Waiakea senior), Christopher Aiona (2016 Kamehameha graduate), Chris Hatakenaka-Gibbs (Waiakea junior) and Carson Okada (2017 Pearl City graduate). Hirayama is also assisted by Jason Vaughn, Daylan Asuncion and Kensei Gibbs.

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