Kohala Wins Marathon Match to Advance to BIIF DII Semis
Coaches around the island have praised Kohala High School’s baseball program for the improved effort and skill shown this season around the diamond.
On Tuesday, the Cowboys picked up their biggest win in recent memory, a 12-9 roller-coaster victory over Honoka`a High School in the quarterfinal round of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II tournament.
Kohala (3-11 overall, 3-7 BIIF seeding) lost twice to Honoka`a in the regular season, including a 6-3 loss last Wednesday at Honoka`a Park that gave the Dragons the tiebreaker for the tournament’s fourth seed. Six days later at the same location, Kohala took advantage of nearly every break given to them to put pressure early and often on the fourth-seeded Dragons.
Honoka`a (3-13 overall, 3-11 BIIF overall, 2-8 BIIF seeding) threw Ikena Juan, a right hander who was slated to be the team’s ace, but struggled to find top-notch form in his four innings of work. Juan (0-5) threw seven wild pitches in the game, with three of them scoring runs. Two of them came in the first, scoring Chance Pang and Willy Perez, to put Kohala up 2-0 after the opening half-inning.
Juan appeared to turn things around in the second inning with a pair of strikeouts to Austin Racoma and Kahuliau Kaai, but the swinging third strike to Kaai got away from catcher Austin Jardine, allowing Kaai to reach base. Three batters later, Jeremiah Torres-Kanehailua grounded into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded, scoring Kaai to improve Kohala’s lead to 3-0.
The Dragons had their chances to answer Kohala’s offensive output against Kohala starter Casey Stevens, but the senior right-hander found a way out of each inning, stranding five on base through the first two innings to keep his team on top.
The Cowboys again stepped on the gas pedal in the third inning, opening the inning with a leadoff hit to Perez. The Kohala catcher later stole second base and then scored on Stevens’ RBI single to left field to give Kohala a 4-0 lead. Keanu Kainoa, who entered as a courtesy runner for Stevens, later scored on another wild pitch to push the lead to 5-0.
The game seemed to take a turn in the bottom of the third. Stevens allowed a base hit to Kazu Tolentino and followed it up with a hit-by-pitch to Kamaehu Richards, prompting second-year Kohala head coach Pono Nakamura to come out and call for junior Ricky Ching to replace him.
Ching, who was not available for the team all season long, was not able to silence the Dragons. He immediately allowed a sharp single to Jon Charbonneau to load the bases, followed by a bases-loaded walk to Robby Abran to score Tolentino, putting Honoka`a on the board. Ty Kauai followed with a two-run single to left field to cut the deficit to 5-3. Two batters later and the bases loaded, the Dragons executed a suicide squeeze to perfection, with Jeremy Charbonneau dropping a solid bunt to the right side of the infield that allowed Abran to score safely. Later, with two out, Austin Jardine singled to right field to score Juan, who reached on a single, to tie the game at five.
The momentum swing didn’t last long. Kohala quickly jumped right back on Juan, who threw 117 pitches in four innings. After a walk to Ching to lead off the inning, Pang hit a comebacker right to Juan, who decided to throw to second base to try to get the lead runner, but didn’t get the throw there in time, allowing everyone to be safe. Torres-Kanehailua walked to load the bases, and two batters later, Stevens came through with a two-run single to left to put Kohala back up 7-5. Kainalu Emeliano-Solomon followed with a deep double to left-center field that scored Emeliano-Solomon, extending the Cowboys’ lead to three runs after four innings.
Juan would not continue on the mound following four difficult innings of work. He threw seven wild pitches, hit a batter, and walked six batters, despite striking out six. He allowed eight earned runs on seven hits in the losing effort.
Freshman right-hander Jon Charbonneau came in to pitch in the fifth inning and got Ching to line out to shortstop Tolentino to open the fifth inning. From there, things went downhill. After hitting Chance Pang with a pitch, he gave Pang two bases on a throwing error when trying to pick him off of first base. Later in the inning, Pang scored on Charbonneau wild pitch to push the Kohala lead to 9-5.
The inning ended in strange fashion when Perez walked on a 3-1 pitch. The sophomore thought that he could catch Honoka`a napping by rushing over to second base, but Honoka`a caught on just in the nick of time, throwing him out to end the frame.
The Dragons tried to inch back in to the game with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Damien Kahulimoku scored when Jardine reached on a throwing error from shortstop Pang, cutting Kohala’s lead to 9-6.
Kohala pushed the lead back out with three more runs in the top of the sixth inning, however, to eventually take a six run lead, their biggest of the game. Stevens scored on a throwing error from Tolentino, who was trying to complete a double play, to give Kohala a 10-6 lead. Two batters later, Ching helped his cause with an RBI single to drive home Kainoa. Pang was next up, and he reached on an error at second base which allowed Daylyn Kupukaa to score, giving Kohala a 12-6 lead.
With emotions boiling in the Honoka`a dugout, the Dragons didn’t quit. Juan singled home two runs with two out in the sixth inning to get within four runs, 12-8.
As shadows started to set on the field and the sun started to hide behind the trees on the left side of the field, Honoka`a had one last chance to keep their season alive. Jardine did his best to get his team back in the game, driving a home run over the short porch in left field to cut the deficit to three runs. Ching would settle back down, however, inducing a groundout and an infield pop out to end the three hour, eleven minute thriller.
Ching picked up the win in his first game of the season. In five innings of work, he allowed eight runs, seven of them earned, on nine hits. He walked a batter, hit two more, and struck out three over 66 pitches. He also went 2-for-3 at the plate with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored.
Stevens took the no decision in his start on the mound but made up for it at the plate. He batted 2-for-4 with 3 RBI, two runs, and a hit-by-pitch.
In the losing effort, Kahulimoku batted 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Jardine also went 2-for-4 with a home run, two runs batted in, and a walk. Richards batted 2-for-3 with a double and was twice hit by a pitch. Juan batted 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI’s and a run scored.
Kohala will play for a spot in the state tournament when they take on top-seeded Kamehameha-Hawai`I on Friday at Wong Stadium. First pitch is slated for 1:30 p.m. The Warriors received the regular season championship via a tiebreaker, which prevented them from getting a state tournament berth.
In their only meeting of the season, Kamehameha-Hawai`I shut out Kohala 10-0 on March 19 at Kohala’s Kamehameha Park.
Kohala 212 313 0 – 12 10 2
Honoka`a 005 012 1 – 9 12 3
BIIF quarterfinal scoreboard
Hawai`i Preparatory Academy 22, Pahoa 3 (5 Innings)