LIHUE — The boys in red have won a fourth consecutive Kauai Interscholastic Federation championship.
Kauai High School’s varsity baseball team defeated Kapaa, 3-1, in the KIF second-round playoff game Saturday at Vidinha Stadium to win both of the season’s rounds and clinch the league title.
“It was a good day today,” said Kauai head coach Hank Ibia, who was with the team for the last three title-winning seasons. “The pitchers, both of them did well. It was a matter of time for us. Our bats were there, but it wasn’t really there in the earlier part of the game. But these guys, like I’ve said before, we’ve been coming back. So, it tells of our character and how we feel about each other.”
Down one run in the bottom of the fifth inning, Kauai High (10-3 KIF, 4-2 2nd round, 1-0 playoff) got two runners on base off consecutive Warrior errors.
In the ensuing at bats, Red Raiders senior infielder Sam Nakata and sophomore infielder Jacob Borrero each knocked RBI singles for a 2-1 lead.
Later in the inning, Nakata scored the team’s third run as the Warriors infield was focused on getting the tag on Borrero as he was stranded in-between first and second.
Warriors junior infielder Chayse Basuel saw Nakata going for home, but his throw was not in time and Borrero was safe at second for a stolen base.
“On that play, when Jacob got picked off, I knew we had two outs. So hopefully, he could buy me enough time and get the ball in the right guy’s hand and I could try to score on the play,” Nakata said. “And that’s what we were able to do. He bought me enough time, and I was able to slide in.”
Nakata added of clinching his third KIF title and state berth: “Winning the KIF is always a big thing. When Kapaa and Waimea come out, they’re always talented. We were just able to pull it off again this year, and hopefully we can win it all this year at states. Unfortunately, we fell short the last two years at states. So hopefully, this year will be a different outcome.”
Kapaa (7-6 KIF, 4-2 2nd round, 0-1 playoff) started the seventh inning with a groundout to third and a line out to second base — Red Raiders senior infielder Matthew Panit made a diving catch for the second out.
In the following at bats, Warriors sophomore outfielder Trevor Kaui doubled to left field and junior infielder Kade Kupihea drew a base on balls to get the tying run on with one out left.
Warriors junior infielder Ekolu Rivera then hit a fly ball to left field. Red Raiders sophomore outfielder Blake Probasco made the catch for the final out to clinch Kauai High’s fourth-straight title and berth to states.
“The ball didn’t bounce our way every inning. We had some bad bounces,” said Kapaa head coach Bryan Aiwohi. “A couple bad things happened in that (fifth) inning, and that’s all it took.
“It was a tight game. The both of us, we know each other well. We play each other well,” he continued. “It’s always going to take that one bad inning that’s going to cost the game for somebody. It just so happens it was us today.”
Kapaa got a 1-0 lead in the second. Warriors sophomore catcher Kaimi Malina hit an RBI single to right to score senior infielder Leighton Moniz from second. Moniz drew a walk to get on base.
Kauai High got its three runs on six hits, left six runners on base and recorded one error. Nakata was 1-2 with the RBI single in the fifth inning.
Red Raiders junior Christian Manera was the winning pitcher. He threw a complete game, tallying three walks and zero strikeouts.
Kapaa got one run on four hits, left seven runners stranded and totaled three errors. Malina was 1-2 with the RBI single in the second inning.
Warriors freshman starting pitcher Nainoa Cardinez took the loss. He, too, pitched a complete game with four strikeouts and one wild pitch in six innings.
“We had our ups and downs, and we had some guys who couldn’t play. But I’m proud of the guys that stuck it out, and we played tough,” Aiwohi said. “We played the best we could. I wanted to send my two seniors (Moniz and outfielder Bryson Poai) off with a victory. But I’m proud of them because they’re both moving on to junior colleges to play baseball. That makes me happy.”
The Red Raiders will go on to compete in the Wally Yonamine Foundation Baseball Championships–Division II state tournament, which begins April 27 on Oahu.
“Like I just told them right now, it’s another season,” Ibia said of the upcoming tournament. “They’re all good there. So what we do in our week and a half here, it’s important what we do here. Because everyone’s going to be good there — all eight teams there.”