Already armed with uncommon poise for a freshman pitcher, Keian Kanetani developed on the mound this season even as Keaau struggled.
His confidence came to a peak Monday, and Kanetani helped the Cougars to a breakthrough victory.
Backed by a three-run rally in the sixth inning and Kanetani’s complete game, Keaau earned its first victory against Hilo since 2008 with a 4-1 home victory in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation baseball game.
“It’s a big win for us,” coach Herbert Yasuhara said. “Hopefully it means we’re starting to turn the corner. No team, I think, is better than Hilo talent-wise.”
Meanwhile, it was a costly loss for Hilo (4-3 BIIF Division I, 8-3), which fell out contention for the regular-season title when Waiakea beat Kamehameha-Hawaii 6-5 on Monday night to wrap up the league’s first berth at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament.
The Cougars’ senior contingent also played a big role in the group’s first victory against either Hilo or Waiakea, the two perennial Division I title contenders.
Jonathan Segovia was 2-for-2 with three RBIs for Keaau (3-4, 3-7), while Rason Martines and Rylan Martines each collected two hits, as did sophomore Byron Cachola.
Kanetani pitched a five-inning perfect game April 5 against Pahoa, but he said he felt even better on the mound Monday against the Vikings, especially after having gotten his feet wet against Hilo earlier in the season.
He also pitched well in losses against Waiakea and Kamehameha.
“I was more confident today than before,” Kanetani said after outdueling Kian Kurokawa. “I knew what to do (after facing Hilo before).”
He credited his curveball with helping him limit the Vikings to eight hits with four walks. The right-hander struck out two, and his coach said Kanetani did an admirable job of limiting the damage when Hilo’s runners got on base.
“They have some rabbits,” Yasuhara said, “but he mixed things up and held the ball.
“He’s developing well.”
Jodd Carter finished 3-for-4 for the Vikings, and he scored on Drew Kell’s RBI single in the sixth inning to tie the game.
The deadlock was short-lived, however.
“We fought back. We knew we had to score, and the bats came alive,” Kanetani said.
Cody Silva coaxed a one-out walk from Kurokawa, and an error put runners on first and third. Rylan Martines came through with a single to right to give Keaau the lead, and after Cachola singled, Segovia punctuated the rally with a two-run single to center.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth, when Rason Martines doubled and scored on Segovia’s single.
Kurokawa took the loss, pitching 5 2/3 innings and allowing nine hits, four runs — just one earned — and walked one with a strikeout.
Kell finished 2-for-3.
Hilo 000 001 0 —1 8 1
Keaau 000 013 x —4 10 2
c Waiakea 6, Kamehameha 5: Kodi Medeiros hit a two-run home run, and Kean Wong connected for a two-run double at Wong Stadium.
With its ninth win in 10 games, Waiakea (7-1, 10-2) earned the regular-season title and the right to defend its Division I state championship.
Kamehameha (6-2, 8-4) fell into a first-place tie with Konawaena and Hawaii Prep in Division II. The Wildcats and Ka Makani meet Wednesday in Waimea.
Only an outright champion will be awarded an automatic state berth.
Kamehameha finishes its season Wednesday at Keaau, while the Wildcats still have another game remaining Saturday at home against Kohala.