WAIPAHU, Oahu — After Chay Toson pitched Kamehameha into the state championship game on a windy night at the ballpark, the junior left-hander pointed to something more powerful than his fastball or the mighty swings of his team’s bats: positive reinforcement.
Time and again, his fellow Warriors provided him with a verbal confidence boost, and he responded with six tough innings to beat No. 1 seed Waianae 7-5 in the semifinals of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state baseball tournament on Friday night at Hans L’Orange Field.
Kamehameha (11-2) advanced to play No. 2 seed Maryknoll (10-3-1), the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion, for the title.
Toson worked around seven walks, depending on his defense to find a way to get outs. He allowed four runs — one earned — on four hits. He struck out four, stranding nine on base. Jordan Hirae pitched an inning of one-run relief for the save.
“I’m speechless. I can’t say enough thanks to the eight guys behind me,” he said. “I appreciated the fact that they kept telling me they had my back. As a pitcher, that’s a big confidence builder, and it helped me make pitches.”
One day after stranding 10 runners on base in a 2-1 first-round win over No. 4 seed Kapaa, the Warriors attacked early, made hard contact and cashed in on scoring opportunities against the Oahu Interscholastic Association champion Seasiders (11-3), who didn’t start their ace, Kekoa Kaluhiokalani Jr.
Instead, Brandon Cambra got the start and didn’t record an out, leaving after five batters in the top of the first when the score was 3-0. Chad Teshima opened the game and greeted Cambra with a triple. Toson followed with an RBI double and two walks loaded the bases.
Makoa Rosario, the No. 5 hitter, was next, and no one needed a base hit for a confidence boost more than the junior catcher. He got stuck with an 0-for-3 collar and three strikeouts against Kapaa. But he showed his resolve with a two-run double, chasing Cambra and leading to the late entry of Kaluhiokalani.
The Waianae junior pitched seven innings and yielded four runs — one earned — on four hits and two walks. Kaluhiokalani’s defense resembled the team that couldn’t throw straight, with four throwing errors that led to three unearned runs.
Kamehameha had one error that led to three unearned runs. But that throwing error came in the sixth, when the Warriors held a 7-0 lead. After Sheaven Delima-Ferreira clubbed a two-run single off a change-up that cut the lead to 7-4, Toson threw another change-up to strike out cleanup hitter Tavita Lalau with two on.
“I felt that come off my hand really good,” Toson said. “My circle change-up sinks and dives, and my curveball from the stretch wasn’t working. But my curveball from the windup threw them off-balanced and my fastball was right there. I felt comfortable with it.”
That tense situation followed a bases-loaded jam in the first inning created by three straight walks. But Toson got a flyout to first, sending an early message that all of his walks would lead to no runs.
It’s been a good run for Kamehameha’s three starting seniors — pitcher/shortstop Kupono Decker, third baseman Bronson Pulgados and second baseman Chad Teshima — at the state tournament. In 2010, all three were freshmen and saw part-time action when the Warriors were the state runner-up, falling to Waimea 11-10. Last season, Kamehameha lost to Maryknoll for third place.
Teshima batted 3-for-4 to lead the offensive charge, and Rosario was 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
“It was a tough game. Waianae battled back, but it was team effort,” Teshima said. “I haven’t been hitting, but my team and coaches have helped me gain my confidence back. They’ve been picking me up every time I come in after making an out. We have great team chemistry.”
Kamehameha 320 101 0 — 7 7 1
Waianae 000 004 1 — 5 6 4