Hilo Rides Early Lead to Victory at Kea’au
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by Josh Pacheco
Hilo High School opened up a big early lead over the Ke’aau Cougars, and held off a late rally to win 5-2, picking up their tenth league win of the season.
The Vikings opened up the game with a two-run first inning off of Adrian Huff, the Cougars started pitcher. Lead-off hitter Randall Iha got hit in the back of his left leg by a Huff curveball. Two batters later, after stealing second base, he crossed home plate on a Chayce Kaaua RBI base hit. Kaaua stole second as well, and later scored when Jodd Carter reached on an error by third baseman Maleko Remlinger.
Kea’au (5-7) had a chance to cut into that lead in the second, when Remlinger slapped the first pitch in the inning into center field. Two hitters later, Remlinger reached third when Keha Wong hit an infield single off of the glove of shortstop Chayce Kaaua, and trickled into right-center field. The Cougars tried to get creative to get Remlinger home, sending Wong to steal second base. Catcher Micah Kaaukai threw to second base, with no tag applied to Wong, as the focus turned to the runner trying to take home plate. The throw came home, and the tag was applied to Remlinger to record the second out of the inning. The Cougars would not score in the inning, keeping their deficit at two.
It was the third inning that broke the game open for the Vikings. Iha, Tyler Higa-Gonsalves, and Kaaua all reached base to start the inning, with Iha scoring on a Keenan Nishioka single. Higa-Gonsalves scored on a passed ball , and Kaaua came home on a Carter RBI groundout, opening the game up to a 5-0 lead.
Hilo’s bats quieted, as they were kept hitless through the final four innings of the game. The Cougars’ offense continued to get opportunities, including a chance gone awry in the fourth. Rason Martines reached on a one-out single, and Remlinger immediately reached after that on a four-pitch walk. Martines got to third base on a fielding error by second-baseman Iha on a check-throw to the base, and Remlinger moved to second on a stolen base. Konnor Kanetani tried to place a bunt down to bring a run home, but the bunt did not go more than three feet in front of home plate. Catcher Koa Matson came out to field it, then stepped back to swipe a tag on Martines coming home for the second out of the inning. Once again, the Cougars came up empty.
Kea’au finally hit the scoreboard in the fifth inning after Hilo’s defense faultered. Na’ali’i Kanakaole-Wong reached on an infield single. After Wong took second base on a wild pitch, Chance Harris dropped down a bunt to move the runner over, but with no one covering first base immediately, Harris was able to reach when the throw was dropped by first baseman Eli Cruz. Huff would bring Kanakaole-Wong home on a groundout, cutting the Vikings lead to four.
Things seemed to get stressful for Hilo coach Tony DeSa in the seventh, as reliever Cody Kaniho walked the first two men, Harris and Huff, after getting ahead with two strikes on each of the hitters. Jonathan Segovia then reached base on a single to load the bases with no one out in the inning. He didn’t seem so stressed about it when talking after the game, though.
“Well, I just had confidence in our guys that they were gonna make the plays. It’s one out at a time, and as long as the winning run stays off base, I’m pretty comfortable in our pitching to get some of those guys out,” said DeSa.
Kaniho rewarded his coach for his faith, picking up a strikeout of Rylan Martines. Rason Martines then hit a slow grounder to the left of the infield. Kaaua raced to the right of his shortstop position, threw on the run and gunned down Martines to pick up the out, allowing a run to score. More importantly, the tying run was kept off base, thanks to Kaaua’s pretty play.
“That was huge. He makes that play all the time in practice, but finally he got one during the game and he could actually talk about it,” said DeSa of Kaaua’s defensive gem.
The tying run did come to the plate with two out in the inning and two men on base, but Remlinger grounded to Kaaua, who threw him out at first base to end the game, with the Vikings winning 5-2.
Kian Kurokawa quietly threw 44 pitches over four innings to get the win for Hilo (10-3). Kurokawa struck out four and walked one while scattering three hits. Kaniho worked the final three innings, allowing two earned runs on thee hits, walking three and striking out one.
Huff (1-5) took the loss for Kea’au, allowing five runs, four of them earned, on four hits, striking out two and issuing two walks. Remlinger pitched the final two innings of hitless, scoreless baseball with only one walk allowed.
Kaaua led the Vikings’ offensive attack with two hits in four at-bats, scoring twice and driving in a run. Nishioka and Carter each picked up an RBI for the visitors. Segovia paired hits together in four at-bats for Kea’au, with RBI’s by Rason Martines and Huff.
Hilo 203 000 0 – 5 4 2
Kea’au 000 010 1 – 2 6 2
Division I Postseason Seedings Set
With one week left to go in the season, the pairings for the BIIF Division I tournament are set.
Waiakea has not lost a game yet this season, which has allowed them to lock down the top seed in the East Division. They will face the East’s third seed, Kea’au. Meanwhile, East second seed Hilo will take on the top seed, and only team out of the West, Kealakehe.
Semifinal games will be played on Friday, April 27, with the championship game the next night. All semifinal and championship games will be played at Hilo’s Wong Stadium.
The winner of the league tournament will get the only confirmed berth to the Wally Yonamine Foundation / HHSAA State Baseball Tournament in Honolulu. The runner-up will face the sixth-place team out of the OIA in a tournament play-in game. That game will be at Wong Stadium on Wednesday, May 2.