BANGOR, Maine — Cody Hirano enjoys a love-hate relationship of sorts with Senior League baseball coaches throughout the western United States and now around the world.
His head coach, Alex Takemura, loves the second baseman and leadoff hitter, while opponents hate having to deal with Hirano’s speed and guile atop the Pearl City, Hawaii, batting order.
Hirano displayed that game in front of the home team at Mansfield Stadium on Thursday, reaching base in all four plate appearances and scoring four runs as the Hawaiians defeated Bangor 11-1 to end the Maine District 3 champion’s run at the Senior League World Series.
The game ended in the bottom of the fifth inning under the 10-run rule.
“I just think of any way to get on so my teammates can score me,” said Hirano.
Hirano found three ways to reach base against Bangor, beating out an infield single to shortstop, laying a bunt single down the third-base line and walking twice.
And each time he reached base, he came around to score, aided by two stolen bases.
“He makes my job a lot easier when he gets on base,” said Takemura. “He’s very patient, and he and I have been on the same page from start to finish, so it’s been really fun. He’s definitely very valuable.”
Hirano’s work in the batter’s box and on the basepaths helped Pearl City finish first among the five Pool A teams with a 4-0 record. The U.S. West champions will face the Pool B runner-up — which will be determined after Thursday’s late game between 3-0 Chitre, Herrera, Panama, and 2-1 Laredo, Texas — in an 11:30 a.m. semifinal Friday.
“The championship is definitely within our reach, it’s in our sights,” said Takemura. “But at the same time, we try to take every pitch as it comes, every swing as it comes, and make no pitch or swing more important than the next.”
Bangor finished pool play with a 2-2 record.
“We needed some things to work out perfectly to come out on top today, and unfortunately they didn’t,” said Bangor head coach Barrett Dionne. “Again we had runners on base like we have the whole tournament, but we were a couple of timely hits away from keeping the game close.”
Tyler Kushima required only 59 pitches in an abbreviated complete-game effort on the mound for Pearl City, as the right-hander struck out three batters, walked one, hit one and yielded just a third-inning home run to Bangor’s Jordan Derrah — the first homer of this year’s SLWS.
“My slider started to get better during the game, toward the end,” said Kushima.
Kaulaiola Takemura added two singles, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and two runs scored to Pearl City’s eight-hit attack while Kushima, Matt Tsutomi, Sanyo Lo and Shaye Higa each had two RBIs.
The Hawaiian team also benefitted from 10 walks and two hit batters allowed by Bangor’s pitchers.
Pearl City jumped ahead immediately, putting its first five batters of the game on base while taking a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
Hirano beat out an infield hit to shortstop, and Takemura lined a single to right-center before Tsutomi, Lo and Kushima drew consecutive walks to force home two runs. A sacrifice fly to left by Higa plated Tsutomi with the final run of the inning.
Bangor loaded the bases against Kushima with one out in the top of the second on a double to left-center by Justin Courtney, a hit batter and a walk, but the Hawaiian hurler escaped unscathed with a strikeout and an inning-ending foul out.
The Hawaiians added two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Nicholas Au hit a leadoff double to deep left, advanced to third on a bunt single by Hirano and scored on a wild pitch. Hirano, who had stolen second base before taking third on the wild pitch, scored to make it 5-0 when Takemura singled to left.
Bangor finally broke through against Kushima with one swing of the bat, as Derrah blasted a first-pitch fastball over the left-field fence to draw the Maine District 3 champions within 5-1 in the top of the third.
Bangor strung together a pair of hits for the first time an inning later, with Trevor DeLaite hitting a one-out single to center and Nick Moore followed with a single to right.
But Ryan Brookings then hit a hard shot toward third base that Lo turned into an inning-ending 5-3 double play.
Tsutomi singled home Hirano in the bottom of the fourth to extend the Pearl City lead to 6-1.
Bangor threatened again in the top of the fifth when Kyle Stevenson grounded a leadoff single to left and Hillier reached on a one-out single to shortstop.
This time Derrah hit a chopper to Pearl City shortstop Takemura near second base, and he stepped on the bag and threw to first for another inning-ending double play.
The Hawaiians ended the game with five runs in the bottom of the inning, capitalizing on four walks, two hit batters, a double by Brandon Henderson and a sacrifice fly by Higa that drove home Tsutomi with the final run.