When it comes to rivalry games, throw out the records, favorites and past results. Anything can happen, especially in a game between crosstown rivals Kealakehe and Konawaena.
In the bottom of the seventh inning in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation baseball matchup at Kealakehe High School, Kealakehe senior Keoki Meyers knocked a shot to shallow right field to bring in the winning run and give the Waveriders (3-2) their first win in three years against Konawaena (3-2).
“It’s not only good for our guys, but good for the future of the program to show we can run with the top teams,” Kealakehe head coach Josh Hansen said. “Our defense made up a lot for our base running errors. We had opportunities to score and did not convert, but we kept grinding.”
The last time the Waveriders beat the Wildcats, Zaynan Sanchez was a freshman. The senior captain now has a nice memory to take into his post-high school career.
“All the hard work we have put in is paying off now,” Sanchez said. “We will only get stronger as a team, and this one feels good.”
Sanchez went the distance for Kealakehe, allowing one run and striking out three.
Shelton Grace took the complete game loss for Konawaena.
“Kudos to their program. They have come a long way this year,” Konawaena head coach Dave Distel said. “This is a learning experience for both teams. The real test for us now comes to see how we battle back from this.”
The rivals played four times in the preseason, with Konawaena winning every game.
“I give them complete credit, they made the defensive plays when it mattered. We didn’t,” Distel said. “We always look forward to this rivalry game and you could tell that there was a lot of emotion out there for both teams.”
Kealakehe’s Marcus Degrate delivered on all three of his plate attempts, and Sage Valenzuela batted 2-of-3 with an RBI.
Kealakehe needed a morale boost after Wednesday’s loss to Kamehameha, when the Waveriders recorded seven errors in a nine-run seventh inning.
“Baseball is a funny game. You never know what is going to happen,” Hansen said. “We played six good innings against Kamehameha and one bad one. Today, we played a complete game. Guys who would not have made plays at the start of the season are coming around now and producing for us.”
A controversial incident occurred in the top of the second inning, when first baseman Kea Miyahira-Young popped up to the infield. In frustration, Miyahira-Young flung his bat back toward the plate, hitting the Kealakehe catcher in the shins while he attempted to make the out.
After some deliberation, the umpires decided to confine Miyahira-Young to the dugout and not eject him, since the act appeared to be unintentional.
While the contest was a defensive struggle, it was not without scoring chances. Kealakehe left seven runners on base in the game, including a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the fifth inning. Savvy defensive plays by third baseman Jordan Miyahira-Young and Evyn Yamaguchi kept the Waveriders off the board.
Kealakehe escaped a bases-loaded situation of their own in the top of the seventh behind tough defense and stellar pitching from Sanchez.
With runners on first and third, Hansen put in the signal to intentionally walk Logan Canda to load the bases.
“Canda is a great hitter and tore us up in the preseason,” Hansen said. “I’ve been working with Zaynan about strategically pitching and I decided to put the ball in his hand and he capitalized on the opportunity.”
Konawaena hit a shallow fly ball on the next at-bat, and Kealakehe escaped the inning unscathed.
“I was a little worried up there, but I was able to settle down knowing my boys behind me had my back,” Sanchez said.
Dustin Waiau led off the seventh inning for the Waveriders with a double, capitalizing on a bad throw to first base. Waiau managed to get to third on a wild pitch Konawaena catcher Yamaguchi lost track of. With Yamaguchi scrambling for the loose ball, Waiau thought about trying to make it home and end the game, but opted for the safe play.
He wouldn’t have to wait long.
Meyers hit the next pitch and Waiau beat a close throw from the right fielder to win the game.
Next up for Kealakehe is a home contest against Kohala on Tuesday. Konawaena hosts Ka‘u on April 5.
“Baseball is a marathon. It’s who is hot at the end,” Distel said. “We are forgetting this game, and looking forward to the next one.”
Konawaena 010 000 0 — 1 8 1
Kealakehe 000 100 1 — 2 7 1