WAILUKU — There’s a certain wave that flows through the Gabonia household.
Ocean Gabonia is an ace pitcher for the Hilo Vikings, but his family’s first love is off land.
“My sister’s name is Brooke,” he said. “Basically, we just love water.”
Gabonia’s four-hitter led the third seed, Hilo, over Kailua 7-4 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships. He fanned five Surfriders and walked just one. The senior did it with a fastball that has a lot of movement, practically an optical illusion with its ability to move multiple times. Or it would seem.
“That’s my fastball. The one that tails into people is my two-seam fastball. I’ve been working on that a lot,” he said. “Ever since I threw it, it’s never gone straight.”
He has a changeup, and he can add more movement to the two-seam when necessary. His complete-game win against Kailua, which had knocked out Maui just 15 hours earlier, means he has surpassed the pitch count and won’t be eligible to pitch for the remainder of the tourney.
“It’s special. It’s my only (game) in the state tournament. Thank the Lord for everything that our team got here,” Gabonia said. “Punahou’s a big team. They’re Punahou. We’re the underdog. We might have something real special for Punahou. Everybody just has to do their job and play good baseball. I have faith in my team. We work and help each other out. We’re one big family.”
In East Hawaii, summer and fall ball are part of the culture for players like Gabonia. Waiakea’s players are always busy, but the same is true for Hilo. That year-round training and activity have spurred the Vikings to these heights.
“It’s real special. We have a lot going for us this year. Coming into this, we’re really mentally focused,” said Gabonia, who plans to attend Everett Community College (Wash.) next year. “It’s baseball, anything can happen. Everybody’s playing baseball. It’s a big thing in Hilo. Coach (Baba Lancaster) has really brought it up to something big. Draft picks make it get more exposure and we get looked at a lot.”
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Coach Kaha Wong.