Mendoza sparks Lihu‘e comeback for Mustang title

West Kaua‘i Mustang catcher Brayden Abreu hit a grand slam, but Lihu‘e Mustangs took the Mustang Kaua‘i Section, 7-6, just as the rains came down, yesterday in Lihu‘e County Park.

The come-from-behind win by the Lihu‘e all stars gives them the Kaua‘i Section title and the right to advance to the state tournament starting on June 27 at the Central O‘ahu Regional Park.

Threatened by time running out on its game and made more ominous by the appearance of heavy black rain clouds, Mason Mendoza took a two-strike ball for a 3-run homerun well beyond the rightfield fence.

This was his third in the series as he notched a pair of 3-run homers Tuesday afternoon to lead Lihu‘e to a 16-2 win over West Kaua‘i.

Mendoza, who closed on the mound for Lihu‘e starting pitcher Shane Ogata, started on the mound, yesterday.

West Kaua‘i came on strong and notched a run in the first inning behind three hits as Alyssa Miyamoto opened with a single followed by shortstop Brayden Perez singling.

Brayden Abreu hit into an RBI single to score Perez for the opening bulge which was answered by Lihu‘e when Mendoza drove Tyler Smith, singling to third, across the plate for the 1-1 tie.

Following a defensive exchange in the second inning, Lihu‘e coach Milton Koga switched Ogata for Mendoza on the mound after Mendoza hit a batter and walked two West Kaua‘i batters to load the bases with no outs.

Abreu was the first batter Ogata faced and hit a solid conk to rightfield for a grand slam and a 5-1 jump in the lead.

Down 6-4 in the fifth inning, West Kaua‘i replaced starting pitcher Theron Shigematsu with Patrick Keamoi-Strickland.

Smith and La‘akea Iseri-Carvalho singled off the WK closer to set the stage for Mendoza’s big bang that was signalled by more red-shirted fans raising both arms to signal the ball’s flight over the rightfield fence for the 7-6 go-ahead.

But the action didn’t end there as West Kaua‘i battled back in the sixth inning as Justin “Scrappy” Garma and Miyamoto drew first base on back-to-back walks.

Garma was eliminated at third base for the second out when he attempted the bag on a passed ball as the misting rain added to the anxiety of the teams.

Perez hit into a fielder’s choice that cut Miyamoto down at home plate to preserve the 7-6 Lihu‘e edge as the mist turned into drops while the medals were passed out to both squads by Pony baseball officials Dondi Viquelia and Mark Domingcil.

“This is the kind of game where you hate to see someone lose,” said Lihu‘e business manager Ryden Domingsel following the game.

Pat Baniaga, the arbitrator in the Mustang Kaua‘i Section, said Lihu‘e played tough and was one of the most “hitting-est” teams they assembled.

In the win, Lihu‘e notched seven runs on nine hits while West Kaua‘i finished with its six runs coming on seven hits.

Of the nine Lihu‘e hits, three came off the West Kaua‘i relief pitcher in the fifth inning. He gave up three runs on three hits before setting down to strike out the final two batters in order.

Shigematsu, the West Kaua‘i starter, gave up four runs on six hits and hit one batter.

Mendoza, while doing mound duty, finished with four runs credited to him on three hits while striking out one batter and walking four. He also had a hit batter.

Ogata came in to close with two runs credited to him on four hits while striking out three batters and walking two batters.

With the completion of the Mustang Kaua‘i Section, the Broncos take the field as the Lihu‘e Bronco All Stars meet West Kaua‘i on Tuesday at the Koloa Ball Park.

First pitch in that best two-of-three series starts at 4:30 p.m. The second game in that series goes to the Lihu‘e County Park on Thursday, also at 4:30 p.m.

If a third game is necessary, a coin flip at the Thursday game will determine the site for the next Saturday final scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

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