Central East Maui rallies to defeat Kawaihau 6-5
Valley Isle champs need to beat Honolulu twice today to win state crown
KIHEI– There was no sitting down in the dugout for the Central East Maui Little League All-Stars. Facing possible elimination, adrenaline was high during an exciting last few innings Monday.
After trailing by four runs, Central East Maui rallied to edge Kawaihau 6-5 in a nail-biter at the Hawaii State Little League Majors (10-12) State Tournament at Dorvin Leis Field at Kalama Park.
“It was kind of close. I feel like we need to start off like the way we ended the game. We have to start off with that fire and we just got to hit, we got hit,” CEM’s Koltyn Sergent said. “We got to thank our coaches, they tell us to have heart and if we play with heart, nothing can go wrong.”
The 12-year-old from Maui Waena Intermediate School said that no one was on the bench or messing around in the dugout toward the latter half of the game, but rather “were all up on the fence cheering our teammates on.”
“The game is never over until the last out is made,” said CEM coach Kris Sergent, who noted that Kauai’s three double plays on defense in the third, fourth and fifth innings kept the game close.
He applauded Maui’s youngsters for “playing with heart” and not allowing the deficit to discourage them.
Kai Watanabe was 3 for 4 with a double and three runs scored while Jayson Kahaleanu hit a leadoff triple and scored in the fifth inning. Koltyn Sergent finished 2 for 2.
Blaze Kahale threw five stellar innings of scoreless relief, surrendering three hits, two walks and a hit batsman with five strikeouts.
“He came in and played excellent,” Kris Sergent said of Kahale. “He shut them down and they didn’t score and that’s what kept us in the game and be able to come through at the end.”
Kawaihau led 5-1 after two innings and was hanging on to a 5-4 advantage with one out in the top of the sixth. With runners on second and third, Kawaihau intentionally walked Isaac Gosselin to load the bases.
Kahaleanu drove in Watanabe for the tying run with a sacrifice down the right field line.
Jayden Perry-Waikiki then drove in Kahale for the go-ahead run.
In the bottom half of the inning, Kawaihau got a runner in scoring position before Kahale forced a flyout by Takazee Thomas for the final out.
Kahale recalled “feeling pressure” when he went back to the mound in the sixth, but said he just had to “take a lot of breaths and slow the game down by slowing my motion.”
Rallying late in the game is nothing new for CEM, though, Watanabe said after leaving the dugout.
“In the fourth inning, since we only had six outs left, and then we just knew we had to chip away at them,” he said. “I think we’re going to be pretty good against Honolulu because we already played them, but I think we can beat them now that we’re all playing together, and we have heart.”
The first of two possible championship games today is at 10 a.m. CEM needs to beat Honolulu twice today to win the state title and the trip to regionals that goes with it.
In the teams’ first meeting Saturday, Honolulu edged Central 6-5.
“Honolulu is tough, but we like our chances,” Kris Sergent said. “We’re happy to be in the championship tomorrow and we’re ready to see what we can do. It’s all hands on deck from here on out.”
After Monday’s game, a sea of purple T-shirts worn by supportive families and fans gathered outside Kawaihau’s dugout.
Team manager John Melchor said he was proud of his players.
“These kids, they’re awesome,” Melchor said. “They played their best and they came out and put everything on the field.”
Bryden Salvador was 2 for 2 with one run and two RBIs, and Colten Dela Cruz and Kaiea Nishi both doubled and scored a run for Kawaihau.
“It was one tough game. Maui is a tough team– they hit the ball, they make the outs, pitching was good,” Melchor said. “Our boys fell short, but we’re damn proud of them.”
CEM players said they were playing for teammate George Dafun Jr., a center fielder who got injured a few days ago and cannot participate in the tournament, and they want to “make him proud.”
“We decided to play these last games and this tournament for him, and I think that kind of tied us together and pushed us over the edge and we finally come up with big hits when we needed to,” Kris Sergent said.
* Dakota Grossman is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Central East Maui 102 012–6 8 x
Kawaihau 140 000–5 7 x
Makana Cayan, Blaze Kahale (2) and Kai Watanabe. Kaitin Mundon, Colten Dela Cruz (3) and Kaikona Davis-Caberto.
Leading hitters–Central East Maui: Watanabe 3-4, 3 runs, 2B; Jayson Kahaleanu 3B, run; Koltyn Sergent 2-2. Kawaihau: Bryden Salvador 2-2, run, 2 RBIs; Dela Cruz 2B, run; Kaiea Nishi 2-2, run, 2B.