At this point, Clemson Julian and Jaziah Oili could write a book about how to win a state PONY League baseball championship.
Julian and Oili were on a Hilo Pinto team that captured a Hawaii championship in 2015 before graduating to Mustang 9s state supremacy the next season. Lo and behold, three years later they’re front and center on a Hilo Broncos All-Star team that is now one victory from taking it all in the 12-and-under division.
“None of us have difficulty with the other players,” Julian said of a common link after an 8-4 victory against Mililani, “and we treat each other like family.”
Speaking of ohana, coach Gayne Kobayashi figured Walter Victor complex was the perfect place to be on the third Sunday in June.
“A great Father’s Day for everyone,” Kobayashi said.
He can talk. He’s got at least 15 keiki to be proud of these days.
Julian and Oili helped set the tone in what was a battle of unbeatens, Julian with his three shutout innings on the mound and Oili with his booming leadoff double to spark a four-run first inning.
“It starts our fire, and gets us pumped up,” Julian said.
He and his teammates can lay low Monday while the loser’s bracket gets sorted out ahead of Tuesday’s 9 a.m. championship game, for which Hilo will be well-rested.
Kobayashi said all of his pitchers were available, including Quinn Waiki, who looked impressive Sunday as Hilo’s closer. Inheriting two base runners after Central Oahu opened the sixth inning with four consecutive hits – Kaili Kane smacked a two-run double to make it 7-3 – Waiki ended the game with five strikeouts. Waiki is also an alumnus of that Mustangs 9 champ in 2016.
“We all worked together,” Julian said.
He could have been talking about 2015, 2016 or Sunday.
In the first, Noah Palea, followed Oili’s double with a hit, then Oili scored on Julian’s flyout. Waiki’s first of two hits was a big one on the infield with two outs to make it 2-0. Two batters later, an error allowed two more runs to score.
In the fifth, hits by Julian and Jarren Sakomoto tacked on two more runs, and Hilo answered Mililani’s surge with an insurance marker in the sixth behind an error, a pinch-hit by Boston Kobayashi and a well-placed bunt by Oili.
“A good team effort,” Gayne Kobayashi said. “We had subs coming in and getting hits and making defensive plays.”
Through two games, Hilo batters have struck out just once, and putting the ball in play Sunday led to five Mililani errors. Meanwhile, pitchers Julian, Noah Palea, a hard-throwing right-hander, Keynan Tolentino and Waiki combined to fan 12.
“Clemson is our big pitcher, and starting him gives us a lot of confidence the rest of the game,” Kobayashi said.
He may follow the same recipe Tuesday, though Hilo has a game to play with and its opponent won’t be known until Monday. In the morning, Kauai and Maui play an elimination game, with the winner facing Mililani in the afternoon to reach the final. On Sunday, Kauai ousted Aiea 14-0 and Maui beat Windward 7-3.
Also at 10:30 a.m. Monday, the Hilo Pony 13s and Hilo Broncos 11 will get their first of two shots to win a state title against Kauai teams.
The Garden Isle had a good day Sunday, remaining alive in all four tournaments going on at Walter Victor. Kauai’s Pony (14-under) team also advanced to Monday’s championship game, but it will have to beat Maui twice.