Hilo All-Stars coach Melissa Pang said her 12-and-under team had a “surprise party” over the weekend in its Little League Softball West Regional opener.
It was an eye-opening surprise, she said, because “we didn’t have much experience playing outside our beautiful little island.”
Her bunch was more comfortable in its shoes Monday, especially Kaelyn Sewake, who had a perfect day at the plate as Hilo took measure of Montana for an 11-9 victory in an elimination game in San Bernardino, Calif.
Sewake finished 4 for 4 with two RBIs, and Kealohi Ili was 2 for 3 with three runs scored as Hilo came through with nine hits two days after being no-hit by Arizona.
“(Kaelyn) was selective with her pitches and just sprayed the ball all over the field,” Pang said.
It helped that Hilo had a chance to watch Montana during a day off Sunday as it acclimated itself to its surroundings.
“We’ve never played outside Hilo,” Pang said. “Some of them had never left the island.”
Madelyn Awaya started in the circle again and went three innings before handing the ball over to Tiani Kaupu (1 1/3 innings) and Liali Kaupu (1 2/3).
“We’re going to ride Madelyn as long as we can,” Pang said.
Sewake tripled in Ili with a run in the bottom of first, and Mackenzie Valentin’s sacrifice fly tied the game 2-2. Palehua Silva followed with a hit and came around to score on Meghan Spencer’s flyout.
Hilo broke away from a 4-4 tie in the fifth by scoring five times. Liali Kaupu singled and came around to score on a wild pitch, Lili Thompson-Ua doubled and scored on Ili’s single, and Sewake’s hit was followed by two walks and an error.
Hilo plays Southern California on Tuesday in another elimination game.
“They’ve really grown as a team overall,” Pang said. “Getting more exposure to softball, win or lose we’re going to leave here triumphant.”