(Here’s the full version of yesterday’s game story on Pearl City and Mililani. Quite a good game, indeed. The original version ran Friday morning with limited space.)
Tyler Tokunaga doesn’t tout his own terrific timing, but he certainly had it yesterday.
The Pearl City senior drove in the tying run with a deep triple, scored the go-ahead run, then improvised on a stellar defensive play to help the seventh-ranked Chargers thwart Mililani 5-4 at the Trojans’ field.
The defending state champions improved to 3-0 in the Oahu Interscholastic Association, riding a solid pitching effort by Sean Milan. The junior southpaw permitted three runs and scattered eight hits over six innings. He struck out three and walked two.
“Sometimes he tries to do too much instead of just letting the pitch happen. He’s still young, so he’ll mature, hopefully, over the next few games,” Chargers coach Mitch Yamato said.
Three Mililani errors contributed to four unearned runs, saddling starting pitcher Javen Sakauye with the loss.
But the presence of Tokunaga, who earned a save, was major. Pearl City had a 5-3 lead when Tokunaga moved from shortstop to the mound in relief of Milan in the top of the seventh. Mililani had two runners on base with two outs when Justin Revilla stepped into the box.
Revilla’s seeing-eye single through the hole to left field brought home Chad Uyehara. The relay throw took a short hop and caromed off third baseman Reid Akau. As a pitcher, Tokunaga should’ve been backing up the throw behind his catcher, Kamalu Neal. Instead, he anticipated that they had no play on Uyehara and moved up the line toward third base. As the ball bounced away from Akau, Mililani baserunner Shanztyn Agbayani-Shibao raced around second base and got the green light to try third.
Mililani coach Mark Hirayama had no idea that Tokunaga had hustled up the line, however. Tokunaga barehanded the loose baseball in foul territory and flipped it to third base to throw out Agbayani-Shibao in a cloud of dust for the final out. That was 7-5-1-6 on the putout.
“It’s kind of like the (Derek) Jeter play at home, but we don’t practice that (like the Yankees),” Yamato said. “I guess we beat the odds on that play.”
Hirayama went by the book on the play.
“Some of it is, you just react. If the pitcher was where he was supposed to be covering (home plate), he wouldn’t have made the play,” Hirayama said. “That’s just one of those things. We have to be aggressive and make things happen. It’s not one play that killed us.”
Indeed, the Trojans had the bases loaded in the fifth inning, but were unable to score.
“We’ve got to take care of the little things. I don’t think it was anything major. It’s the little things we’ve got to take care of,” Hirayama said.
Tokunaga didn’t waste a moment in his improvisation.
“I saw the throw was off-line. I saw the runner getting almost to third, so I had to try and get him,” he said.
The visitors, who brought most of the 50 or so fans in attendance, took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third. Sophomore Tanner Tokunaga doubled and scored on a single to left by Akau. Milan doubled to left with two outs, scoring Akau.
The Trojans scored three times in the bottom of the fourth against Milan, who had allowed just one hit through his first three innings. Kanoa Hironaka’s double to left scored Jacob Mariano from first, and Hironaka came home on Jamesson Madrid’s single up the middle.
Brock Teixeira’s double down the left-field line scored Madrid to give the Trojans a 3-2 lead, but it was short-lived. Two Mililani errors in the top of the fifth were crucial. Tyler Tokunaga’s triple to dead center scored his brother, Tanner, who had reached base on a throwing error by the third baseman, Agbayani-Shibao.
Facing reliever Devon Awai, Matt Tsutomi’s sacrifice fly to right brought Tyler Tokunaga home for a 4-3 Pearl City lead. Pinch runner Jordan Mendiola then came home to score from third on a delayed steal. Pinch runner Brock Honda had taken off from first to second and after Uyehara, the shortstop, dropped the throw from Madrid, the catcher, Mendiola broke home to score easily.
Then came the fifth, when Mililani loaded the bases and Yamato visited his young ace on the mound.
“I just told him he’s got to pound the zone, get ahead in the count and hopefully get some ground balls. It worked out in our favor on that one,” Yamato said. “Those guys hit the ball well.”
Milan induced Revilla, a transfer from Pearl City, into a groundout to third for the third out.
For Tokunaga, it was a third relief appearance in as many league games.
“It’s tough. You have to get your mindset to throw strikes. It was mostly my cutter today. I couldn’t spot my fastball. It didn’t have the velocity I’m used to,” he said.
Mililani dropped to 1-2 in league play despite a solid performance by Sakauye, who allowed just one earned run. He fanned two and walked two in 4 and 1-3 innings. But the errors and seven runners left on base didn’t help.
“We have to pitch to contact and let our defense play. We’re not the kind of team that can go out and strike out three guys in a row,” Hirayama said. “We let the first two guys on base and against good teams, we can’t do that. We go to their place on Saturday and we’ll see how it goes.”
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser