The count was 3-1 on Joey Cantillo, his Kailua team down 7-0 in the top of the sixth.
Cantillo was 0-for-1 at that point with a flyout, and he was hit by a pitch. High. It wasn’t anything to start a skirmish with Moanalua southpaw Randy Tabura, but two competitive lefties will often make things interesting.
The 3-1 pitch from Tabura: Cantillo jumped all over it, sending it deep but foul down the right-field line. The ball sailed well over the 286-foot sign. Cantillo, a brainy student-athlete who happens to be highly competitive, hollered, “Let’s go!” as the ball waffled high in the air between fair and foul territory. With two runners on base, Tabura could’ve walked Cantillo. He challenged him instead.
Cantillo sent the next pitch deep and high over the right-field fence, in fair territory this time. Another “Let’s go!” holler while the ball was airborne, but nobody seemed to mind. It was the normally stoic, quiet Cantillo being Cantillo, trying to pump his teammates up. Dakota Kadooka and Cody Riturban, who had singled, scored ahead of Cantillo, but the visitors got no closer and lost 8-3 as the OIA East race tightened up.
Tabura was done on the mound after Cantillo’s homer. Designated hitter Skyler Yamamoto took the mound for the remaining 1 2/3 innings, a scoreless relief effort.
What happened on the field before the game was done was a classic baseball moment, at least for Tabura. In the bottom of the sixth, he singled in a run and got to visit with Cantillo, who happened to be playing first base. Cantillo, one of the top pitching prospects in the state, has a cerebral approach and a lefty delivery on the mound, like Tabura. They got to chat, knowing that there’s more to the game than wins and losses.
“He said, ‘Sorry,’ about the yelling,” Tabura said of Cantillo, who is a mix of intelligence and brute aggression on the mound at times. “He said, ‘That’s great pitching. I was just being an animal.’ ”
Not that Tabura was expecting any kind of apology. The respect is mutual. Tabura pitched five innings, allowing five hits and three runs, all in that fifth inning. The senior struck out five, walked none and hit one batter against the state’s No. 5-ranked team.
“He’s great and crafty,” Cantillo said. “He’s got a sneaky fastball and throws good quality pitches.”
Moanalua coach Scott Yamada had used Tabura primarily as a reliever, which made the five-inning stint a long one by the usual standard.
“He put pressure on them, definitely. You don’t give Kailua extra outs. If you give them an early lead, they don’t let go,” Yamada said as his team cleaned up one of the most beautiful and meticulously-manicured diamonds in the islands. “Randy got ahead and let his defense play defense. He threw his fastball and change-up, and the occasional curve. He was hitting his spots.”
Kailua didn’t fare so well, dishing out seven walks. They’ve got depth. They’ve got enough hitting. They’ve got Cantillo, who whiffed 18 batters in a win over Kalani last week. Meanwhile, Moanalua has found a highly effective starter in Tabura. He might be the difference between a .500 season and something special. Na Menehune improved to 4-2 with the win.
“Usually it’s me, (Skyler) Yamamoto and (Ryne) Oshiro who relieve. I was surprised, but having a great defense, getting the double play (in the fourth inning), I had super confidence,” Tabura said.
Yamada’s patient hitters were rewarded.
“I’m happy for the boys. We’ve been struggling to play consistent baseball,” he said.