LIHU’E — Kalaheo’s Kaina McCallum had the distinction of hitting the only home run in the 71st Hawai’i State AJA Baseball Championship Tournament over the weekend.
But that effort came up short as Kalaheo dropped a 3-2 decision to Maui on the opening day of the tournament in Hanapepe on Saturday. That loss pitted the Kalaheo Kaneshiro Farmers against the Big Island for third place in Sunday action.
Kainoa Santos (1-3) came up with two RBIs on a double to lead Kalaheo to a 7-2 win for third place in the tournament that was hosted by the Kaua’i organization.
Kaina McCallum (1-2), Brandon Ishibashi (1-4), Leighton Otoman (1-2), and Zoomie Bukoski (1-3) each chalked up RBIs in the win that was earned by Jason Nakata who went the distance with two runs allowed, five hits, while striking out seven batters and walking one.
Michael Seto led the Big Island bats with a 2-3 showing with a pair of RBIs. Shaye Miura, Charlie Matson, and James Onaga each singled in the effort.
Maui opened up the championship game with Aaron Matsui scoring on an RBI single from Miles Luuloa, but with two outs, Barry Takahashi was tagged trying to stretch thirdbase to end the threat.
But the damage was not done yet, as starting pitcher Tyson Higa was injured on a hard hit ball by O’ahu’s Brent Shimokawa with one out.
The Maui cover recovered the ball, but Shimokawa was safe on the play, forcing Maui to rethink their strategy as Higa was helped to the dugout.
Scott Takakura was able to get out of the inning leaving Shimokawa stranded, but O’ahu, comprised largely of players from the Waipahu team, came back with three runs in the second and fifth innings enroute to a 9-1 win just as peals of thunder signalled the arrival of afternoon showers.
The championship adds to the O’ahu string of titles — 14 in total — that date back to 1993 when the Sheridan team powered the title. Waipahu’s last state title came in 2004.
O’ahu nailed down the title behind 14 hits led by Jacob Yoro (3-4) who doubled and had two singles. Yoro earned the tournament’s Batting Average honor, finishing with a .667.
Ricky Tahara (2-2) finished with three RBIs, Derrick Costigan (1-3) powered two RBIs, with Syd Kinimaka (2-4), and Moku Paiva (2-2) each driving in an RBI. Matt Shido (1-4), Shimokawa (1-4), Keoki Telles (1-4), and Tevin Kobashigawa (1-1) each singled.
Shido, who drove in four RBIs in O’ahu’s 11-2 showing for the Big Island Saturday, was presented the RBI award after his single RBI Sunday.
Blaine Muraoka, throwing seven innings in the title game, finished with one run allowed on six hits while striking out three and walking one. Muraoka was awarded the MVP for his pitching performance.
Maui bats were led by Luuloa (2-2) with an RBI, Barry Takahashi (2-3), Jason Miyahira (1-3) who doubled, and Matsui (1-4) who got his single in the opening frame.
Kaua’i AJA officials said this year’s state tournament was dedicated to the memory of Buster Matsumura, who was only 5 years old when the first Kaua’i Japanese baseball league was formed in 1925.
This was believed to be the first AJA circuit in Hawai’i, with formal AJA Senior League taking place on Jan. 8, 1928.
Buster, with his twin brother Yutaka, learned to play in the pasture lands of Kipu Plantation. Buster and his friends would roam the camps looking for pickup games whenever they could, the boys playing with a ragball and wooden sticks for bats.
At 28, Buster became part of an Invitational League to compete in the state tournament in 1948 where he reportedly “owned second base.”
After retiring as a player, Buster remained with the league as a scorekeeper, devoting 40 years of his life to AJA baseball.
He also helped form a youth baseball program for children in the Lihu’e area, and in 1952, with the help of other community leaders, formed the Lihu’e Boys Baseball League.
“His whole philosophy about baseball was not about winning, but learning and respecting the game,” said Kaua’i AJA officials.
After 45 years, Buster retired from the Lihu’e Boys Baseball League which has since been renamed to the Lihu’e Baseball League and is headed up by president Warren Koga.
Buster passed away on Aug. 4, 2005, leaving behind his wife Momoyo, son Ronnie, daughter Michelle, brothers Mamoru and Yutaka, and sisters Hatsue Shibata and Bernice Zenigami. He had four grandsons and two granddaughters.
- Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) and firstname.lastname@example.org.