Central East Maui wins Senior state title

Bubba Hoopii-Tuionetoa (center) celebrates with teammates after Central East Maui won the Hawaii State Little League Senior Division (15-16) title Monday with a 3-0 win over Pearl City in Hilo. MATT GERHART photo

The Maui News

Central East Maui won its third and fourth straight elimination games — 10-3 and 3-0 over Pearl City — on Monday to claim the Hawaii State Little League Senior Division (15-16) title at Wong Stadium in Hilo.

Central will seek its third West Regional title in the last four years in Sacramento, Calif., July 20-26. CEM competed in the Senior League World Series in Bangor, Maine, in 2014 and 2016.

Kaipo Haole went five innings on the mound, allowing three runs and three hits in the first game before Kevin Varner pitched two perfect innings of relief.

Bubba Hoopii-Tuionetoa went the distance in the second game, allowing six hits, striking out two and walking one.

Bobby Drayer led Central at the plate, going a combined 6-for-7 with two runs and two RBIs. He had an RBI double to put Maui ahead in the second game.

“It does say a lot about this group to win four elimination games in a row,” head coach Shane Awai said. “The first game we played we struggled a bit (in a 3-2 loss to Pearl City on Friday). We made some adjustments, did what we needed and came out ready to play. Today, the pitching and defense was huge.”

Central is the fourth Maui team to advance to the regional level so far this summer, joining the Maui Ponies and Palominos, and the Central East Maui Intermediate 50/70 squad.

Hoopii-Tuionetoa, Drayer, Jacob Chong, Tristan Andre, Micah Saki and Jyrah Lalim are returnees from last season’s World Series team.

“This just shows that the kids got character, when they’re down they have ‘Eye of the Tiger,’ “ Awai said. “They want to keep playing and fighting and fighting and fighting. They pick each other up — everything is all them.”