Waiakea Clinches BIIF Championship in Classic Series
Monday wasn’t just another rivalry baseball game between Hilo and Waiakea.
A near-capacity crowd at Wong Stadium saw the final game of a three-game Big Island Interscholastic Federation Championship Series, with every detail magnified in a contentious, classic baseball game.
At the end of the day, Waiakea made the right moves at the right time. Head coach Rory Inouye called on pinch-hitter Anthony Benevides in the bottom of the fifth inning, and his right-handed hitter came through with the go-ahead RBI single, propelling the Warriors to a 4-3 win over Hilo, claiming the overall BIIF Division I championship.
Benevides came up with a clutch at-bat in game two, driving in the go-ahead run on a ground ball that was booted by Hilo’s Ryan Ragual in the eighth inning on Saturday. Waiakea won that game 4-1.
In game three, Benevides came up with Gehrig Octavio and second base and one out. Facing a 1-2 count, Benevides slashed a single to left field, bringing Octavio home to put the Warriors ahead for good.
“Towards the ending of the season, he struggled a little bit,” Inouye said. “We just encouraged him to keep working at practice, get him at-bats throughout the game, and today, he came up clutch.”
Inouye also found the right time to bring Makoa Andres back on the mound in a close game. Andres (5-1), who took the complete game loss in game one, struggled early, allowing a game-tying single to Hilo pinch-hitter Austin Damate Aina in the fifth, scoring Micah Bello, but settled down shortly after that, striking out two in 2 1/3 innings of relief to get the victory.
“His fastball looked pretty good tonight,” Inouye explained. “His curveball, some of them were shaky and some of them were sharp, but he had two days rest. Going into the state tournament, he wanted the ball tonight. Going to the state tournament, you can’t ask for anything else from your ace.
Waiakea (15-2) starter Reese Mondina seemed to find himself in early trouble, allowing a leadoff walk to Noah Higa-Gonsalves, who was later picked off base, and a single to Joey Jarneski. Josiah Factora followed with a deep double to left field, but Inouye came out and questioned whether the bat used by Factora was legal.
After a lengthy debate, which included a pine tar test of the bat at home plate, Factora was called out, and eventually, the Warriors got out of the inning without allowing a run.
“Mr. [Tommy] Correa always tells me that knowing the rulebook will win us the game. We just look for any way that the rulebook can help us,” Inouye stated. “We saw it a while back. We were just lucky that we could use it in a big critical situation.
“I hate to do that to their players. It’s a technicality. Their kids played hard. The kid did a great job and got a great hit, but for my team, it’s knowing the rule book and giving my kids every opportunity to succeed.”
While Inouye’s decision to go to the rule book wasn’t popular with at least half of the vocal baseball crowd in attendance at Wong Stadium, it was a momentum changer that carried over into the bottom of the first inning. His first four batters reached base against Hilo starter Noah Kalaola-Richardson, who failed to get an out after throwing just 16 pitches, allowing a hit and two walks.
Taylor Mondina got Waiakea on the board with an RBI single to score Nathan Minami, and Octavio drove in Trayden Tamiya on a sacrifice fly, giving the Warriors a 2-0 advantage after the first inning.
Hilo (12-5) fought back in the third inning with a sacrifice fly RBI from Micah Bello, scoring Jarneski. Waiakea came back in the bottom half of the inning when Mackanzy Maesaka drove home Taylor Mondina on an RBI single. Shaun Kurosawa was gunned down at home plate on the same play, but Waiakea had opened back up a two-run lead at 3-1.
Factora battled back in the fourth with a two-out RBI single into center field, scoring Jarneski to get the Vikings back within a run. Despite the bat issue in the first inning, Factora batted 3-for-4 with a stolen base. Jarneski was also 3-for-4 with a stolen base and two runs scored.
Donald Saltiban (2-2) replaced Kalaola-Richardson on the mound and battled through 4 1/3 innings, but suffered the loss, allowing two runs and two hits with five walks and two strikeouts. Ragual got the final five outs of the game.
Reese Mondina, the game two winner, pitched the first two innings, allowing a run on four hits and three walks, before turning the ball over to Dillon-Jon Gabriel. He pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and two walks while allowing two runs.
Both teams will be on Maui next week for the Wally Yonamine Foundation/Hawai’i High School Athletic Association Division I State Baseball Championship. Hilo will open the tournament on Wednesday, May 4, while Waiakea earned the first round bye and will play on Thursday, May 5.
Hilo 001 110 0 – 3 10 2
Waiakea 201 010 x – 4 4 1