HONOKAA — In a wild game that lasted 3 hours and 11 minutes, Kohala triumphed over Honokaa 12-9 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II first-round baseball game at Honokaa’s Parks and Recreation Complex.
Kohala (3-7 BIIF, 3-11 overall) will next play Kamehameha-Hawaii (7-2, 9-4) at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Wong Stadium in the BIIF semifinals for a berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament.
The Cowboys finished with an 0-12 record last season and missed the playoffs. But a year later, they showed much better polish particularly in a playoff game against the Dragons, who beat Kohala twice during the regular season. Kohala made two errors, which led to one unearned run.
Honokaa (2-8, 3-11) was often its own worst enemy. Three errors opened the door to four unearned runs. There were eight wild pitches, and four led to runs.
Still, the Dragons showed a lot of fight to the end. They tied it 5-5 with a five-run outburst in the third inning.
In the top of the seventh, shortstop Kazu Tolentino made a Derek Jeter-esque defensive play, snagging a ball deep in the hole, jumping in the air and firing to first. He got Kohala starting pitcher Casey Stevens at first.
It was a play that fired up Honokaa, which got a bolt of electricity when Austin Jardine cranked a solo homer over the 309-foot fence that surrounds the field. However, Kohala junior reliever Ricky Ching got a groundout and flyout to end the game.
Ching pitched five up-and-down innings for the win, allowing seven runs (six earned) on eight hits and one walk while striking out two. The only inning he went unscratched was the fourth, a key frame because Kohala held an 8-5 lead. Casey Stevens went two-plus innings and gave up two runs.
Stevens batted 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Ching went 2-for-3 with an RBI, and freshman shortstop Kainalu Solomon was 2-for-3 with an RBI to lead the offensive charge for the Cowboys.
Ikena Juan pitched four innings and took the loss. He gave up seven hits and five walks, and he struck out six and threw seven wild pitches, including three that led to runs. Jon Charbonneau threw the other two innings and yielded two unearned runs. He had one wild pitch, and that one hurt, too, bringing in a run.
Juan and Jardine each finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Damian Kaluhimoku went 2-for-4, and Kama Richards went 2-for-3 for the Dragons, who stranded 10 on base, including the sacks full in the first inning.
Kohala 212 313 0 — 12 9 2
Honokaa 005 012 1 — 9 11 3
c Hawaii Prep 22, Pahoa 3: Koa Ellis went 3-for-5 with two doubles, and Cyrus Inglis went 3-for-4 in Waimea as Ka Makani advanced to the BIIF Division II semifinals.
D.J. Sekiya pitched three innings to get the win for HPA (10-4), which will face Konawaena (11-2) at 11 a.m. Friday at Wong Stadium. He allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out four.
At the plate, Ian Rice, Mike Nakahara, Kama DeSilva and Lii Purdy added two hits apiece.
Starting pitcher Luis Velez lasted 1 2/3 innings for Pahoa, which ended its season 0-14.
Pahoa 000 30 — 3 3 4
Hawaii Prep 376 6x — 22 19 1