Konawaena Outlasts Hilo in Home Run Friendly Showdown
Kealakekua’s Gabby Inaba Field played host to a scene not normally seen in high school baseball.
With occasionally gusty winds blowing out, coupled with short dimensions in left and right field, Hilo and Konawaena combined to hit four home runs Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats pulled out the 8-5 win, handing Hilo its first loss in Big Island Interscholastic Federation play.
Hilo (6-4-1 overall, 1-1 BIIF) didn’t take long to unleash its power bats. Konawaena starting pitcher Shelton Grace retired the first two hitters he faced in the opening inning, but walked Jodd Carter to extend the frame. Jalen Carvalho drilled a ground-rule double over the center field fence, holding Carter at third base. Noah Serrao followed with a three-run homer over the left-center field fence, which measures just over 312 feet, to put Hilo on top 3-0.
Konawaena (7-3-1, 2-1) cut into the lead against opposing starter Conrad Kaufmann. Freshman Vohn Yamaguchi was hit by a pitch in the back of his leg to open the bottom of the first, but he was quickly picked off of first base.
Two batters later, Royce Torres-Torioka was hit by another Kaufmann pitch. Kaufmann would try to erase him off of first, too, but his errant throw to first allowed Torres-Torioka to move up to second base. Another pickoff attempt, this time at second base, also failed, allowing Torres-Torioka to steal third base. That allowed Evyn Yamaguchi, the Wildcats’ captain, to bring him on an a base hit.
Konawaena’s offense lit up Kaufmann in the next inning. Grace led off with a single, but was caught trying to steal second. Koa Basque reached base on a walk and Kelsey Katayama followed with a single. The younger Yamaguchi brought Basque home with a single to left field to trim Hilo’s lead to 3-2.
Two batters late, Torres-Torioka drilled a two-run double over the head of Hilo center fielder Carter, scoring Katayama and Vohn Yamaguchi to give Konawaena 4-3 lead. Moments later, Torres-Torioka stole third base and scored when Hilo catcher Josh Breitbarth sailed his throw over third base and into left field.
Kaufmann would not finish the second inning after allowing one more blow, a solo home run by Evyn Yamaguchi over the left-center field fence to give Konawaena a 6-3 lead.
“I can’t say enough about the guy,” said Konawaena coach Dave Distel after the game. “He’s my main guy. He called (the game), and then he hits the long home run and gets another base hit.”
Kaufmann took the loss, allowing six runs, five of them earned, on six hits with three walks and one hit batter. He threw just 56 pitches.
Offense quickly took a back seat once Carvalho took the pitcher’s mound for Hilo, replacing Kaufmann. He walked Zane Grey and hit Kea Miyahira-Young, but got out of the second by striking out Grace. The punch-out started a string of nine straight batters retired by the senior, who struck out six and walked two, but didn’t allow a hit or a run in three and-a-third innings.
Grace settled in after the rough first inning, striking out five batters in the next three innings. He allowed just one walk and two hits during that span. He ran into some trouble in the fifth when Carvalho laced a home run over the 300 foot sign down the right field line, scoring Micah Kaaukai to cut Konawaena’s lead to 6-5.
Grace would not return after getting out of the fifth. He did pick his first win in three decisions, however, allowing five earned runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
“Today, he naybe went a little over his pitch limit and his arm went really tired on him,” Distel said. “He wanted to stay in and I said ‘Really?’ and he said no.” The Wildcats coach noted that Grace couldn’t play third because of the long throw across the diamond so he moved him to second base.
Carter took the mound for Hilo in the sixth inning and struggled to get out of it after two outs. After walking sophomore Logan Canda, Torres-Torioka hit a two-run homer to push Konawaena’s lead to 8-5.
Grey replaced Grace on the mound in the sixth inning and kept Hilo from scoring, setting the stage up for Canda, who already had two saves on the season. The right-hander struggled, walking Isaiah Banasan-Vincent and allowing him to move to second on a throwing error.
Two batters later, Carter hit a bouncer that was knocked down by Jordan Miyahira-Young at third base. Miyahira-Young got up with the baseball and started a brief rundown with Banasan-Vincent, erasing the lead runner from the bases while allowing Carter to reach first base with two out.
Canda couldn’t complete the save, however. With a 2-2 count to Carvalho, Canda hit him near his knee with a pitch to keep the game alive. Jordan Miyahira-Young took over on the mound and had Serrao down to his last strike, but another hit batter loaded the bases for Noah Higa-Gonsalves.
Miyahira-Young induced a ground ball to Kea Miyahira-Young at first base, who darted to his right and fired a throw to his brother who covered first to end the game.
“Great team effort,” said Distel after the game. “It’s one of those games that’s really fun when you’re a manager because you actually have to manage, and we used a lot of strategy.”
Evyn Yamaguchi, the Wildcats’ senior catcher, batted 3-for-4 with a pair of singles and runs batted in to go along with his first home run of the season. Torres-Torioka batted 2-for-3 with three runs scored.
Carvalho and Serrao carried the offensive load for Hilo, combining to get six of the team’s seven hits. Carvalho finished a triple shy of the cycle, batting 3-for-3. Serrao also went 3-for-3, picking up a pair of singles to go along with his first inning home run.
Hilo 300 020 0 – 5 7 2
Konawena 150 002 x – 8 8 1