Kaiser’s Curtis Chung Jr. was a model of efficiency on the mound Saturday against Moanalua, and he got a big-time defensive play from center fielder Jesse Stroede along the way to go the distance in a 4-1 victory in an OIA East baseball game at the Cougars’ field.
Chung Jr. threw just 82 pitches in a five-hitter with no walks and eight strikeouts. A senior right-hander, Chung Jr. threw 61 total strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 25 batters he faced. He hit one batter.
“This team is really a fastball-(hitting) team,” Chung Jr. said of Na Menehune. “They can hop on the ball really quick, so I was just trying to change up my pitches today.”
The play of the game was turned in by Stroede in the top of the fifth inning.
Moanalua (3-4) had a run in to cut its deficit to 2-1 and had runners at first and second with one out.
Na Menehune pinch hitter Cole Souza ripped a sinking liner to center and Stroede sprinted in and made a full-extension catch, snagging the ball just off the grass. He then got up and tossed the ball to second base to double up the runner, who had broken on contact. If the ball had gotten past Stroede, Moanalua likely would have taken the lead.
“I just saw the ball starting to drop,” said Stroede, a junior. “I knew if it dropped, it would have gotten two runs. I just tried to make a play and help my pitcher out and keep them off the board.”
“That was a big play,” Kaiser coach Kila Kaaihue said of Stroede’s catch. “He makes that play and breaks their back and then we come in and put up two more runs.”
Moanalua coach Scott Yamada said of the catch: “It would have been a different ballgame. The momentum would have been shifting.”
The defensive gem seemed to fire up Kaiser (5-2), which scored two runs in the bottom half of the inning to take a 4-1 advantage. Landon Shigeta scored from second base on a single by Brock Perreira and a throwing error. Branden Chun-Ming then added an RBI double, which scored courtesy runner Noah Matsumoto.
Chung Jr., who throws out of a deceptive three-quarter arm slot, retired the side in order over the final two innings, including three on strikeouts. He also opened the game on fire, retiring the first seven batters, including the first four by strikeout.
“He kept them off balance, there wasn’t a lot of hard contact,” Kaaihue said. “The guys made a handful of plays behind him. He pounded the zone, he kept the ball down.”
The Cougars took a 2-0 lead on sacrifice flies by Ethan Nakamura in the second and Gyson Oshiro in the third off Trent Nakata. The lead could have been bigger, but Kaiser stranded five runners over the first three innings, including four in scoring position.
“We got guys on and we didn’t really cash them in when we had the chance,” Kaaihue said. “We’ve kind of been doing that all year. We’ve been threatening a lot every inning and putting pressure on them.”
The Cougars moved into a first-place tie with Kaila in the OIA East after Roosevelt scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat the Surfriders on Saturday. All seven teams in the league are within three games of each other.