KEALAKEKUA —The contest between the top contenders to knock off Kamehameha for the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II crown was as close as expected Saturday in the finale of the Keaau Cougar Invitational Tournament at Konawaena’s Gabby Inaba Field.
Behind a home run from Lii Purdy and a complete game, four-strikeout performance from Koa Ellis Jr., Hawaii Preparatory Academy sneaked by Konawaena 5-3 in the last preseason test for both teams.
“I would say us, Kamehameha and HPA are the three teams at the top,” said Konawaena head coach Dave Distel. “All three teams are very close in talent. I think today was an example of that.”
The game featured multiple lead changes, but Ka Makani took control in the sixth inning after an error on a throw from third to first base resulted in two unearned runs.
The Wildcats had two runners on base and the winning run at the plate in the top of the seventh, but the game ended with an easy infield fly out.
“The mantra I tell the boys is to keep the line moving and get productive outs. We did not have a lot of those today,” Distel said. “They beat us fair and square and simply hit it where we weren’t.”
For Konawaena, Shelton Grace went the distance for the second time this preseason, striking out four and walking two in the losing effort. Zane Gray and Royce Torres-Torioka both had a pair of hits for the Wildcats.
Ka Makani got a well-rounded performance from Ellis. The starting pitcher had two hits and two RBIs, including the game-winner. Senior Mike Nakahara also supplied some offense, going 2-for-4 and knocking in an RBI.
HPA and Konawaena both concluded the preseason tournament with a 2-1 record. Konawaena will travel to Pahoa on Saturday for its regular-season opener. HPA opens its season March 19 against Keaau.
Kealakehe 17, Keaau 6
Kealakehe earned its second TKO victory in as many days, knocking out the tournament host Keaau behind a nine run third inning.
Keaau was plagued by errors and wild pitches, allowing the 17 runs on just 11 hits.
Sage Valenzuela got the win in relief for Kealakehe, pitching four innings, striking out three and allowing just one earned run. Valenzuela hit the strike zone on 40 of his 54 pitches.
Pohaku Dela Cruz was the most dangerous Waverider from the plate, going 3-for-4 and knocking in two RBIs.
Justin Quesada took the loss for Keaau. He lasted just two innings, walked one, struck out two, and allowed four runs.
Rason Martinez was the top slugger for the Cougars, going 3-for-4 and tacking on a RBI.