KAPA‘A — It’s no secret the Waimea Menehune like to play small ball. Kapa‘a head coach Brian Aiwohi said he expects the Menehune to put on the suicide squeeze anytime there’s a man on third base with less than two outs.
Three times the Menehune put a runner on third Wednesday afternoon and yet, although the Warriors knew what was about to unfold, they were defensless.
The Menehune racked up two runs off the squeeze, and another on a balk while attempting the squeeze, during a 4-0 win over the Kapa‘a Warriors Wednesday at Ron Martin Field in Kapa‘a.
“We know that’s Waimea’s game,” Aiwohi said. “They did it against Kaua‘i High School. They did it against us. It’s nothing new. We just couldn’t do anything about it.”
Waimea’s first opportunity to lay the bunt down came in the first inning. Jordan Kamakea reached base after being hit by a Nick Taburo pitch, advanced to second on a Mikey Rita sacrifice bunt and then advanced to third when Taburo loaded the bases with walks to Mikeo Rita and Brock Ephan.
Up at the plate with one out, everyone knew what Waimea catcher Alika Emayo was about to do. Emayo, a senior leader for the Menehune, said once he got the bunt sign, only one thought raced through his head.
“When I get that sign I just know I’ve got to get that bunt down,” Emayo said. “Every run counts.”
Emayo laid the bunt down perfectly, scoring Rita and reaching first base in the process for an infield single.
Emayo replicated the process again the third inning, scoring Mikey Rita for the second run of the game.
After a rockey first inning, Taburo steadied for the Warriors, going four and two-thirds innings, allowing three runs and only a single hit. But Taburo walked five batters and hit two, often filling the bases.
With Waimea’s tendency to bunt with a man on third, Aiwhohi said Taburo was at another disadvantage because he’s left-handed and faces first base.
“He pitched pretty good, but I would rather have a right-hander on the mound when we have a guy on third,” Aiwohi said. “Especially in a squeeze situation, I think if we had a righty it may have been a little different.”
While the Menehune continued to play succesful small ball, starting pitcher Mikeo Rita once again pitched deep in the game for Waimea.
After hitting the first batter of the game, Rita settled into a groove and pitched five innings, limiting the Warriors to two hits, walking two.
Waimea head coach Michael Rita said his pitcher’s ability to trust his defense and throw strikes gets him out of many tough situations.
“Our defense is doing well and it really makes the pitching look good,” the coach said. “They have to make the plays, and the pitcher has to hit the locations.”
B.J. Frietas came in relief in the sixth inning and gave up one hit in the seventh.
Mick Voigt racked up two hits for the Warriors and Keola Lutz added the third.
In addition to his squeezes, Emayo had an RBI double in the fifth off of Kapa‘a relief pitcher Keoki Planas.
The Menehune added their final run in the seventh inning when Jordan Kamakea tripled, setting up yet another squeeze play. The Menehune weren’t able to score the run off the squeeze this time, though, because Planas balked on a pick-off attempt, awarding Kamakea a trip to home.
The win improved Waimea’s record to 2-1 on the season, and although the small ball is working for the Menehune, coach Rita said his team needs to start swinging the bat in order to become a complete team.
The Menehune can be a bunting team, and so far it’s worked, Rita said.
“But we have to start hitting the ball, too.”
• Tyson Alger, sports writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or by emailing talger@ thegardenisland.com. Follow him on twitter.com/tysonalger.