Waiakea Holds Off Hilo to Claim BIIF #1 Seed
Late-inning dramatics are commonplace when Hilo and Waiakea get together at Wong Stadium. Friday night was no exception.
Despite losing leads on two different occasions, the Waiakea Warriors came up with clutch hitting in the final inning, defeating Hilo 8-6 to claim at least a share of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I regular season championship.
Waiakea (10-3 overall, 7-1 BIIF) clinched the top seed in the league tournament. It can clinch the outright regular season championship and a state tournament berth with a win over Pahoa on Wednesday.
In order for Waiakea to pull out the win, it had to turn away any thoughts of doubt after losing a late lead and falling to Kea’au High School on Tuesday. Fortunately for the Warriors, they knew how to swing the momentum back in their favor quickly.
“After losing to Kea’au, we looked back at the game and we saw a lot of flaws and things that we really needed to work on,” said first year Waiakea coach Rory Inouye. “In the two days between Kea’au and today, we worked hard at practice. We worked on all the little things. It came down to a tight game today and we made the plays and the kids earned it.”
Waiakea held a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the fourth inning. The first of those runs came in the second frame when a throwing error to first base by Hilo starting pitcher Josiah Factora allowed Anthony Benevides to score. In the next inning, Factora walked four batters, including the bases-loaded base-on-balls to Ryder Oshiro that scored Nathan Minami. And in the fourth, two walks and a single loaded the bases for Taylor Mondina, who laced a double to left, scoring Gehrig Octavio, Minami, and Caleb Freitas-Fields.
Hilo (6-8, 4-3) woke up in the home half of the frame, putting up four consecutive hits against Freitas-Fields, who picked up a no decision after four innings of work. In that hitting stretch, Factora clubbed a triple to straightaway center field, scoring Nick Antony, and Micah Bello followed with an RBI single to chase Factora home.
Freitas-Fields didn’t help his chances. Two batters later, he fielded a ground ball to the left of the mound from Noah Higa-Gonsalves. He looked to first base, but decided to throw home to gun down Bello. His throw was wide of Octavio, allowing two runs to score, including Ryan Ragual, to tie the game at 5-5.
Momentum was turned back in the Warriors’ direction in the sixth. Mondina led off with a triple to right field off of reliever Kaiden Cox, aided by Factora’s failed attempt to dive to make a catch near the foul line. Three batters later, Inouye called on David Nakamura out of the dugout to pinch hit for Ryder Oshiro, and the decision paid off. Nakamura singled off of Hilo’s Joey Jarneski into right field, scoring Mondina to put Waiakea back on top 6-5.
“The kids put up quotes around the dugout about ‘it’s how you rise after you fall that defines you’ so the kids were really motivated to get this win today,” Inouye explained.
A wacky play in the bottom half of the sixth involving an umpire took center stage. With runners at first and second with two out, Makoa Andres induced a ground ball by RJ Ragual that was heading toward the shortstop position. Before the ball got to Mondina at shortstop, however, the bounding ball struck base umpire Jerry Coloma in his left leg, sending him down to the ground. Courtesy runner Ryan Ragual initially scored on the play.
Home plate umpire Ron Gauthier, however, signaled that play was dead as soon as the ball hit his fellow umpire. According to Thomas Correa, Waiakea Athletic Director and the BIIF Baseball Coordinator, the rulebook states that if the base umpire is standing in front of the runners, as Coloma was in this case, the play immediately ends and everyone is awarded one base. If Coloma was behind the baserunners, the ball would have been live.
Instead of Ryan Ragual scoring, he was sent back to third base, and the bases were loaded with two out. He would eventually score on a walk to Noah Serrao, and the game was tied again at 6-6.
Hilo’s defense was its biggest enemy in the seventh. A throwing error by Higa-Gonsalves at second base allowed Trevor Shimokusu to reach base on a ground ball and advance to second. After a walk to Nathan Minami, Jarneski induced a line drive to shortstop from Freitas-Fields. Factora was playing at the position and watched the ball bounce off of his glove and fall into left-center field. The error scored Shimokusu to put Waiakea ahead 7-6.
Two batters later, Andres helped his own cause, drilling a double to left-center field to score courtesy runner Jaron Kawaguchi to add a key insurance run.
Andres (3-0) saved his best stuff for the end. After giving up a walk to Factora, he struck out Bello, Josh Breitbarth, and Austin Aina to end the game and clinch the top seed in the BIIF tournament.
“He works hard,” said Inouye of his relief pitcher. “We tell him all the time that this is where the hard work is going to pay off. As a sophomore, he knows how much talent he has. It’s just getting him to see how much potential he has and how far he can go, and I think he’s reaping the benefits of working hard at practice and being there.”
Andres blew the save in the sixth inning, but picked up the win in the end, walking three and striking out four in an inning-and-two thirds. He was also 1-for-3 at the plate with a walk and an RBI.
Jarneski (1-1) picked up the loss in an inning-and-two-thirds of relief, allowing two unearned runs on three hits with a walk and three hit batters. At the plate, he walked all four times up, three of them intentionally.
Both starting pitchers struggled with control, which is why the game ended up in the hands of each bullpen. Hilo’s Factora walked seven in three-and-a-third innings of work, and Cox followed with three more walks in an inning-and-two-thirds. In total, Hilo pitches walked 11 batters.
On the other side, Freitas-Fields went four innings, walking five and allowing five runs on five hits. Three of the runs were earned. Calvin Uemura followed, walking two and allowing a run on a hit in four outs.
Minami bated 2-for-3 for Waiakea with a pair of singles and walks. Mondina batted 3-for-3 with a single, double, triple, walk, and a hit by pitch.
Hilo’s batting order was pushed by Factora, who hit 2-for-2 with a single, triple, and two walks. Costa-Ishii batted 2-for-3 with a pair of base hits.
While Waiakea has one more game left in the season, Hilo has two more to try to get out of the bottom of the Division I standings. The Vikings visit Kamehameha-Hawai’i on Wednesday and Kealakehe on Saturday. Wednesday’s game can be heard at ESPNHawaii.com.
Waiakea 011 301 2 – 8 7 1
Hilo 001 401 0 – 6 7 3
Friday’s BIIF baseball scoreboard
Waiakea, 8, Hilo 6
Kea’au 10, Pahoa 2
Kealakehe 11, Honoka’a 10
Konawaena 7, Kohala 6
BIIF Baseball Standings
Hawai’i Preparatory Academy 1-6