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PONY baseball: Hilo rallies past Kauai to reach state semifinals

  • The Hilo Bronco All-Stars won Sunday at the state PONY Baseball tournament for ages 11-12 on on Oahu. On the team are, from, left to right, bottom row: Dillon Mizuno-Fukui, Kainoa Calles, Jaziah O’ili, Zayne Fujioka, Luke Klask, Chayden Bertelmann; middle: Haiden Kay, Edinn Kitagawa, Micah Lopes, Daycen Aurelio, Loren Iwata, Connor Gonzalez; top: coaches Lee Iwata, Brandon Gonzalez and Mark Kitagawa.

Filling out lineup card of baseball all-stars can be a tough chore for a coach, but Daycen Aurelio makes Mark Kitagawa’s job easier.

He just puts Aurelio in at the cleanup spot and watches him deliver.

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Aurelio powered the Hilo Broncos at the state PONY League tournament again on Sunday on Oahu, hitting a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh as Hilo edged Kauai 4-3 to reach the semifinals in Hawaii Kai.

“I didn’t have to tell Daycen anything,” Kitagawa said. “He knew if he didn’t come through and we lost we’d have to play again (later in the day). Nobody wanted that.”

Instead, Aurelio’s single to left field with one out brought home Connor Gonzalez to cap a comeback, setting up Hilo to play Monday against host East Oahu.

Loren Iwata pitched 5 1/3 innings and struck out six before leaving as Kauai rallied to score twice in the sixth to go ahead 3-2. Kainoa Calles pitched the final 1 2/3 and got the win.

Iwata led off the bottom of the sixth with a double and scored on Luke Klask’s game-tying single.

After Calles retired the side in order, singles by Dillon Mizuno-Fukui and Gonzalez set the stage for Aurelio’s heroics.

“The kids were hyped,” Kitagawa said.

Aurelio, Mizuno-Fukui and Edinn Kitagawa finished with two hits apiece.

Aurelio hit two home runs Saturday and Edinn Kitagawa pitched a complete game as Hilo beat Central Oahu 12-1 on Day 1 of the seven-team tournament.

Mark Kitagawa called Edinn Kitagawa and Iwata his co-aces, so he’ll need a pitcher to stand up Monday against East Oahu.

“They are the team to beat,” Mark Kitagawa said. “Our defense has been helping our pitchers out.”

Monday’s loser still can reach Tuesday’s title game by making a quick turnaround and advancing out of the losers bracket.

Hilo has pocketed four of the past five Hawaii PONY titles in the ages 11-12 division, but most of this year’s Hilo Broncos are new to the state tournament stage. The bulk of the team played for the Andrews Chiefs this past season.

“We’ve been together for two to three weeks and they are pulling together and working hard,” Mark Kitagawa said. “They are peaking.”

Hilo jumped on top in the bottom of the second when Haidan Kay walked, stole second, moved to third on an error and scored on Klask’s sacrifice fly.

In the fifth, Jaziah O’ili singled to lead off ahead of Mizuno-Fukui’s walk, and three batters later Edinn Kitagawa’s hit made it 2-1.

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At the Mustang 9s tournament, Hilo fell to West Oahu 12-1 and was eliminated.

Also on Monday, the Hilo Mustangs play Maui in a semifinal of a five-team tournament.