LIHUE — In one fell swoop, the Red Raiders watched their 4-run lead diminish.
The Red Raiders, though, still came out on top in perhaps the most dramatic finish in the Kauai Interscholastic Federation season.
Kauai High School’s varsity baseball team defeated Waimea High, 6-5, in the last game of the KIF regular season late Wednesday afternoon at Vidinha Stadium.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. A lot of things happen,” said Kauai head coach Hank Ibia. “That was one of those plays where, at least at the end, we were on the right side.”
With Wednesday’s result, Kauai (9-3 KIF, 4-2 2nd round) and Kapaa (7-5 KIF, 4-2 2nd round) each finished the season’s second round tied.
The second round playoff game is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at Vidinha Stadium.
If Kauai wins, the Red Raiders — who have won the season’s first round — will clinch this year’s KIF championship and a berth at states.
If Kapaa wins, the Warriors will win the second round and will play the Red Raiders in a league championship game at a date and location to be determined.
“That’s why the game of baseball is good. No matter what happens, we have a chance and they have a chance also. What happened in the past, we can leave that behind right now. Saturday is one game,” Ibia said. “Whoever throws and keeps their team in the game, (and commits) less errors, could be successful at the end.”
Down 6-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, Waimea (2-10 KIF, 1-5 2nd round) was down to its last out after a strikeout and a groundout.
Then, after drawing two walks, Menehune senior infielder Waika Corr singled to left field to load the bases.
In the following at bat, Menehune freshman pinch hitter Ariki Cardejon grounded to the pitcher but an errant throw into the outfield got him safe at first and brought two runs in.
Another errant throw scored another run for the Menehune to cut the deficit to one run. But on the relay back, Cardejon was tagged out going for third base to end the game.
“That was exciting, that it finished off that way,” said Waimea head coach Larry Ephan. “The kids never gave up. We gave ourselves a shot. We hit the ball and put it in fair territory. In the game of baseball, anything can happen.”
Ibia said: “It gets pretty crazy with people running around the bases. Like I’ve said from the beginning, we’re pretty young, yeah? Sometimes, the youth takes over — the pressure takes over. A bad throw creates problems. But ended up in the right position to throw the guy out.”
Tied at two going into the top of the fifth, Kauai High broke out with three runs. Red Raiders sophomore infielder Jacob Borrero, who started the game at pitcher, hit an RBI single to center field in the inning.
Kauai got one more run in the sixth. Junior outfielder Ethan Gray crossed home plate from third off an error.
Waimea got an early lead with two runs plated in the third inning. Menehune senior catcher Caleb Ephan hit an RBI single to left field, and then scored a run on an RBI sacrifice bunt by Corr.
Kauai tied the game in the fourth with a 2-RBI single to left field by Red Raiders junior catcher Skyler Sadora.
Wednesday was Kauai High’s senior day. Six Red Raider seniors were recognized after the game: Royce Uemura, Blaise Gokan, Sam Nakata, Keanu Camalliri, Matthew Panit and Travis Borrero.
“Great season, but it’s still not done yet,” Nakata said, who played infielder. “It was nice to have our first senior game at night at Vidinha, and to have a win was better yet.”
Though Nakata was 0-2 at the plate, he did have two walks which led to two runs scored.
“I got on base and scored. Helped the team out with whatever I could. That’s the main thing,” he said.
Kauai High got six runs on six hits, left six runners on base and had three errors. Sophomore outfielder Hoku Parbo was 2-3 with two singles and a run.
Red Raiders freshman reliever Taylor Apilado was the winning pitcher. He went 2 1/3 innings with two strikeouts and three walks.
Waimea totaled five runs on three hits, left six runners stranded and recorded two errors. Corr was 1-4 with one run. Coincidentally, Menehune junior infielder Keaka Wisneski had zero official at bats, getting walked four times and scoring one run.
Menehune junior reliever Brennan Perreira took the loss. He went just 2/3 of an inning, giving up three runs, a hit-by-pitch and two walks in the fifth. He also struck out one batter.
“Our boys have been playing hard all year. In the game of baseball, you need balls to bounce your way. Unfortunately, it didn’t bounce for us,” Ephan said. “Hats off to the other two teams. Those guys put the ball in play and executed on offense. They D up. They take care of the ball on defense. Pitching, they throw strikes. So, it’s going to be a good finale at the end.”