The Hilo Pony 13s followed their recipe and laid down a winning foundation Thursday, all without utilizing too many pitching resources.
The key going forward, coach Shon Malani said, is more of the same: pitching and timely hitting.
Shane Sale-Silva combined with three relievers to hold down Eastlake, Calif., for a 4-2 victory to begin play at the PONY Baseball West Zone tournament in Whittier, Calif.
“We’re going to go as far as our pitching,” Malani said.
Hilo plays Foster City, Calif., on Friday in a matchup between 1-0 teams on their side of bracket in the eight-team, double-elimination field.
Kolten McCallum will start Friday, when all of Hilo’s pitcher with the exception of Sale-Silva will be available.
“That was the plan,” Malani said.
Sale-Silva pitched 3 2/3 innings, before giving the ball to Edinn Kitagawa. Loren Iwata was “lights out” in his appearance, Malani said, and Dominic Christensen secured the save.
Hilo managed just five hits, two off the bat of Braden Malani.
Coach Malani has an experienced group in what is his seventh attempt to crack the code at West Zone and finally reach the World Series, but he also has his share of first-timers.
“There were some jitters, but we talked about it,” Malani said. “This is a good spot to be in. They should take advantage if it.
“We’ll need to manufacture runs. Small-ball, bunts and getting runners over.”
The other two state championship Hilo teams competing at West Zone in Southern California were unable to hold on to leads late in games and face elimination Friday.
• Bronco 11s
In Walnut, Calif., Hilo watched a one-run lead against disappear in the top of the seventh against East Long Beach, Calif., and when Hilo’s heart of the order went down 1-2-3 to force extra innings, “We hung our heads,” coach Gavien DeMello said.
East Long Beach struck for six run in the eighth to win 9-3 , meaning Hilo has to beat Roseville, Calif., on Friday to remain in contention. Roseville lost 16-4 on Thursday.
“We should have won,” DeMello said. “I thing that we can come back and beat these guys.”
Cole Silva pitched 4 2/3 strong innings, striking three and yielding four hits. Silva, Kaleb Wada and Daeson Cacho had two hits apiece.
• Mustang 9s
Also in Walnut, Hilo lost a lead in the fifth and fell 5-3 to East Long Beach.
“We’re going to take the loss and learn and grow from it,” said coach Justin Merritt, whose team next plays Vacaville, Calif., a 15-5 loser Thursday.