Raise your hand if you had Waiakea and Maui playing for the Division I title in the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships.
If your hand is in the air, you probably should head to Las Vegas.
The Warriors, with their pitching, and the Sabers, with their hitting, have vanquished the top teams in the state to get to the first all-Neighbor Island final since Waiakea beat Baldwin in 2012.
Waiakea (17-2), which lost two straight to Hilo in the BIIF championship series after starting the season 14-0, edged Moanalua 4-3 before knocking off OIA champion Kailua and ILH runner-up Kamehameha in consecutive nights. The Warriors have allowed four runs in three games.
Maui (13-5) run-ruled Mililani in five innings and then knocked off No. 1 seed Saint Louis and OIA runner-up Campbell in consecutive nights. The Sabers have scored 26 runs in three games — nearly three times the runs Waiakea (nine) has scored all tournament.
The Sabers were 8-4 and finished in third place in the MIL regular season — behind Baldwin and Kamehameha-Maui — before rallying to make the tournament.
They also lost their best player, Kyle Oshiro, to a shoulder injury in the MIL championships series against the Bears.
Yet thanks to Jyrah Lalim‘s go-ahead, two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning in Maui’s 6-4 win over Campbell on Friday night, the Sabers are one win away from their first state title in 35 years.
“In the middle of the season we had to reflect on ourselves and what we needed to do to get better,” Maui coach Chase Corniel said. “We’re making the adjustments and (the kids) want to be up there. That’s the main thing. They want to be up there swinging the bat and if they have that approach they can win the battle every time.”
The Sabers’ first sign of trouble in the entire tournament so far came against Campbell when they fell behind 4-1 in the fourth inning. It was a 4-2 game in the sixth when Maui came through with six of its eight hits in the game, including Lalim’s double to left field that put Maui in front for good.
“We look for small, contact hits and the big ones will come,” Lalim said. “Coach said to look for something small and give it a rip and I went for the fences and it went.”
Meanwhile, Waiakea advanced to the final winning a pitching duel against one of the most sought-after high school pitchers in the state.
Kamehameha senior right-hander and Oregon signee Hunter Breault will likely hear his name called in June’s MLB First-Year Player Draft and pitched one of his best games of the season, allowing just three hits in a 72-pitch complete-game effort in which he retired 15 straight at one point.
Waiakea junior David Nakamura, who walked five in two innings in a 50-pitch effort on Wednesday, was just a tad batter however. Nakamura scattered seven hits over seven innings to shut out the Warriors, who were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
The play of the game came in the bottom of the seventh inning with a runner on first and one out. Kamehameha outfielder Nakea Hanohano drilled a first-pitch fastball deep to center that was headed for the warning track when Waiakea center fielder Gehrig Octavio made a leaping, over-the-shoulder, full-extension catch. The score likely would have been 2-1 with the tying run on second base in one out. Instead, there were two outs with a runner on first and Nakamura got the fly ball to center to end it.
“I seen that (Hanohano) smoked that ball and I put my head down and started booking it,” Octavio said about the catch. “I leaped up, stuck my glove out, and just caught it.”
The pitching of Waiakea will be tested by the hitting of Maui in the final and it could all come down to a huge break the Sabers got in the final innings of the win over Campbell.
First baseman Mikito Barkman, who replaced starter Haoa Jarnesky with nobody out in the fourth inning, managed to get the final out on his 35th pitch, meaning he is available to throw 75 pitches in Saturday night’s final. One more pitch — and he only threw 20 in the final three innings — and he would not have qualified to throw again in the tournament.
Barkman allowed just one hit and one unearned run in four innings of relief.
“That was the best I’ve ever seen him throw,” Corniel said. “The bottom was line was we had to make a decision yesterday on when to use Mikito and bottom line was the boy wanted to pitch and wanted the ball. He needed to be that anchor to come in and shut the door.”