The pain started to come in the second inning, but Kaiser’s Curtis Chung Jr. knew he had a job to do if he wanted to pitch in the state tournament.
A year ago, Kaiser suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in eight innings to OIA West top seed Campbell in the OIA quarterfinals, but the even bigger disappointment came a day later in a 13-inning loss to Kalani in the consolation semifinals.
In a 24-hour span, Kaiser went from being on the verge of knocking off the top seed to reach the semifinals to its season coming to a sudden and shocking end.
Chung Jr. wanted to avoid that Thursday against Moanalua, getting the start in an OIA quarterfinal game at the Cougars’ home field. His team had given him a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but then he started to feel discomfort in his right arm.
“I was worried,” Chung Jr. said about coming out early.
The senior right-hander battled to give Kaiser five innings in a 72-pitch effort before giving way to reliever Jakey Nam after a leadoff single in the top of the sixth. Nam gave up a solo homer to pinch hitter Cole Souza with one out in the seventh inning but was otherwise perfect, ending the game with a strikeout to seal a 4-3 win over Na Menehune.
The Cougars will play the top seed out of the West in the OIA playoffs again, but this time, the game against Mililani will be in the semifinals at Les Murakami Stadium with a state-tournament berth already wrapped up.
“It’s very big. We’ve wanted to go to the state tournament and we didn’t get too lucky last year,” Chung Jr. said. “Of course I wanted to get a CG but it didn’t happen. My arm was giving me problems I wasn’t expected but I tried to push through the five innings — tried to tough it out.”
Kaiser coach Kila Ka’aihue allowed his pitcher to fight through the pain and took everything into consideration before going to the bullpen in the sixth inning.
“(Chung) was getting a little sore, but it’s not about pitch count for me, it’s about how the guys are doing,” said Ka’aihue, who will take his team to states for the second time in his third year as head coach. “We try to keep our guys around 85 (pitches). They are young kids and I’m not trying to push them. He wasn’t feeling it. He was losing his velocity and so next man up. We’ve got a lot of guys.”
Gyson Oshiro‘s two-run single in the first inning gave Kaiser a 3-0 lead and allowed Chung Jr. some wiggle room that he took advantage of.
Moanalua broke through in the fifth inning when an errant to throw to first on a potential double play allowed Landon Kimura to score from second. Bryson Sato cut the deficit to 3-2 with a two-out RBI single, but was thrown out at first when the relay throw went to first instead of the plate to get Sato going back to the base.
Kaiser added a key run in the bottom of the inning when Christian Reasoner found a hole between short and third to fit a single to score Landon Shigeta, who reached base in all three plate appearances.
“When our boys play fundamental baseball, it’s fun to watch,” Ka’aihue said. “Basic baseball — throw strikes, catch the ball, mix in a couple of hits when you get them. When they stay focused and on task they can be really, really good.”
In other OIA D-I playoff games on Thursday:
>> Jalen Ah Yat homered twice and drove in five runs to lead Kailua to an 11-1 victory over Leilehua in five innings. Bryson Ewaliko allowed five hits and struck out six in a complete game to earn the win for the Surfriders (11-2), who will play in the state tournament for the 15th straight season.
>> Charles Winchester and two relievers combined on a four-hitter to lead Mililani to a 7-1 win over Castle. The Trojans (11-2) are in the state tournament for the seventh straight year and 10th time in the last 11 seasons.
>> Ayzek Silva struck out 10 in a one-hit shutout to lead Campbell to a 3-0 win over Farrington. Reese Shioji’s double was the only hit for the Governors (8-6), who need a win over Leilehua in the consolation bracket today to clinch a state-tournament berth for the first time since 1963.
OIA Baseball PlayoffsUpdated: Apr. 27
|4/24||(E4) Castle||(W5) Kapolei||Cast, 5-1|
|4/24||(W3) Aiea||(E6) Moanalua||Moan, 8-2|
|4/24||(E3) Farrington*||(W6) Waianae||Far, 12-1 (5)|
|4/24||(W4) Leilehua||(E5) Roosevelt||Lei, 17-7|
|4/25||(W1) Mililani||Castle||Mil, 7-1|
|4/25||(E2) Kaiser||Moanalua||Kais, 4-3|
|4/25||(W2) Campbell||Farrington||Camp, 3-0|
|4/25||(E1) Kailua**||Leilehua||Kail, 11-1 (5)|
|Semifinals—@ Les Murakami Stadium|
|4/26||Mililani||Kaiser||Mil, 4-3 (11)|
|Championship—at Les Murakami Stadium|
|4/26||Radford||Kaimuki||Rad, 10-0 (5)|
|Championship—at Les Murakami Stadium|
|4/27||Waipahu||Radford||Rad, 14-2 (5)|
|* — @ DeSa Field|
|** — @ TBA|