Small ball, big gains get Menehune to final

HONOLULU — The Waimea Menehune used small ball to get to the big game. Fueled by two squeeze plays, the Menehune used a six-run fourth inning to come from behind and beat the Kamehameha-Hawai‘i Warriors 9-4 in the semifinals of the Division II state baseball tournament Thursday afternoon at Les Murakami Stadium. With the win, the Menehune advance to the DII state championship game today against the Waipahu Marauders.

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.

HONOLULU — The Waimea Menehune used small ball to get to the big game.

Fueled by two squeeze plays, the Menehune used a six-run fourth inning to come from behind and beat the Kamehameha-Hawai‘i Warriors 9-4 in the semifinals of the Division II state baseball tournament Thursday afternoon at Les Murakami Stadium. With the win, the Menehune advance to the DII state championship game today against the Waipahu Marauders.

The top-ranked Menehune trailed 3-2 heading into the fourth inning and hadn’t had much luck sizing up Warrior starting pitcher Kupono Correa. But when Correa left the game with an injury, bringing in Nainoa Hart, the Menehune capitalized in a small way.

Justin Silva led off the inning with a four-pitch walk and advanced to second when Mikey Rita reached on a bunt single. Following a balk, Jordan Kamakea singled in Silva to tie the game.

The Menehune then used their bunting game to pull ahead. Back-to-back squeeze plays by BJ Freitas and Mikeo Rita plated two more runs, with both Freitas and Rita reaching base on errors.

“We practice our small game and we executed it today,” Waimea head coach Michael Rita said. “We looked at the situation and decided to go get it with our bunting game.”

The Menehune used a Brock Ephan sacrifice fly, an Acetyn Emayo RBI single and Brigg Perreira stole home to tack on three more runs in the inning, giving the Menehune a 7-3 lead.

Ephan said the Menehune were confident the Menehune would break out with a big inning — he just got the timing wrong.

“We thought it was going to happen earlier,” Ephan said. “We kept telling each other to not give up.”

Ephan finished the game with two hits and drove in three runs. The Waimea sophomore drove in Shosho Ogawa with a two-out single in the first inning and plated Ogawa again in the third with a one-out single up the middle.

“He’s been our four-batter all year and he’s coming on right now and it’s a great time for it,” coach Rita said of Ephan. “It’s a team effort but Brock really did it for us today.”

Ephan — the KIF home run leader — has swung for the fences many times this season, but Rita said it was Ephan’s ability to adjust to the situation that made him effective Thursday.

“He played very smart. He’s just a sophomore and he’s maturing to the game,” Rita said. “He’ll be dangerous.”

The four-run cushion helped settle Freitas, who started on the mound for the Menehune. After giving up three runs over the first two innings, Freitas recovered to make it through the fifth inning. In five innings, Freitas gave up five hits, one earned run and struck out three batters while picking up the win for the Menehune. Job Delos Reyes got an out in the sixth inning before Mikeo Rita was brought in to close out the game.

Bronson Pulgados had two hits for the Warriors, including a two RBI first inning single.

Waimea will face a Waipahu team today that cruised during its 9-2 win over Maryknoll Thursday. The second-seeded Marauders used two four-run innings to secure the win.

The Menehune watched Marauders play following their win and coach Rita said focus will be the key.

“We have to feel like we’re the better team and feel confident and focused,” he said. “We’ve had a good time over here and we look forward to tomorrow.”

The Menehune and Marauders take the field at 4 p.m. at Les Murakami Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on JAMZ 98.1 FM.

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