Cruz’s Walk-Off Caps Rally to Send Vikings to States
The Hilo High Vikings allowed Campbell High to rally back from a one run deficit in the top half of the seventh inning by scoring four runs to take a 5-2 lead going to the last half of the inning.
After the first two batters in the seventh were retired, five consecutive batters reached base, capped off by Eli Cruz’s bloop single to right field, scoring Tyler Higa to send the Vikings to the Wally Yonamine Foundation / Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I Baseball Tournament, knocking off Campbell 6-5 in front of 250 fans at Wong Stadium.
Campbell (8-7) scored early on Hilo starter Kian Kurokawa, plating a run in the very first inning. Don Gallano started the game with a sharp single to left field. After stealing second, he moved to third on a Kaeo Kapana groundout, and would score in the next at-bat when Rayven Kahana hit a ground ball out to shortstop Chayce Kaaua.
Hilo (13-5) took the lead for the first time in the fifth inning. With one out, pinch hitter Pat Tsue reached base on a throwing error by Sabers shortstop Dylan Ramie. After Randall Iha sacrificed him over to second base, Kaaua roped a double up the left field line to bring Tsue home to tie the game. Campbell starter Jasten Smeigh struggled to recover, walking Keenan Nishioka and giving up a single to Koa Matson to load the bases. The next batter, Jodd Carter, forced a walk to score Kaaua, giving Hilo a 2-1 lead.
At this point, Kurokawa was cruising. After allowing Kaeo Kapana to reach on an error, he retired the next nine batters he faced, taking him all the way into the seventh inning, where that streak ended with a walk to Kahana. After a fly out by Cole Nagamine, Paul Arakaki singled to put two on base, and chase Kurokawa from the game.
Sophomore Jodd Carter entered the contest, and after throwing a wild pitch to move both runners into scoring position, Smiegh was walked intentionally to load the bases. Jaris Flora couldn’t capitalize, striking out looking to record the second out. But, Cody Silver came through with a two-run double to score Kahana and Arakaki, giving Campbell a 3-2 lead. The next batter, pinch hitter Waylen Lindsey, hit a single through to center field to score courtesty runner Zachary Recolan and Silver to extend the lead to 5-2. Lindsey was tagged out trying to get to second base on the play, ending the inning.
Gallano entered the game to earn the save for the Sabers. Coming into the contest, Gallano had not allowed an earned run all season, and it seemed like that was going to hold up after he retired the first two batters in only six pitches. But, with a 1-0 count on Koa Matson, Gallano gave him a fastball, and Matson ripped it into the left-center field gap to get to second base. After advancing to third on a Gallano wild pitch, Carter bounced a single through the middle of the diamond to score Matson and cut the deficit to two.
Gallano’s frustration seemed to set in at this point. On a 1-0 pitch, Gallano plunked Micah Kaaukai on his left arm with a fastball to put two runners on base. The next batter, Tyler Higa, took a 3-0 fastball and drove it deep to left-center field, out of the reach of center fielder Arakaki, scoring Carter and Kaaukai to tie the game. A throwing error by Ramie, his third error of the game, allowed Higa to get to third as his relay to the plate was wide of home plate.
The next batter, Cruz, flared his 2-2 pitch into shallow right field. Second baseman Wesley Mendoza, dove out to his right to try to make the catch, but the ball was out of his reach. Higa scored, and the Vikings spilled out into a mob in front of the mound to celebrate their state tournament berth.
Carter (1-1) picked up the win after blowing the save opportunity in the seventh. He pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowing two runs on two his with a strikeout and a walk. Hilo’s starter, Kurokawa, allowed three runs on three hits.
The loss went to Gallano (0-1), who in his two-thirds of an inning of work, allowed the final four runs to score on four hits with one hit batter. Smeigh allowed only two runs, one of them earned, on six hits, striking out two and walking one while hitting a batter.
All five hits for the Sabers were scattered across five different players. Waylen Lindsey and Cody Silver each drove in two runs, while Kahana had an RBI on a ground out.
Koa Matson went 2-for-4 for Hilo with a double and a run scored. Jodd Carter paired singles in three at-bats with two RBI’s, a stolen base, and a walk, and Tyler Higa got hits in his final two plate appearances, going 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and a run scored.
Hilo will join Big Island Interscholastic Federation Champion Waiakea next week at the state baseball tournament at Les Murakami Stadium in Oahu. The tournament field is expected to be released Thursday.
Campbell 100 000 4 – 5 5 3
Hilo 000 020 4 – 6 10 2