Waiakea Holds Off Hilo to Earn State Baseball Berth
Another chapter of the Hilo/Waiakea baseball series is in the books, and just like many meetings before it, this game created a buzz that isn’t often found in other league contests.
Friday night’s game featured long umpire meetings, coaching disagreements, defensive highlights and lowlights, and a lively crowd at Wong Stadium in Hilo.
In the end, Waiakea held off a late rally from Hilo, leaving the tying and go-ahead runs on base to secure a 5-4 victory.
With the win, Waiakea clinched the outright Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I regular season championship and earned a spot in next month’s Wally Yonamine Foundation/Hawai’i High School Athletic Association Boys Baseball Championships, held on Maui.
Waiakea (11-1) got an early jump on Hilo starter Donald Saltiban, a right-handed sophomore hurler in Tony De Sa’s deep pitching rotation. Nathan Minami and Taylor Mondina reached base on singles. Next up was Makoa Andres, who reached base on an error by Viking third baseman Josiah Factora, scoring Minami.
The next play was debated for what seemed like an eternity. Gehrig Octavio grounded to second baseman Stone Miyao, whose flip to shortstop Joey Jarneski at the base was ruled an error. Mondina attempted to score, and was ruled safe by the home plate umpire, despite not touching home plate as Jarneski’s throw went up the third base line. Catcher Josh Breitbarth then attempted to get Joey Ongais, Andres’ courtesy runner, on a throw at third base, but it sailed into left field, bringing another run home.
De Sa immediately came out to argue at least one of the sequences of the play, and later, Waiakea coach Rory Inouye had his own argument. According to Waiakea athletic director and BIIF baseball coordinator Tommy Correa, interference was called on Mondina after scoring, which forced the errant throw by Breitbarth and created the second out of the inning. However, no one was taken off of the bases that would represent the second out.
Additionally, Ongais’ run didn’t count since the play was called dead upon interference. He was returned to second base and Octavio, the hitter that started it all, was placed at first.
Saltiban (2-1) eventually got out of the inning by forcing a flyout to center field by Shaun Kurosawa on the very next pitch, keeping Waiakea to just two runs in the bottom of the first.
The pressure mounted in the second inning against Saltiban, who loaded the bases with a pair of singles and an error by Factora. Two bases-loaded walks to Mondina and Andres added to the Waiakea lead and chased Saltiban from the game after an 1 2/3 innings.
Saltiban allowed four runs on four hits in just 42 pitches. Three of the runs were unearned.
The play of the game may have come from Hilo’s defense to keep the game relatively close. Down 4-0, Hilo reliever Brett Komatsu came in to get the final out of the second, and induced a tough fly ball to center field. Micah Bello laid out to make a diving catch, keeping potentially two more runs from scoring.
Komatsu gave Hilo 2 1/3 innings of relief, allowing a run on three hits. The run came in the third inning when Waiakea’s Mackanzy Maesaka laced a double up the left field line, scoring Jaron Kawaguchi to push the home team’s lead to 5-0 after the three innings.
Andres (4-0) was steady on the mound for Waiakea, a month removed from his no-hitter against Hilo in the rivals’ first meeting. After throwing 20 pitches in the first inning, he settled down in the game’s middle innings, giving up a hit in each frame, but finding a way out of it.
Waiakea’s defense had miscues of its own, however, to complicate matters for Andres. In the fifth, Nathan Minami dropped a fly ball in right field, allowing Bud Cox to reach base. After a walk to Miyao, Noah Higa-Gonsalves reached on an error when Guy Yokoe misplayed a fly ball to left field. Jarneski singled home Boston Carbaloc, Cox’s pinch runner, and Ragual brought in Miyao on an infield single to cut the Warriors’ lead to 5-2.
Hilo (9-3) put pressure on Andres in the seventh. Factora drew a one-out walk, and Ragual drove him in with a double to left field. After Andres struck out Bello, Austin Damate Aina roped a double down the right field line, bringing Ragual home to cut the score to 5-4.
Inouye came out of the dugout and appeared ready to give the ball to David Nakamura in a save situation, but it appeared that Maesaka, Waiakea’s catcher, pleaded with his coach to give Andres one more shot to get the final out, which Inouye agreed to. It backfired, however, as pinch hitter Chase Costa-Ishii singled sharply to left field to put the tying run at third base.
Nakamura (1) would get the call and did his job, striking out Cox on a 3-2 changeup to start the Warriors’ celebration.
Andres would get the win, allowing four runs, two of them unearned, on nine hits with five strikeouts and three walks. He threw 105 pitches.
Mondina finished the game batting 1-for-2 for Waiakea with two runs batted in. Maesaka went 1-for-3 with an RBI.
Cox hit 2-for-4 for Hilo, while Ragual batted 2-for-3 with 2 RBI and a walk. Jarneski also paired hits, going 2-for-4 at the plate with an RBI.
Waiakea earned the top seed in next week’s BIIF semifinals, while Hilo is seeded second. Both teams will host the first game of the three-game semifinal series on April 15 at 3 p.m.
Hilo 000 020 2 – 4 9 4
Waiakea 221 000 x – 5 7 3