Menehune fall in one-run pitchers’ duel

For five innings, Waimea’s Mikeo Rita and Waipahu’s Michah Luke matched each other pitch-for-pitch. Heading into the top of the sixth inning, Luke had limited the Menehune to three hits and no runs. After notching the first out of the sixth, Rita was just as effective and had retired eight straight Marauders.

Rita’s streak ended in the next at-bat, and two Marauders later, so did the Waimea season.

Following a Drake Yoshioka single, Luke ripped a double down the left field line to score the only run of the game and secure a 1-0 win in the Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association Division II Baseball State Championship game Friday night at Les Murakami Stadium in Honolulu.

“All respect to Waipahu. They hit at the right time and scored that run. Give them credit,” Waimea head coach Michael Rita said. “Our team is still winners in my eyes.”

All season, the Menehune have excelled at stifling their opponents on defense and picking up clutch runs when it mattered.

With Rita limiting the Marauders to one run and three hits over 6  1/3 innings pitched, the Menehune had half the key to victory, but the offense just couldn’t close the deal against Luke.

The Waipahu pitcher gave Waimea opportunities to capitalize. In the third inning, the Menehune loaded the bases when Luke struggled with control. He walked two and Mikey Rita reached on a bunt single. But Jordan Kamakea grounded into a double play and Mikeo Rita grounded out to shortstop to end the Waimea threat.

The Menehue loaded the bases again in the fifth inning with two outs, but this time the rally ended with a Brock Ephan ground out.

“We got frustrated,” Mikeo Rita said. “It was a close game and we could have come back, but our bats just didn’t come out.”

The Menehune were retired in order over the next two innings to end the game.

Mikeo Rita said that when Luke’s double plated Yoshioka, the Menehune knew it was a crucial run. He said the team sensed that it was going to be a close game and that one run would play a big role.

“We knew it, but there was nothing we could have done,” he said. “It was a good hit.”

Although the top-seeded Menehune came home with the second-place trophy, the Waimea boys held their heads high after the game. A young team led by a small, yet vocal group of seniors went much further than they were expected to, Mikeo Rita said, and although they didn’t come back with the championship, the season was a success.

“Our team was really together and it was awesome,” he said. “We had a young team and we made it to the state championship game.”

The second-place finish concluded another impressive run by a team from the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation in the DII tournament. Teams from the KIF had won the state championship three out of the last four years prior to this tournament and the Menehune — with their core of young players — expect to be back next season.

“We’re coming here again,” Acetyn Emayo said. “We just have to have a positive attitude and work hard and bring it hard next year.”

And next year, Emayo said he hopes the Menehune can be the ones mobbing each other on the field following the final out.

“We got pretty far. Some people thought we wouldn’t even get here,” he said. “We were one run away. One run away from getting to that title.”

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

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