If they follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, Clemson Julian, Noah Palea, Neil Colobong-Juayang, Quinn Waiki and company will be playing at a BIIF baseball field near you before you know it.
On Tuesday, they rekindled a legacy and returned the Hilo Broncos to the top, beating Kauai 5-3 at Walter Victor complex for the 12-and-under All-Star team’s first state PONY League championship since 2015.
“This is our island,” said Neil Colobong-Juayang, who clobbered a double to right center as Hilo forged ahead in the fourth inning. “We have to defend our island so we can go to California. Hopefully, everyone can be together and have fun.”
The West Zone tournament starts July 25 in Whittier, which is located near Los Angeles and has become a second home of sorts for Hilo state PONY champions.
But nothing beats the friendly confines of Walter Victor.
The Broncos gave Hilo PONY a third state title in two days — Pony 13s and Bronco 11s won crowns Monday — and the Hilo Broncos have claimed the title the last five times the tournament has been held here, also winning in 2011 and from 2013-15, never losing a game.
“Everybody works together as a family, and that’s big,” coach Gayne Kobayashi said. “They feel right at home. All the family, the friends, the support makes everybody feel comfortable and relaxed so they can play their game.”
This year’s Broncos didn’t feature the raw power of some of their predecessors — former alumni include all-BIIF standouts such as Ryan Ragual, Maui Ahuna, Stone Miyao, Tai Atkins and Kalai Rosario — but their steady, consistent approach at the plate boiled over in the fourth, when Hilo connected for seven hits, turning a one-run deficit into a 5-2 lead with a mixture of small ball and clutch contact.
“Everyone on this team is a good hitter, a good fastball hitter,” Kobayashi said. ‘They’re strong, they really work hard in their private time and it shows.”
Julian, the left-handed workhouse who pitched 4 1/3 innings, doubled and scored the tying run on Colobong-Juayang’s double, and after Jarren Sakamoto’s second hit of the game, this one on the infield, Waiki’s sacrifice fly gave Hilo the lead. The Broncos added to it with four consecutive hits from pinch-hitter Keynen Tolentino, Jaydon Geraci, Keagan Pacheco, who doubled, and Jaziah Oili, who beat out a bunt single.
“When we rally, we can really get on them,” said Colobong-Juayang, who pitched 1 1/3 inning of relief, striking out three.
Waiki’s future could be in softball, if she choses, though don’t put anything past her.
She moved behind the plate midway through the game and promptly threw out two base runners trying to steal, then she went to the mound and closed out her second game of the tournament, striking out two to secure her third trip to a PONY regional.
“This time, we want to come in first,” said Waiki, who was on a Mustang 9s team that finished second at West Zone in 2016. “We have each others’ back, and we support each other.”
She was matched against Kauai’s Jordyn Blackstad, a female pitcher who battled for complete game, but Waiki didn’t make much of it.
“That always happens,” she said.
So to do Hilo Broncos state championships in tournaments housed at Walter Victor.
On the team are: Quinn Waiki, Keynen Tolentino, Neil Colobong-Juayang, Jarren Sakamoto, Noah Palea, Clemson Julian, Jaydon Geraci, Jaziah Oili, Jaiden-Lee Gabriel, Kamaka Ili, Keyan Kanahele, Boston Kobayashi, Maika Akamu, Keagan-Hunter Pacheco and Teysen Tamiya.
Gayne Kobayashi is assisted by Quincey Waiki and Chris Pacheco.