Sunny, almost breezeless afternoon at Hans L’Orange Park in Waipahu. Partly cloudy and temperature is a balmy 85 or so.
Kalani, the first-place finisher in the OIA East, is the home team against upstart Waipahu. The Marauders have Michael Price on the mound. Kalani has Duke Fujii.
It has been quite a week already for the Marauders, who have, historically, one of the proudest baseball traditions around as a community. Waipahu was 3-9 in the OIA West, then upset Moanalua and Mililani.
The Marauders strike early. Leadoff man Jaren Sugimoto gets a bad-hop single that bounds over the head of Kalani shortstop Jarryn Wee. After Cole Phillips is hit by pitch — Kalani coach Shannon Hirai challenged it, maybe have been a foul ball — Kobe Russell singles to left, scoring Sugimoto. WAIP 1, KLN 0.
After Steven DeSilva strikes out, Khaine Viliamu singles to left and LF Kyle Sasano stumbles as he corrals the ball. But Phillips, the base runner, Phillips, stumbles on the turn at third and scampers back. Turns out to be a significant play. Fujii strikes out Michael Price and gets Micah Takayama to fly out, ending the inning.
Sugimoto collects his second hit in as many at-bats with a two-out single to right, but he’s stranded there. Fujii has allowed one run, four hits, struck out four and hit one batter.
The Falcons are being aggressive on the base paths, but have nothing to account for it. Connor Zalewski, yesterday’s winning pitcher against Kaiser, reaches on an infield single, but is thrown out by Waipahu catcher Cole Phillips at second. Moments later, Bronson Matsumoto walks and courtesy runner Zachary Wong is picked off by Price, 1-3-6. Then Payton Awaya walks and he gambles on a pitch in the dirt, thrown out by Phillips 2-6.
Kalani bats 1-for-1, gets all three batters on base, yet ends the inning without a run or a runner on base. We’re debating up here whether Kalani is running itself out of the game. Too early to say that. One inning, three outs, they happen in all kinds of ways and the odds work against a batter anyway. But there’s this: the Falcons could have gotten through at least part of the lower third of its batting order instead of risking/spending outs on the base paths. All part of the calculated risk category.
Russell blasts a drive off the fence in right-center, close to the 390-foot sign. Waipahu fans are here in droves, naturally, and they roar. DeSilva strikes out again and Viliamu walks before Michael Price flies out to shallow left-center, where CF Suehiro catches it, but by the time he hits the cutoff man, Russell is practically on home plate. WAIP 2, KLN 0.
Viliamu, built like a college fullback or linebacker, steals second easily. Impressive. But Takeyama flies out to end the inning.
Bottom half: Suehiro rips a hard grounder that Waipahu 3B Sugimoto manages to get a glove on, infield single. After a sac bunt by Noah Nakamura, Kyle Sasano flies out. After Suehiro reaches third on a wild pitch, Hunter Lau reaches on an infield single and Suehiro scores Kalani’s first run. WAIP 2, KLN 1.
Jarryn Wee then lines a single to center, scoring Lau from second. KLN 2, WAIP 2. Still two outs. Price gets Reece Kakugawa looking at an inside breaking pitch for the third strike.
Waipahu manufactures an opportunity in the top half of the fourth. Rayson Carriaga leads off with a ground ball to short, high throw forces 1B to jump and Carriaga hustles to beat it. E6. Blazsen Ferreira with a sac bunt and Carriaga goes from second to third on a short ground ball to third. 3B Lau looked over to third but didn’t have a clean play, makes the throw to first for the second out. Phillips then grounds back to the mound for out No. 3.
Bottom half: Zalewski spanks a single to center and Matsumoto cranks a single to left. For Matsumoto, who walked in the second inning, that makes it 4-for-4 in the OIA playoffs so far. Coach Hirai said Matsumoto was hitless in the second half of the regular season.
Awaya pops out to third and pinch hitter Harrison Moy flies to short center. Count is 1-0 on Nakamura when Price throws a pitch in the dirt, outside, and Zalewski takes off from second base. He is thrown out easily for the third out. Waipahu’s catcher, Phillips, is the MVP so far today in my book. That is four outs on the base paths so far for the Falcons.
Another opportunity for the Marauders and no results. Russell is hit by pitch, advances to second on a wild pitch, but is cut down at third trying to advance on a grounder to the mound by DeSilva. Fujii’s throw is well ahead of Russell for the second out. Viliamu then grounds into a 6-4-3 double play.
Bottom half: Nakamura singles to center and that’s it for Price, who went 4 1/3 innings, allowed two runs on seven hits with one K and two BBs. Gabriel Ballesteros moves from center field to the mound. The lefty fields well as Sasano bunts for a sacrifice, advancing Nakamura to second. Lau grounds to third and Wee flies out to center, ending the threat.
Wow. Fujii is on fire. He retires Waipahu 1-2-3, freezing the last batter, Carriaga, for a called third strike. That’s 85 pitches for Fujii, six strikeouts, one walk, two hit batters and one wild pitch.
Bottom half: Zalewski with a double into the right-field corner, may have made it to third, but he falls down at second. Awaya is intentionally walked with two outs, and Ballesteros gets Suehiro to fly out to right, ending the inning.
Fujii fans Ferreira, but Sugimoto singles to center and Phillips doubles to the left-field corner. Fujii intentionally walks Russell to load the bases. Squeeze bunt here? DeSilva swings away, misses the fastball. Fujii nearly picks off Sugimoto at third base. Then DeSilva fouls off the next pitch, 0-2 count. DeSilva hangs in and gets to a full count, but Fujii gets the call on an inside fastball for a strikeout and the second out of the inning.
Fujii works it to 1-2 on Viliamu and a fastball inside just misses, but the Falcons had already taken a step toward the dugout. Next pitch, Viliamu’s soft grounder is backhanded by Fujii, who throws to first for the third out. Huge escape by Kalani and another empty frame for the Marauders. Fujii now at 105 pitches. Still looks strong. Eight K’s, two BB, two HBP, one wild pitch.
Bottom half: Ballesteros strikes out Nakamura, but walks Sasano on four pitches. He has thrown 32 pitches. Lau grounds out to second, Sasano advances to second base. Two outs as Wee steps into the box. Breaking balls touch the outside corner in a lefty-versus-lefty battle, count 0-2. Breaking ball outside, 1-2. Then Ballesteros tries a pickoff throw at second and misses, but the ball is quickly scooped up about 10 feet from the bag and Sasano stays put after diving back.
Next pitch, Wee frozen as the curve ball hits the outside corner again, strike three. EXTRA INNINGS.
Fujii looking masterful at times. Waipahu goes down 1-2-3 with Fujii freezing Carriaga on an inside fastball for strike three. That’s nine K’s, two BB for the right-hander. And 116 pitches.
Bottom half: Kakugawa leads off with a seeing-eye ground single to left. Count is 2-2 to Zalewski when Ballesteros’ pickoff throw is off line to first, Kakugawa advances to second base. Next pitch, Zalewski flies out to right and Kakugawa slides in at third base safely. Intentional walk to Matsumoto, intentional walk to Awaya, bases loaded.
Ballesteros gets ahead of Suehiro 0-2, but throws three balls inside. Full count. Suehiro lines a single to left, Kakugawa scores the winning run. KALANI 3, WAIPAHU 2. FINAL.