WAIMEA — Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s baseball team has a flair for the dramatic.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, cleanup hitter Cyrus Inglis hit a walk-off single, bringing in Ian Rice and giving HPA a 7-6 victory over visiting Konawaena (6-3), solidifying one of the top two spots in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II playoffs.
In its season finale Saturday, HPA (8-1) hosts Kamehameha (7-1-1) with an automatic berth at the Hawaii State Athletic Association tournament and the top seed in the BIIF Division II semifinals on the line. The contest will be HPA’s third game in six days.
“It will be a good baseball game,” HPA head coach Jordan Hayslip said. “This is a fun group to coach. We just want to keep playing good baseball.”
Hayslip credited his nine seniors for setting an example after the team’s first loss of the season against Hilo Monday and also for establishing the never say die approach his team has become known for.
“That attitude comes from the kids and the strong senior class leading us,” Hayslip said. “We have a group of guys who get along well. That adds to our chemistry.”
With the loss, Konawaena is locked into the No. 3 seed and will travel to the loser of Saturday’s contest between HPA and Kamehameha in the BIIF playoffs.
“We really wanted this one so we could host a playoff game, but someone has to lose and somebody has to win,” Konawaena assistant coach Herman Ishibashi said.
Koa Ellis recorded the win on the mound for Ka Makani, allowing 11 hits and striking out two in a complete game effort.
Jordan Miyahara-Young took the loss for the Wildcats, allowing eight hits and seven runs. The Wildcats’ ace issued just two walks, while striking out one.
The game won’t go down as a gem for Ellis, but the junior hurler managed to get himself out of jams — including a bases loaded situation in the seventh inning — and helped himself out with a lead-off single to ignite the HPA rally in the bottom of the seventh.
“(Ellis) did what he had to do on the mound and came up with that big hit for us late,” Hayslip said. “He has done a great job for us all year.”
The teams played in blistering winds and sideways rain — typical Waimea weather. Ishibashi said the conditions made fielding a tough task.
“With this field you have to play the wind,” he said. “When they hit the ball out there, sometimes it dies in the air. You think it may go over your head, but it just dies in front of you and then you have to rush in. Then the wind can change direction real quick too.”
HPA was helped out by its mascot on a few occasions, but none greater than during the seventh inning rally. Rice launched a long shot off of Miyahara-Young to center field, which the center fielder misjudged. The ball flew over his head, bringing in Ellis to tie the game and putting Rice, the winning run, into scoring position.
When asked about the wind, Hayslip said with a smile, “We practice in this kind of weather, so we are used to it.”
Inglis’ game-winning single concluded his perfect day. The junior slugger went 4 of 4 from the plate, with two RBIs.
“I commend the batter. He hit it hard and you can’t do anything about that,” Ishibashi said. “That’s baseball.”
Despite the loss, Evyn Yamaguchi had a solid day at the plate for the Wildcats, knocking in two RBIs on 3 of 4 hitting.
HPA catcher Mike Nakahara has had a penchant for timely hitting this season. He slapped a two-RBI shot in the fifth inning, to tie the game at 5-all.
With a possible rematch on the horizon, Ishibashi said the battle with the wind will go down as a lesson learned.
“If we have to come here again, we will look forward to it,” Ishibashi said.
Konawaena 200 031 0 — 6 11 4
HPA 100 220 2 — 7 8 4