HILO — Na Koa Ikaika Maui right-hander Jesse Smith produced another gem, and he made sure the Hawaii Stars didn’t shine in a game the home team desperately needed to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Smith fired seven strong innings, and Maui collected enough well-placed hits to leap past the Stars 6-1 in a North American Baseball League game on Monday night at Wong Stadium, holding Hawaii five games back of the front-running San Rafael Pacifics.
Fortunately for Hawaii, the Sonoma County Grapes beat the Pacifics 5-4 on Monday. Na Koa is just three games back. Maui and Hawaii also play a season-ending six-game series on the Valley Isle next week.
Hawaii’s new player, right fielder Reggie York, made his first start and sparked his comrades to a 1-0 lead in the second inning with his hustle. He beat out a high chopper to second for an infield single, moving Anthony Lopez, who earlier singled, to third.
Then Smith threw a wide fastball that bounced off catcher Nick Valdez’ glove for a passed ball, scoring Lopez. York, in tune with his good first impression, raced from first to third. However, he was stranded 90 feet away from home plate after Anthony Williams hit into a groundout.
That was pretty much Hawaii’s only highlight. York batted 1-for-4. Matt Hibbert, Keoni Manago and Lopez had the other singles.
However, Maui hit for accuracy rather than power to scratch a pair of runs in the fourth inning off Stars starter Ronnie Loeffler, who entered the game 2-0 against Na Koa.
Loeffler plunked Valdez with a slow-moving breaking ball. Then Na Koa employing three well-placed singles to drive in a pair of runs.
Three batters later, Mark Okano hit a slicing RBI single to right center field. Joe Kala’s seeing-eye single past second base scored Chema Sanchez, who earlier wedged a single to left field, for a 2-1 lead.
Smith (7-2, 1.52 ERA) gave up an unearned run in seven innings. For Loeffler (6-2, 4.04 ERA), the paper cuts continued in the sixth and seventh innings. Na Koa Ikaika Maui (the Warriors of Maui) produced a double in each inning.
Maui 000 202 200 — 6 9 0
Hawaii 010 000 000 — 1 4 0