Waimea outlasts Lihu‘e for PONY title

WAIMEA — There was nothing left for Lihu‘e in the 13th inning yesterday.

With several of Lihu‘e’s players away on the Mainland, Waimea pushed five runs across the plate in the 13th frame to take the PONY Baseball championship with an 11-8 win over Lihu‘e. The packed Waimea field was encircled by overflow parking and a brisk wind that whipped dust down the rightfield line.

“These are two great teams, and I’m so proud of both of them,” Dondi Viquelia, the PONY Baseball arbitrator, said following the Sunday contest that creeped toward the four-hour mark under the broiling Westside sun.

Entering the 13th inning tied 6-6, Waimea’s Ioane Toyofuku singled to center, opening the frame and capitalizing on Lihu‘e’s Hank Ibia, who replaced a tiring Travis Koga on the mound.

“It’s going to come down to endurance,” one of the Waimea coaches said from the dugout, noting the change. “Lihu‘e could sure use Trey Shimabukuro and Taren Tani at this point, but they’re on the Mainland.”

With one away, Steven Werner got aboard on an error, scoring Toyofuku on the play and breaking the 6-6 deadlock.

Waimea’s firstbase Tanner singled to short bringing Werner across the plate for the second time in the contest. With two away, Bronson Hiraoka whacked into a triple to drive in two more runs as Tanner and Camden crossed the plate, the high-arcing ball drawing enthusiastic cheer from the Waimea dugout.

An RBI single by K.J. Morikawa, the ninth batter in the Waimea lineup, drove Hiraoka home for the fifth run in the inning.

But Lihu‘e never gave up and battled back with two runs of its own.

Kent Nuivo and Ibia singled to open up their frame. Leadoff hitter Shea Shimabukuro followed with an RBI single to score Nuivo before Koga drew first on a walk with no outs.

Jamen Albarado sacrificed to centerfield, driving Ibia home. Puna Hanohano singled to load the bases with one out, but Waimea stiffened and caught the final two batters, the final Lihu‘e batter going down on a Werner strikeout for the win.

Both teams opened early as Waimea chalked up two runs in the first inning only to have Lihu‘e answer with four runs for a 4-2 lead after one complete inning.

Waimea came right back with three runs in the second for the 5-4 go-ahead that stood until the fourth when Lihu‘e pulled ahead with two runs for the 6-5 edge.

In the fifth inning, Waimea had the bases loaded on two singles and a walk, butthe starting pitcher struck out two straight Waimea batters, leaving three runners stranded.

Waimea’s answer came in the sixth with one run to knot things up as Dylan Ishihara scored on a Lihu‘e error trying to stop a stolen base attempt.

Waimea got two runner aboard on walks in the seventh, but left both stranded as Lihu‘e struck out the remaining batters.

Albarado opened the side for Lihu‘e with a walk, but was caught on a stolen base attempt. Hanohano’s hard-hit ball to third took a bad bounce. Another walk moved him to third, but Lihu‘e couldn’t close the door as a bunt plopped into Werner’s glove and the final out came on an infield fly to first.

Werner, who finished off the game on the mound, was one of the leading batters for Waimea, driving in four runs with a single and an in-the-park home run that dropped in deep centerfield in the second inning.

With the win, Viquelia said coaches from all the teams will vote on an all-star team to represent Kaua‘i at the state tournament on O‘ahu in July.

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