KIF Baseball Championship: Bats vs Arms

HANAPEPE — The Waimea Menehune and the Kaua‘i Red Raiders got to today’s KIF Baseball championship game in different ways.

The Red Raiders cruised to the Round 1 title with a 5-1 record — their only loss in that round came in the season opener to the Menehune. The second round was all Waimea. After splitting the round opening-doubleheader with the Raiders, the Menehune won three of their next four games to clinch the second round.

While the Menehune cruised through the round, the Red Raiders slumped. Kaua‘i enters today’s game riding a three-game losing streak.

The two teams took different routes to today’s game and coincidentally Waimea head coach Michael Rita and Kaua‘i head coach Hank Ibia have differing theories on what it will take to come away with a win in the one-game playoff being held at 1 p.m. at Hanapepe Stadium.

For the Menehune the focus is pitching and defense. At the plate, Waimea has stayed consistent all year long. On the mound — when on — the Menehune have one of the best one-two punches in the league with Mikeo Rita and BJ Freitas.

Rita will most likely get the start and will try to continue his recent hot-streak. The Waimea senior has allowed only three runs in his last three appearances and has been the Menehune go-to pitcher over the course of the season.

“We always stress pitching and defense,” Michael Rita said. “We can score runs. The hitting will come. We focus on the defense.”

For the Red Raiders, Ibia said the key to ending his team’s three-game losing streak and advancing to defend its state title are the bats. Ibia said the Red Raiders have been in a funk over the past few games and in order to upstage the Menehune, those bats need to wake up.

“If we come to the game with our bats we’ll be OK,” Ibia said. “We haven’t hit for the last three games. We haven’t been hitting the ball at all.”

Today’s meeting will be the seventh time the two teams have seen each other over the past two months. Both coaches said that  in a winner-take-all format, there will be no surprises.

“They’ll throw their best and we’ll throw our best,” Ibia said. “At the end, you have to win the whole deal.”

Kaua‘i’s best will most likely come in the form of Erin Doi on the mound. Doi ranks in the top of the KIF in every pitching category and has been consistent for the Raiders the whole season. Doi’s arm should be fresh — the senior hasn’t pitched since April 14. On that day, he pitched a complete game shutout against the Kapa‘a Warriors in Game 1 of a doubleheader and returned in Game 2 for another inning of work.

“There will be no surprises. If they’re pitching Doi we have to be ready to hit and we’re preparing for their staff,” coach Rita said.

The one thing both coaches said their teams have in common is the desire to win. The Red Raiders are the defending state champions and want a shot at a title defense. The Menehune want to upstage the Raiders for their own shot at the state title.

“Both teams are going to come out and play hard,” Rita said. “They’ll come out with their confidence and we’ll come out with our confidence.”

• Tyson Alger, sports writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or by emailing talger@ thegardenisland.com. Follow him on twitter.com/tysonalger.

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