The island of Kauai will be going for its fifth Division II championship Saturday in the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships.
The fourth-seeded Waimea Menehunes didn’t make an error and only had three hits, but still got past top-seeded Kamehameha-Hawaii 4-1 at Lihue’s Vidinha Stadium.
The defensive prowess began in the opening inning, when third baseman Kainalu Lazaro chased down a high foul pop near the fence. Then, for the third out of the inning, Lazaro knocked down a hard grounder over the bag and had the presence of mind to get to the loose ball and nab the runner by a step at first.
The smooth team defense and the hard-nosed pitching of Tysson Unciano continued all night to put Waimea (9-4-1) in the tournament final Saturday night at 7 against St. Francis at Vidinha.
Unciano scattered seven hits in the victory.
“We played great defense and Tyson pitched a great game,” said Waimea’s Levi Snowden, who clubbed the winning hit in the fourth inning. “We got the pitches we wanted and came up clutch.”
Snowden’s inside-the-park solo home run broke a 1-all tie in the fourth and Waimea never trailed again.
He also had a single against the Warriors’ complete-game loser Zakaia Michaels, who finished with a three-hitter.
“It felt good off the bat and once I saw it go over (the center fielder), I just kept running,” Snowden said. “We just gotta stay focused and keep doing what we’re doing and not change anything (in Saturday’s title game). Tysson, he’s the man. Super confident. He was on today and he’s been good for us the whole season.”
First-year Waimea coach Chad Delanoza talked about the accomplishment of the Menehunes advancing to the title game.
“It’s a big win for our program,” he said. “Just getting here tonight was big. They put in the work day in and day out. Tyson did his job and everybody else did theirs. I’m proud of what they did.
“We are absorbing as things go and enjoying the experience because this is what it is for us — a great experience and a learning process. We’re going to approach (the championship game) the way we’ve always done and give it our best shot going forward.”
The Big Isle D-II champion Warriors lost for the first time all year. They finished at an impressive 19-1.
“We never supported him (Michaels) with runs,” Kamehameha-Hawaii coach Andy Correa said. “You come to a tournament like this, you play the best guys in the state. To me, it’s (Waimea vs. St. Francis) going to be a real good game.”
Braeden Coloma belted a double and a triple for the Warriors and scored their only run on Michaels’ sacrifice fly.
“Unfortunately tonight, they (the Menehunes) were just better, but we played our hardest,” Coloma said. “It’s a big humbler. A lot of us want to go all the way, but not everything happens the way you want it to.”
KIF teams have won four D-II state baseball titles: Waimea in 2010 and Kauai in 2008, 2011 and 2017.
St. Francis is going for its first D-II baseball championship and a sixth for the ILH. Maryknoll earned titles in 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and Damien got it done in 2018.