KIHEI - Things didn't look good for the Molokai All-Stars before dusk Wednesday at Kalama Park.
The Friendly Isle team had just been forced to a winner-take-all championship game in the Hawaii State District 3 Little League Majors (11-12) Tournament with a mercy-rule loss to defending state champion Central East Maui.
Then darkness fell and Kairos Torres-Umi took the mound for Molokai. He smacked a two-run, opposite-field homer in the first inning and then made it stand up on the mound, finishing a five-hit, 2-1 win with eight strikeouts and no walks on his 83rd pitch of the game.
Molokai catcher Kekai Maliu fires the ball to third baseman Chevy Augustiro during the third inning of Wednesday’s first game
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER?photo
"I was nervous in the last inning," Torres-Umi said after finishing the game two pitches short of the Little League limit with his final strikeout. "I don't know, I was praying."
Moments earlier, a Central East Maui runner was picked off of third base after a bunt that would have loaded the bases with one out.
Torres-Umi's heroics stood out, but the defense behind him was solid all night. The runner caught off third base reached on the only error of the game for Molokai to start the sixth.
"I had faith in my defense," Torres-Umi said. "We did this with hard work."
After pitching a 1-2-3 top of the first, Torres-Umi stepped to the plate in the bottom of the inning with two outs and a runner on first. He hit a towering shot to right that landed about 40 feet beyond the 200-foot fence.
"I knew it was out when I hit it," Torres-Umi said.
Molokai advances to the state tournament, July 20-25 in Kailua, Oahu, for the first time since 2006 in the 11-12 age group.
A throng of about 800 people lined the fences at Kalama Park, many of them wearing Molokai green. The Friendly Isle faithful were biting their lips after Central East Maui strolled to a 13-1, four-inning win in the first game.
Kekai Maliu had a double in the second game and Kekai Adachi had a double in the first game for Molokai.
"Like I told them from the beginning, we are not done yet," Molokai manager Ilika Kaahanui said. "We just went through it, they played their hearts out. This is what they practice for, hard work pays off."
Torres-Umi was in command all night. The only sign of trouble came when he got ahead of several hitters, only to go to full counts seven times. His fastball, combined with the dark conditions under the Kalama Park lights, made it tough on Central hitters.
"He is an excellent pitcher, he is one of my big guns," Kaahanui said. "Even for hitting, too, he is one of my big boys. He did a heck of a job today."
The first game was all Central East Maui, which pounded out 15 hits in four innings. Mahonri Anitema was 3-for-3 with three runs and an RBI, Nathan Facuri was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, and Treston Carter was 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI, while Anthony Hoopii-Tuinetoa threw a two-hitter. Hoopii-Tuinetoa had a triple and Kaimi Lay-Fuentes had a double in the second game.
Molokai got to championship night unbeaten with a 7-6 win on Monday over Central East Maui.
"Kairos is a great pitcher, he did a great job on the mound, he threw the ball hard," Central East Maui manager Napa Kaupe said. "He kept us off-balance with his changeup and his fastball was tough.
"That shot he hit in the first inning was far. That was nice, he hit that ball flush."
As the Maui County champions took pictures with their friends from the team they just beat, Kaahanui took time to think about states.
"Defense, hitting, pitching, catching, everything, coaching, too," Kaahanui said. "At the state tournament, we just have to take it one game at a time, like we did here."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Central East Maui 13, Molokai 1
|Central East Maui||425||2—13|
|Anthony Hoopii-Tuinetoa and Waylon Bacos; Ulladeemarl Nicolas, Kekai Adachi (3) and Kekai Maliu. W—Hoopii-Tuinetoa. L—Nicolas. 2B—CEM, Bacos; Molo, Adachi. 3B—Hoopii-Tuinetoa.|
|Leading hitters—CEM, Mahonri Anitema 3-3, 3 runs, RBI; Nathan Facuri 3-4, 3 RBIs; Treston Carter 2-3, run, RBI.|
|Molokai 2, Central East Maui 1|
|Central East Maui||001||000—1|
|Nathan Facuri, Dalton Mata (4), Kaimi Lay-Fuentes (5) and Waylon Bacos; Kairos Torres-Umi and Kekai Maliu. W—Torres-Umi. L—Facuri. 2B—Molo, Kekai Maliu; CEM, Lay-Fuentes. HR—Torres-Umi.|
|Central East Maui 4, Kihei 2|
|Central East Maui||040||00x—4|
Mikito Barkman and Lopaka Aricayos. Mahonri Anitema and Waylon Bacos. W-Anitema. L-Mikito. 3B-K, Aricayos. 2B-K, Sale Ioakimi, Christian Ino.