Mikeo Rita shines in WK Bronco title fight

KALAHEO — Mikeo Rita gave up just two hits in West Kaua‘i Bronco All-Stars’ 6-3 win over Lihu‘e, Thursday afternoon in Kalawai.

Playing before an audience that ringed the Bronco field, both Rita’s hits came in the opening inning when Lihu‘e’s Jensen Koga tripled to lead off and scored on an RBI single off Kellen Aquino.

That was Lihu‘e’s moment to shine as the West Kaua‘i defense virtually shut down the redshirt bats until the sixth inning. Lihu‘e pushed two runs across the plate, capitalizing on West Kaua‘i miscues.

Unearned runs were the order of the day as Lihu‘e gave up three runs in the fifth inning to dig themselves into an emotionally draining hole that crumbled about them.

Jonah Malapit was hit by a pitch in the third inning, sending Mikey Rita in as a pinch-runner. Advancing on a fielder’s choice off Travis Soares’ bat, Mikey scored on another fielder’s choice by brother Mikeo for the 1-1 tie.

In the fifth frame, Soares and Mikeo singled. With one away, Kendall Kaohi’s walk with two outs loaded the bags.

Lihu‘e, trying hard to get out of the inning, gave up the go-ahead run as Shosho Ogawa walked to score Soares. The mound wouldn’t hold for Lihu‘e as Kalen Iwai got two straight balls before a Lihu‘e pitching change saw Aquino and catcher Koga switch places.

In that inning which seemed to last an eternity, a passed ball from the reliever saw Mikeo and Kaohi cross the plate for a 4-1 bulge, Iwai getting first on another walk before the redshirts finally closed the frame.

“You’ve been here before,” Warren Koga, the Lihu‘e scorekeeper tried to boost the quiet fielders. “This was the score, Tuesday.”

That might have been what it took because Austin Thronas looked through four balls to get first.

Koga got first on an error, and with two away, Erin Doi got first on another WK error to score Thronas.

A called balk drove Koga across the plate to bring Lihu‘e to within a run deficit, 4-3.

Despite this slim margin, WK coaches began substituting and Tevyn Rita, pinch hitting for Byron Freitas Jr., singled with one out.

A fielder’s choice from Soares drove Freitas home, and another fielder’s choice off Mikeo’s bat drove Soares home for the final accounting.

MiKeo picked up the win by going the distance for WK, allowing three runs on two hits while striking out seven.

Lihu‘e shared the loss between Aquino and Koga, Aquino going for five innings with four runs allowed and seven strikouts while Koga closed with two runs allowed with one strikeout.

Soares led the West Kaua‘i bats with a 1-2 showing, scoring twice and picking up a steal. Mikeo, also 1-2, scored twice and finished with two stolen bases. Emayo and Tevyn Rita singled to round out the West Kaua‘i hitting leaders.

Koga topped the Lihu‘e bats with his triple and scored twice. Aquino followed with a single and an RBI.

With the win, West Kaua‘i Bronco All-Stars will represent Kaua‘i when the state tournament opens in Hanapepe July 6 through 9.

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