Maui looks to shock the world
It was 27 years ago, but it was one of the most remarkable runs for any youth baseball team in Maui County history.
In 1987, the Molokai Senior League (15-16) All-Stars won the county, state and two regional crowns before advancing to Kissimmee, Fla., and finishing third in the Senior League World Series.
Shane Dudoit was a member of that team and is now an assistant coach for Baldwin High School.
The next Maui County team to advance to any Little League World Series did so Tuesday when Central East Maui beat Manhattan Beach, Calif., 12-4 to complete a 5-0 run through the Senior League Western Regional in Ontario, Calif. Central East Maui outscored five opponents 61-17 in the regional.
This CEM team has players from Baldwin, Maui, St. Anthony, Kamehameha Maui, Lahainaluna and King Kekaulike high schools.
“I think it will create a lot of camaraderie for the kids on this team,” Dudoit said Wednesday. “The (high school) rivalries will still be there, but everyone will gain mutual respect for each other. They will understand each other’s ways of playing on the field.
“Rather than it being just Maui High against Baldwin, Baldwin against Kamehameha – rivalries that are already there -they will gain that respect for each other on the field.”
Dudoit remembers his baseball summer for the ages vividly. Two years later, Molokai High won the Maui Interscholastic League baseball title for the first time.
“Playing against international teams stands out to me,” Dudoit said. “We were from Molokai back in 1987 and we didn’t know what these people looked like. We played against teams from Latin America, we played against teams from Europe, it was a fun experience.”
Dudoit, Billy and Benny Venenciano, Honda Paleka, Brian Takeo and Owen Yasso were the standouts for the Molokai team led by coaches Ken Nakayama and Masu Mizuno.
“A lot of us would never have traveled there were it not for baseball,” Dudoit said. “Those guys are my friends forever – that’s one of the advantages of playing baseball, the friendships, the trust that you gain.”
Central East Maui manager Lee Kashiwamura said the regional title had sunk in for him on Wednesday.
The Valley Isle team opens against Dumfries, Va., the Southeast U.S. champion, on Sunday at 2 p.m. HST at the World Series in Bangor, Maine.
“I think it has sunk in, a little bit,” Kashiwamura said. “I think it will sink in a lot more when we get to Maine.”
Maui trailed 4-0 through five innings against Manhattan Beach before scoring the final 12 runs of the game, including 10 in the top of the seventh.
Linden Kanamu pitched a six-hitter in the Western Regional final, allowing just two earned runs while striking out five batters and walking two. In a 5-0 semifinal win over Upland, Calif., Akoni Hamilton-Golis went the distance on the mound in a four-hitter with 11 strikeouts and no walks.
“Those two are our aces,”
Kashiwamura said. “Linden is No. 1 and Akoni is No. 2.”
This is one team now.
“These kids came together really well, they are jelling really good right now,” Kashiwamura said. “They are representing Hawaii, that’s their thing. They were representing the 96793 (Wailuku) and now they are representing the 808. It’s huge for them, they know they are making history. I hope all of their schools are proud of them.”
Kanamu said, “We are all really excited, this is what we have all been shooting for.”
MIL football coaches will have to wait for the services of Colby Tam of St. Anthony, Nawai Ah Yen of Baldwin, and Kristian Gilliland and Rylie Velez of Kamehameha Maui, among others.
Tam was one of eight players on this team last season when it lost in the state final to Pearl City, which then advanced to Bangor.
“That fired us up because we wanted to go up there,” Tam said. “We absolutely knew this was possible. We were kind of down when (Manhattan Beach) scored those four runs, but our coaches told us to stay up and be ourselves.”
Tam knows Dudoit, a former St. Anthony coach.
“I know coach Shane very well and I know he is proud of us,” Tam said.
Ah Yen said football can wait.
“We were practicing just a month ago on Maui and now we are here,” Ah Yen said. “It’s crazy. I was going to play football, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
* Robert Collias is firstname.lastname@example.org