Menehune make it past Bull Dogs

WAIPAHU — In the state tournament, a bad inning can mean the difference between advancing and going home — no matter the seed of the team. The top-ranked Waimea Menehunes’ ability to escape out of those innings before taking damage has them heading to the semifinals.

Editor’s note: Follow the Menehune live at www.thegardenisland.com during today’s game to join a live chat with Sports Editor Tyson Alger.

WAIPAHU — In the state tournament, a bad inning can mean the difference between advancing and going home — no matter the seed of the team. The top-ranked Waimea Menehunes’ ability to escape out of those innings before taking damage has them heading to the semifinals.

Jordan Kamakea had a two-run fourth inning and the Menehune pitching staff limited three potential Waialua big innings to a single run in a 5-1 win Wednesday evening in the first round of the Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association Wally Yonamine Foundation Baseball Division II State Championships at Hans L‘Orange Park in Waipahu.

Mikeo Rita picked up the win by allowing one run over five innings, and he batted 2-for-4 with a double and a triple.

The win advanced Waimea to today’s semifinal against Kamehameha-Hawai‘i.

Although the Menehune were expected to reach the semis, Rita said they knew the Bull Dogs would give them a tough game.

“We knew we couldn’t take these guys cheap,” Rita said.

Rita opened up the game for Waimea with a two-out triple and his courtesy runner, Shosho Ogawa, scored when Brock Ephan dropped a single into right field.

Rita struggled in the bottom for the first inning, though. Robert Ladia led off the inning with a single and Rita followed by hitting Kekai Rivera-Albeso to put runners on first and second with no outs.

That’s when the Menehune defense clamped down.

Rita caught Ladia leaning too far off second base and picked him off for the first out of the inning. Following a single that advanced Albeso to third, Rita forced two straight ground-outs to escape the inning with no runs.

Rita used another pick-off in the second inning to stymie a potential rally.

“Mikeo started off slow and the defense made some errors,” Waimea head coach Michael Rita said. “(Those pickoffs) meant a lot.”

Waimea added a run in the bottom of the third when Mikey Rita scored on a throwing error and blew the game open in the fourth when Kamakea plated Justin Silva and Mikey Rita with a triple to center field. Kamakea’s ball took a wicked hop over the center fielder before stopping at the fence.

“I saw it go past him when I rounded first and just kept going,” Kamakea said.

The Menehune had eight hits in the game and chased starter Justin Tantog after five innings. Tantog, a tall left-hander, struggled to get his breaking pitches over the plate.

“He came in and threw a lot of off-speed pitches, but he wasn’t throwing them for strikes,” Mikeo Rita said, “so we just sat on the fastball.”

The Menehune scored their final run in the fifth inning when Ogawa came around to score on a Tantog throwing error to give the Menehune a four-run lead. Those four runs were more than enough for the Menehune defense to work with.

After a Mykal Guigui double in the third inning, the Menehune retired 12 of the next 13 batters in order to end the game. The one batter who did reach base — Kebi Delletan on an error — was thrown out trying to steal by Alika Emayo.

Freitas relieved Rita in the sixth inning and retired all six batters he faced to end the game.

“We have full confidence in B.J. coming in,” coach Rita said. “We have more pitchers out there but right now it was those two and we’ll see about tomorrow.”

In today’s semifinals, the Menehune face the fourth-seeded Warriors. Kamehamea defeated unranked Kalaheo 8-3 Wednesday morning.

“We know it will be a tough game,” Mikeo Rita said. “We just have to work hard again.”

The  HSAA semifinal between the Menehune and Warriors beings at 10 a.m. at Les Murakami Stadium. The game will be broadcast over the radio on JAMZ 98.1.

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