Kaiser’s 9-0 loss to Campbell in the OIA baseball semifinal round on Friday night was a demonstration of a solid, good team going up against a premier pitcher in stealth mode.
Kila Kapihe was that good. The nine strikeouts with just one walk in his two-hit shutout wasn’t just good. It was mastery. And he’s been doing it all season long on a staff that includes the heart’s desire of many an MLB scout, Ian Kahaloa, and the versatile lefty, Dorrien Hermosura-Villanueva.
“This pitcher is the best we’ve seen all year, and we saw Ryley (Widell of King Kekaulike) in preseason,” Kaiser coach Ryan Umemoto said.
Kapihe’s 90-mph fastball was tough enough to catch up to, but his breaking ball had the Cougars flailing away, piecing off foul balls occasionally. The right-hander has managed to get through the season at an elite level despite a nagging wrist injury on his throwing arm.
“It doesn’t hurt when I’m pitching, only when I’m hitting,” said Kapihe, who hurt the wrist while doing dumbbell bench presses in the offseason.
The speedy Kapihe socked a double and scored two runs (1-for-2) in the win. The wrist injury hasn’t affected his slider, arguably the most unhittable of his pitches. Coach Rory Pico let Kapihe finish the game, but it came after some deliberation.
“(Kapihe) pounded the strike zone. We thought about pulling him, to save him (for tonight),” Pico said. “I’m excited about tomorrow for the boys. They’ve worked hard all off-season, looking for the opportunity to defend the (OIA) title. Mililani’s hot right now.”
Kapihe realizes he probably won’t have a hand in tonight’s championship game. Kahaloa is slated to start, and the Sabers have a stable of capable relievers just in case. He expects the same consistency that pushed the defending OIA champions back to the league final.
“Every game is the same. Our work ethic. Pre-game. It’s the same,” he said.
Campbell meets Mililani at Patsy Mink Central Oahu Regional Park tonight, 30 minutes after the completion of the Division II title game.
Kaiser, the second-place team from the OIA East, will play East 1 Kailua in a third-place game this afternoon. Game time is 1 p.m. at Kailua.
“I’m proud of my boys for not giving up. They hung in there,” Umemoto said. “I’d like to see us come back, hit the ball and play good defense.”