Kalaheo wins AJA season opener

LIHU’E — Leighton Otoman pulled the Makaweli Indians back into the fray in the seventh frame Sunday.

The Makaweli shortstop bit into a Lihu’e pitch for a two-RBI shot that pulled the Indians to within a point as the Kaua’i Americans of Japanese Ancestry (AJA) opened up their 71st season of play with a double-header at Vidinha Stadium.

Otoman’s shot erased a 4-1 deficit for Makaweli, and a passed ball in the same frame saw the game deadlocked, 4-4 as Ikaika Pezario crossed the plate for the Indians.

But Makaweli was not done yet as Bradley Chiba smacked an RBI double to give the Indians a 5-4 lead only to have Lihu’e answer in the top of the ninth as Aaron Adachi slid across the plate on a long hit by Allan Mundon, the ball glancing off the outfield fence, tying the contest.

But the fireworks never ended as Mundon raced toward third base in an effort to beat the throw — unsuccessfully, thereby ending the contest in a 5-5 stalemate.

Otoman (1-5) led the Makaweli bats with a pair of RBI followed by Chiba (1-3) and Tanita (1-3) each driving in a run.

Mikey Cardinez (3-3) topped the Lihu’e bats with an RBI in a pair of singles and a double. Dan Tanimoto (2-4) and Mundon (1-5) each ended with an RBI.

In the second contest, defending champion Kalaheo Kaneshiro Farms ran over the Hanapepe Rivermen, 24-12 in a six-inning TKO affair.

Kainoa Santos (5-6), Keola McCallum (1-4), and Brandon Ishibashi (1-5) each finished with four RBI apiece to lead Kalaheo to a 24-12 TKO win over Hanapepe in the finale.

Kaina McCallum (2-2), who picked up his first homerun of the season, finished with three RBI, Kaleo Saiki (2-3), David Bukoski (3-4), and Liko Pereira (2-2) each notched two RBI each, with Troy Kaneshiro (2-3) and Zoomie Bukoski (1-4) rounding out the Kalaheo fireworks with an RBI apiece.

Quentin Natividad (2-4), Kevin Suga (1-2), and Brandon Hew (2-5) led the Hanapepe bats with three RBI apiece. Leroy Nonaka (3-3), Troy Yamase (2-3), and Kelly Robinson (1-2) each finished with an RBI apiece.

Pereira, the 2005 MVP, started the pitching chores for the victorious Kalaheo team under the coaching of Peter Ishibashi, who stepped up to accept the Most Home Runs trophy on behalf of Kaina McCallum as well as the 2005 championship trophy from AJA President Tom Shigemoto.

Saiki of the Kalaheo team was the recipient of the Rookie of the Year trophy with Lihu’e’s Cardinez taking the Batting and Most RBI honors.

Shigemoto said the success of the league is due to the support it receives from the community, the fans, and most importantly, from the league officials and coaches who dedicate countless hours to make games possible for the players.

Later in April, Kaua’i will be hosting the state championships here. Shigemoto said it’s important for fans to come out and support the event. Michael Tresler, speaking on behalf of Kaua’i Mayor Bryan Baptiste, said he will be on hand for that event.

Tresler, in extending the county’s congratulations, noted that Kaua’i also had the distinction of fielding the first female to play in the league.

Jessica Iwata, garbed in the Kalaheo jersey, but not playing due to her softball commitment with the Kaua’i High School program, presented Tresler with the welcoming lei, and looks ahead to the end of the softball season when she can once again take the field.

That window afforded Shigemoto the opportunity to introduce the AJA League officials that include First Vice President Mamo Kaneshiro, Second Vice President Brian Yamase, Secretary Gerald Ako who presided over the opening ceremonies, and treasurer Russell Maeda. Earl Miyao is the league’s business manager.

Ako told the audience that there are four teams that make up the league with two of them being in action prior to the ceremonies. The teams include the Lihu’e Builders, coached by Dean Ichimasa, the Makaweli Indians handled by Mel Nishihara, the Hanapepe Rivermen with Robinson as manager, and the defending champion Kalaheo Kaneshiro Farms, coached by Ishibashi.

Double header games are played on Sundays starting at 10 a.m.

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