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CEMLL falls short, Honolulu wins title

Honolulu Little League players and coaches celebrate after winning the Hawaii State Little League Majors (10-12) state championship Tuesday with a 9-0 victory over Central East Maui on Tuesday afternoon at Dorvin Leis Field. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

KIHEI– Despite falling short in a doubleheader for the Hawaii State Little League Majors (10-12) State Tournament title, the Central East Maui Little League All-Stars held their heads high.

CEMLL defeated Honolulu 6-1 Tuesday morning at Dorvin Leis Field at Kalama Park to force a winner-take-all second game, but lost 9-0 in the afternoon to give the state title to their Oahu counterparts.

“It was hard because we put a lot of effort, a lot of work in and we told them to keep their heads up, you know, and you just have to use this to grow and learn from and hopefully this will give them fire to keep going and keep fighting,” CEM manager Kurt Watanabe said. “Some stuff didn’t go our way– Honolulu played a great game, made all the plays and made their hits when they needed to.”

After not being able to compete last year due to COVID-19, the players and coaches were happy to be back on the field with their friends, families and fans in the bleachers.

“It was great to see all the fans and hear all the noise. I wish we could have won it for them but I still appreciate everybody for coming out to support us,” Watanabe said. “Some of the joys of playing at home is you get the home crowd.”

Central East Maui players applaud for the Honolulu team as it receives its championship pins Tuesday.

After the final ceremonies, CEM pitcher Jayden Perry-Waikiki said “it was a pretty good experience at the tournament, I feel like the team did what they could and tried their best.”

One thing that the 12-year-old from Kamehameha Schools Maui learned from the season was to “not take anything for granted and go for what you can,” he said.

Watanabe added that Perry-Waikiki “pitched a great game” Tuesday morning when he struck out nine in five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, a walk and hit batsman. Jayson Kahaleanu hit a double, scored a run and drove in another.

In the second game, Kahaleanu started on the mound and pitched four innings, giving up four runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four. Issac Gosselin was 2 for 3 with a double.

Watanabe said that “everybody left it on the field” but essentially “we got outplayed in the end.”

Central East Maui manager Kurt Watanabe hugs Caleb Imamura after Tuesday’s second game. Watanabe hugged each player after their name was called to take the field during post-game ceremonies.

In the opening game, Central East Maui struck first with three runs in the bottom of the second inning, which included Caleb Imamura’s run-scoring bullet into center field. CEM tacked on three more runs in the third as Perry-Waikiki held Honolulu scoreless.

Honolulu, which beat CEM 6-5 earlier in the tournament and had been 3-0 going into Tuesday, got its lone run of the first game off reliever Kyne Fujioka in the sixth, and the teams then prepared for the decisive rematch.

The second game started one hour later, and Honolulu got right to work, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. A five-run fifth put the Oahu team up 9-0 heading into the final inning, and CEM’s attempt to rally under the hot sun and in gusty winds ended with Honolulu pitcher Micah Bennett capping his complete-game shutout with his seventh strikeout.

Ryan Keanu homered and finished 2 for 3 with three runs for Honolulu. Kekoa Payanal tripled, Kamau Passi drove in two runs and Cade Nakama hit a double among his team’s 11 hits.

Honolulu manager Brandon Sardinha said he was anticipating that it would take two games Tuesday to win the state championship because “Maui is a tough team.”

CEM’s Jayden Perry-Waikiki releases a pitch in the second inning of the first game.

Honolulu now has its sights set on regionals in San Bernardino, Calif., next month.

“I was happy for the kids and all their hard work– it’s been a long grind for them– and it’s a relief for us coaches to get through this level and make it to the next level,” Sardinha said.

* Dakota Grossman is at dgrossman@mauinews.com

CENTRAL EAST MAUI 6, HONOLULU 1

GAME 1

CEM’s Blaze Kahale hits a fifth-inning single in front of Honolulu catcher Coen Sardinha in the second game.

Honolulu 000 001–1 5 x

Central East Maui 033 00x–6 3 x

Ryan Keanu, Pele Payanal (4) and Chasen Uyetake, Coen Sardinha (5). Jayden Perry-Waikiki, Kyne Fujioka (6) and Kai Watanabe.

Leading hitters–Central East Maui: Jayson Kahaleanu 2B, run, RBI.

HONOLULU 9, CENTRAL EAST MAUI 0

Home plate umpire Jaime Perez calls CEM’s Issac Gosselin safe as Honolulu catcher Chasen Uyetake looks toward the field in the first game. The longtime Maui umpire recently moved to California, but was on island to help call games during the tournament.

GAME 2

Honolulu 201 150–9 11 x

Central East Maui 000 000–0 6 x

Micah Bennett and Chasen Uyetake, Coen Sardinha (4). Jayson Kahaleanu, Devyn Lee Rosaga (5), Logan Bolduc (5) and Kai Watanabe.

Leading hitters–Honolulu: Ryan Keanu 2-3, 3 runs, RBI, HR; Kamau Passi 2-4, run, 2 RBIs; Kekoa Payanal 2-4, 2 runs, 3B; Cade Nakama run, RBI, 2B; Pele Payanal 2-4, run, RBI. Central East Maui: Issac Gosselin 2-3, 2B.

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