When Yukumotos and Katos are involved, look for an OIA West baseball war.
A fun war.
On Wednesday, it was Aiea coach Ryan Kato on one side and Leilehua shortstop Ty Yukumoto on the other.
This time, Kato’s Na Alii prevailed 4-2 to avenge a loss by the same score to the Mules earlier this season.
The rivalry between the Yukumotos and Katos go back to the early part of the century, when Kato would go against Leilehua coach Garett Yukumoto, who is Ty’s dad.
Garett was there at the Aiea field Wednesday, rooting his son on. But it’s not like he was vehemently cheering against Na Alii. That’s because he graduated from Aiea in 1988 before going on to play baseball at Hawaii Pacific, where his other son, Trey Yukumoto, is playing now.
Ty Yukumoto tripled and showed his smooth infield skills Wednesday in the loss.
“We couldn’t combine our hits,” he said. “We gotta work on that. It was that stuck feeling when you know you did something, but you can’t really pull it through.”
The Mules were stymied by three base-running errors and two close calls that went, crucially, Aiea’s way.
And Kato made two important pitching changes that ended up sealing the victory. First, lefty Jordan Cezar came in to throw 2 2/3 scoreless innings while his teammates rallied from a 2-1 deficit. That combination of events gave Cezar the pitching win.
Then, with runners at the corners in the seventh and two outs, John Navarro was called on to shut the door, and he got the final out to earn the save.
“It’s always good when the players make you look good,” Kato said about those two managerial moves.
Cezar hit the eventual game-winning double in Na Alii’s three-run fifth.
So now, the Mules (4-4) host Pearl City on Saturday with a chance to get back above .500.
Ty Yukumoto, despite the loss, is raring to get back out there.
“No doubt about it, they have the lineage,” Leilehua coach Marc Rios said about the Yukumotos. “They’re all great baseball players in that family. Ty, his older brother, his dad.”
It’s a joy for Garett Yukumoto — who went on to be the head coach at HPU and is now an assistant with UH Hilo — to watch his son, who is only a sophomore.
“It’s a work in progress for him,” Garett said about Ty. “Being around the game and following his older brother has helped to get him where he’s at, and he has an opportunity to still learn the game and grow each day, each game. He’s worked hard. We’ll see what happens. It’s fun to watch.”
Said Ty about his father: “He tells me on defense to stay in front of the ball and stay on the left side to get momentum to first base. Hitting-wise, he tells me to stay in the middle and just trust your hands. He gets on me. A lot. He yells at me, but it’s worth it in the end.”
Meanwhile Kato’s son Kobe Kato is playing Division I baseball as a freshman at Arizona and has proven to be an asset as a utility player. He starred for Na Alii as a pitcher and shortstop.
“Kobe is doing good,” he said. “It’s his freshman year and he’s getting his share of playing time. He’s transitioned to catcher and has that in his arsenal. He called me today and said they’ve got him in the outfield, too.
“He’s happy with what he’s done so far. He gets his share of at-bats, travels with the team. And he’s making some quality at-bats and that’s one thing they really like about him. He battles. He’s having a good time. He enjoys himself.”
With five wins in a row after two losses to open the season, Aiea (5-2) is trying to push OIA West frontrunners Campbell (7-1) and Mililani (7-1). Na Alii hosts the Trojans on Saturday.
“Every game, I start to see different things from different people,” Kato said. “It’s a process that I’m excited about. I knew all along that these guys were going to be an exciting team because they’re all coachable and they’re all passionate. As long as you’re passionate and coachable, good things are going to happen because we’re going to get better as the season goes on.”