KS-Hawai’i One Step Closer to Elusive State Title
Tai Atkins knew that Friday night’s start would be his last of the season, and he didn’t want to leave anything on the field.
Atkins struck out 13 batters in 6 2/3 innings, allowing a run on just three hits while walking three and hitting a batter, and Kamehameha-Hawai’i backed him up with nine runs to clinch its spot in Saturday night’s Wally Yonamine Foundation/Hawai’i High School Athletic Association Division II State Baseball Championship, defeating Saint Francis 9-1.
“What more can you say when you have a ninth grader that strikes out 13? He had an exploding fastball and it just ran,” said Kamehameha-Hawai’i head coach Andy Correa. “He pitched really effectively.”
The southpaw hurler started out strong by striking out the side while working around a walk in the first inning. In the second he allowed a one-out hit to Zach Alcos, but orchestrated a pick-off play to pluck him off the bases. Moments later, he closed the door on the inning by striking out Isaac Crichton looking for his fifth punch out.
“I felt like I really needed to prove myself and show that I can actually do it,” Atkins said. “I wanted my team to reach that championship game.”
Atkins (4-0) struck out the side again in the third inning, despite allowing an unearned run on an error in center field by Baron Victorino. He stranded two runners in the fifth, but rallied back in the sixth inning for two more strikeouts.
“That was supposed to be my last inning,” Atkins said of the sixth. “I digged in real deep. I tried to reach way in there to finish off strong.”
Correa gave Atkins one more chance to close the game down, however, as long as his starter was feeling alright. Atkins got the chance to come back out for the seventh. He got the first two outs, but after allowing a single to Samson Kaleikau, Correa took him out and brought over Daylen Calicdan to get the final out of the game.
For the second consecutive game, Kamehameha-Hawai’i got a lot of offense in the very first inning, scoring four in the frame against Saint Francis starter Jared Yara. The first four batters reached base, starting with walks to Kegan Miura and DallasJ Duarte. Daylen Calicdan followed with a ground ball to second base, but Zach Alcos booted it through his legs, scoring Miura.
Makana Aiona reached base after getting hit by a pitch, and Duarte scored on a wild pitch. Three batters later, Calicdan scored on Brandyn Lee-Lehano’s sacrifice fly to center field, and Kobie Kinzie singled in Aiona on a dribbler into left field.
In the third inning, Yara (6-1) allowed a single to Cabatbat and hit Lee-Lehano with a pitch. Kinzie then drove them both home with a double to left-center field, extending the Kamehameha-Hawai’i lead to 6-1.
Kamehameha-Hawai’i (19-1) continued to put pressure on Yara, a junior right-handed hurler, in the fifth inning. Cabatbat walked with one out, and Kai successfully executed a hit-and-run, advancing Cabatbat to third base on a single to right. Lee-Lehano once again hit a drive to center field, scoring Cabatbat on a sacrifice fly.
Two more runs came through in the sixth. Victorino scored on a ground ball out off of the bat of Duarte, and Aiona singled home Calicdan, who reached on a double.
Saint Francis (16-5) rode Yara the distance. He struck out five, but allowed all nine runs on six hits, three walks, and three hit batters. Five of the nine runs were earned.
Kinzie was the only Warrior to pair hits together, batting 2-for-3 with three runs batted in.
Saturday night’s championship will feature Kamehameha-Hawai’i and undefeated Kapolei, the champion of the Oahu Interscholastic Association. The Hurricanes defeated Radford 9-0 in the earlier semifinal.
Game time for Saturday’s championship is 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN Radio stations AM 850 in Hilo and AM 790 in Kona. It will also be aired on NBC Sports Radio in Honolulu following the conclusion of the Division I championship game on Maui, which features Baldwin and Pearl City, which starts at 6 p.m.
Saint Francis 001 000 0 – 1 3 3
Kamehameha-Hawai’i 402 012 x – 9 6 2