LIHU‘E — For the second time in as many starts, Waimea’s Mikeo Rita found trouble in the first inning. The difference this time was Rita’s ability to battle it off.
After giving up three first-inning runs, the Waimea hurler stymied the Kaua‘i Red Raiders over the next six and the Menehune used a four-run fourth inning to score a 6-3 win over the Red Raiders Saturday afternoon at Vidinha Stadium.
Rita’s ability to settle down after the first inning was crucial for the Menehune, especially since earlier in the day the Red Raiders stomped the Menehune 10-1 in the opening game of the second round of the KIF baseball season.
Rita’s performance on the mound was a stark contrast from his last start against Kapa‘a. In that game, he struggled with control and couldn’t make the adjustments to make it out of the first inning. On Saturday, Rita said he was able to make a change.
“I started to throw slower than I usually do,” Rita said. “It gave me more control on the ball, and I just kept doing what the coach told me to.”
In the complete game win, Rita limited the Red Raiders to six hits while striking out four batters.
And unlike game one, the Menehune offense got their pitcher some run-support.
The Menehune got on the board in the third inning with an RBI triple off the bat of Jordan Kamakea and then opened the floodgates in the fourth.
Brock Ephan led off the inning and reached base on starting pitcher Cal Koga’s throwing error. After an Alika Emayo sacrifice bunt, Ky Tomimoto singled, followed by an Aceytn Emayo sacrifice fly to drive in a run.
Errors continued to haunt the Red Raiders in the inning when a botched grounder at second scored a run in the next at-bat. Jordan Kamakea then followed with an RBI single to right field, scoring Justin Silva. Brigg Perreira came around to score when Red Raider right fielder Kellen Aquino overthrew third base.
The Menehune tacked on another run in the fifth inning when ShoSho Ogawa scored on a Mikey Rita squeeze bunt.
Kamakea and Silva both had two hits for the Menehune.
“The whole team performance, to fight back against a great team and play a top notch game, was good,” Waimea head coach Michael Rita said. “This win keeps us in a position to win the second round.”
The Red Raiders began the game with the intentions of jumping out to a 2-0 Round 2 record. The winners of the KIF’s first round with a 5-1 record, the Red Raiders, eased through game one behind the pitching of Erin Doi. The Kaua‘i senior pitched six innings, limiting the Menehune to one run and five hits. Monibog pitched the seventh inning to close out the game. Doi helped his cause out at the plate with two RBIs and a double. Aquino and Iwasaki both added two hits in the game.
The Red Raiders carried their momentum from the first game into the the second. Although Rita retired the first two batters of the game, he quickly got into trouble when he walked Jensen Koga. Austin Oshiro made Rita pay in the next at-bat when he drove Koga in with a double.
That’s when Rita appeared like he was about to break down. After intentionally walking Erin Doi, he gave up a single to Cal Koga, walked in a run with four balls to Kanoa Iwasaki and drove in another when he hit Bryton Lumabao.
But unlike his game against Kapa‘a, Rita regrouped and struck out Shane Ogata to end the inning.
“We left a lot of guys on base that couldn’t come through,” Kaua‘i head coach Hank Ibia said. “Rita did a hell of a job. He’s always tough.”
Cal Koga gave up six runs — two earned — and five hits in four innings of work for the Red Raiders.
“He pitched well for us,” Ibia said. “We made errors and that was the story of the ball game.”
Ibia said Koga didn’t help his cause with his throwing error in the fourth inning, but sees promise in his young player. In addition to his work on the mound in game two, Koga doubled and scored three times in game one.
“He is young and he’s learning,” Ibia said. “We hope he keeps learning and gets better.”
The KIF season continues on Wednesday when the Menehune host the Kapa‘a Warriors at Hanapepe Stadium.
The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.
• Tyson Alger, sports writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or by emailing talger@ thegardenisland.com. Follow him on twitter.com/tysonalger.