West Kaua‘i churns up seven-run 7th to lead playoffs

LIHU‘E — The West Kaua‘i Bronco All-Stars poured seven runs across the plate in the seventh inning to claim the first of the Protect Our Nation’s Youth Bronco All-Stars playoffs, Tuesday at the Lihu‘e County Park.

Facing a 7-6 deficit, West Kaua‘i nudged its seven runs on three hits, leaving one stranded and capitalizing on three Lihu‘e miscues — the only errors the team committed in the see-saw battle.

Kapena Texeira opened the frame with a single to center field, getting replaced on first base by pinch runner Bryson Carbonel.

Jenson Texeira beat out an infield bunt single, getting Justin Fune to pinch run and advancing Carbonel to second.

Cody Taniguchi’s bunt, coupled with a Lihu‘e error, scored Carbonel and Fune and put the center fielder at second base.

Jeremiah Sanchez marked the first out in the frame, but still plated Taniguchi.

Charlie Lopez’s single drove home Sheldon Cabral, who had taken first on a walk, and Lopez came home along with Kai Perreira-Alquiza on a Lihu‘e error off Levi Sagucio’s bat. That brought Texeira back into the box where he drove Sagucio home before Lihu‘e closed the page.

Lihu‘e could only manage one run in the bottom of the frame as Sam Nakata doubled to right field and scored off a Pat Esteban ground rule double with no outs. But Esteban was left stranded when the West Kaua‘i defense shut down the next three batters in order for the win.

West Kaua‘i jumped to a 4-0 lead early, fueled by a two-run home run by Sagucio in the second inning.

But Lihu‘e, facing a 4-1 deficit after three innings, pushed four runs on three hits in the fourth inning when a Nakata double scored Jared Killeen, forcing a pitching change by West Kaua‘i.

Gunner Vallatini pushed Nakata home, setting the stage for pinch hitter Aaron Renaud who connected with a two-RBI double scoring Vallatini and Chase Ibia for the 5-4 Lihu‘e bulge.

Lihu‘e was able to score another run in each of the fifth and sixth innings before West Kaua‘i erupted for its seven runs in the top of the seventh frame.

Overall, West Kaua‘i collected eight hits for its 13 runs, Lihu‘e committing three errors.

Kapena Texeira, getting two hits in the seventh frame, topped the West Kaua‘i bats along with Sagucio’s home run.

Lihu‘e was right on West Kaua‘i’s heels, collecting seven hits for its eight runs with West Kaua‘i committing just one error.

Nakata led the Lihu‘e bats with two doubles, Esteban had a double and a single and Vallatini singled.

With the win, West Kaua‘i takes the lead in the best-of-three playoff series.

Both teams meet for the second game Thursday at the Hanapepe Kato Field, adjacent to the National Guard Armory, starting at 4:30 p.m.

Game 3, if needed, will be played Saturday at a site to be determined following the outcome of Thursday’s game.

The winner of the PONY Bronco All-Stars series will join the Lihu‘e Mustang All-Stars at the state games in Hilo, July 1 to 5, according to Mark Domingcil, the Kaua‘i PONY Region Director.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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