Kalani’s Hunter Lau led off Saturday’s game by popping out to shortstop — significant only because the next nine Falcons batters, including Lau himself, went down swinging against Kailua ace Joey Cantillo.
It was a special kind of night at Hans L’Orange Park in Waipahu. A real treat for baseball fans.
It’s not often you see someone strike out 18 batters, and that’s what Cantillo ended up doing in dominant fashion.
As is his custom, the 6-foot-4 senior lefty immediately switched the focus from himself to his Surfriders teammates after the game.
“The team played well,” he said. “Everyone contributed and played their part. For me it was throw strikes and whatever happens happens and it was good in the end. Everything worked out good to get a win.”
Yeah, dude, but you just struck out 18 batters and pitched a two-hitter with two walks in a 5-0 victory that allowed your team to improve to 4-1 and move into a first-place tie with Kalani in the Oahu Interscholastic Association East.
Five Falcons put the ball in play. Lau did it twice, reaching on an error in the sixth in addition to his popup. Kohl Suehiro and Marquis Morgan belted singles and Bronson Matsumoto and Ian Higa grounded out to Cantillo on the mound.
Oh, and it certainly came at a good time for Cantillo. Major league scouts have been watching for a while now, and on this particular night, four were in attendance — from the San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles.
Johnny Cantillo, Joey’s dad, was there behind the backstop watching and he said the scouts have been saying Cantillo needs more speed on his curve.
Well, almost everybody has something to work on, especially a high school pitcher.
Is the 18 strikeouts a Hawaii or OIA record?
Shannon Hirai, the Kalani coach, said he’s never seen that many. The boys at the Star-Advertiser office didn’t have an immediate answer. Of the 18 K’s, only two were on called third strikes.
At the plate, Cantillo went 3-for-4, including a second-inning two-run double that boosted Kailua’s lead to 4-0.
The fire is certainly in Cantillo’s belly. He grunted and yelled at himself in celebration and looked straight at the Kalani dugout after pitching out of a bases-loaded jam (single, error, walk) in the fifth.
“That’s all (gamesmanship),” he said. “Everyone knows it’s just in the game, the emotions. It’s adrenaline; that’s just me grunting and me yelling at myself.”
Said Kailua coach Corey Ishigo: “Joey’s a bulldog and there’s no situation that’s too tough for him.”
The Surfriders and the Falcons made it to the OIA title game last year, where Kailua prevailed 7-5. They play again April 5 at Kalani.
The wily Ishigo found a way to get another run home after chasing starting pitcher Eddie Lee (who gave up the four second-inning runs). In the fifth, with Matthew Kaleiohi on second and Cody Riturban on first, he called a double steal. Kaleiohi gained third with a steal before scoring while the Falcons were busy putting out Riturban.
“We’re nearly halfway through the East season,” Ishigo said. “We’re working on getting the team to play better, work through the process and improve every day.”