As far as Corey Ishigo is concerned, luck and compassion go hand in hand.
That might be true of any baseball coach who’s been around the game as long as he has. Kailua had an up-and-down regular season, always competitive, but trailed Kalani in the standings when the playoffs arrived. Then Ishigo and his team did what they often do: play with excellence.
In the OIA Division semifinal round on Friday, the Surfriders banged out eight hits against three Pearl City pitchers, including ace Trenton Darley. But it was still Pearl City’s game to win, leading 3-2 entering the top of the seventh inning. Six errors and one hit later, the tide had turned. Kailua’s 9-3 victory secured an opportunity to face Kalani for the league title.
“We got lucky with a win. We try to have zero errors. Baseball is a mental game. We just try to prepare the best we can,” Ishigo said of his squad, which had just one error.
Pearl City finished with seven errors.
“I feel bad for them,” Ishigo added.
The Surfriders got four solid innings from Keiki Kanehele-Santos, who allowed one run, struck out three and walked two. Then Dalton Kalama entered and delivered. Like the rest of the seniors on Kailua’s heavily experienced team, Kalama led by example. He permitted two runs on three hits, striking out three and walking three.
“We wanted Keiki to get us five or six innings. We had a lot of pitchers ready to go,” Ishigo said. “Dalton is calm and pressure doesn’t get to him when the game is on the line.”
The depth of leaders with three or four varsity seasons under their belts is a gift.
“It took time,” Ishigo added. “Our seniors lead and patrol themselves.”
Daniel Thomas went 3-for-4 at the plate and scored twice, though he suffered an injury in mid-game on a foul tip at the plate. Noah Auld went 2-for-4 from the No. 3 spot, inadvertently and possibly torquing the Chargers’ fate in the third inning when his line drive hit Pearl City pitcher Carson Okada on the head. Okada was down as trainers tended to him, and he walked off the field under his own power, but he didn’t return.
Pearl City still had the game in the hands of Trestan Nakamura and Darley. A one-run lead going into the final inning had been a certain win for the previously-unbeaten Chargers all season.
Now the OIA D-I final is a rematch of East leaders. The teams split their series during the regular season. Kalani (12-2) won at Kahala Park 2-1 on Mar. 9, and Kailua (11-3) won at home 10-5 on Apr. 2.
“They’ll be ready. We’ll be ready,” Ishigo said. “And we’ll play.”