Recalling the Lihue A’s path to senior softball state title

The Aloha Kia Lihue A’s are the 2017 Hawaii State Senior Softball “C” Division champions. Lihue won the championship at the Patsy Mink Central Oahu Park on Aug. 12 with a 14-11 win over a determined Hui Ohana team from Oahu. The win was the third victory of the day for Lihue and followed four qualifying wins for a 7-0 tournament record.

While Lihue had five victories by eight to 15 run margins, a qualifying game against the same Hui Ohana ended with the Kauai team up by only 14-12. So the Lihue seniors knew they would be in for a battle to win the title game.

Lihue took an early lead in the final, striking in the first for four runs after two outs and no one on base. Hui Ohana crawled back with solid hitting and scored one in the second inning and two more in the third. The Kauai seniors seemed to lose their mojo and scored only once in the third, allowing Hui Ohana to tie the game at 5-5 in the fourth inning. Finding their bats, Lihue struck for four runs in the bottom of the fourth, only to see the Oahu team match them run for run in the next frame to tie the game at 9-9.

Lihue shortstop Mike Alonso led off the bottom of the fifth. He took a strike and a ball. He then launched a prodigious blast far over the left fielder that rolled all the way to the 300-feet fence and trotted home to give Lihue the lead.

Energized, Lihue continued to hit in the fifth. With the deuces wild — two in, two on, two outs and two strikes — Lihue right fielder Jim Leake waited on a pitch that was slightly outside. The right-hander flashed his bat and lined a shot down the right field line that kissed the chalk line, driving in two and putting Lihue up by four.

Top of the sixth. Lihue holds Hui Ohana scoreless and adds one more run in their turn, making it 14-9. Top of the seventh, three outs to go. The first Hui Ohana batter goes down, but the Oahu scramblers were not about to quit. Three hits in a row brought in a run before a grounder to second baseman Dwight Fujii cost them their second out. But another hit brought in another run and put two men on base. Now the tying run was at the plate. The Hui Ohana batter took a hard cut and launched the ball deep to left center. Lihue center fielder Bruce Laymon moved to his left, took a step back, reached over his head and squeezed the ball and the title for the A’s.

Through out the series, the Lihue team distinguished itself in hitting and defense. Several fine catches were made by Lihue outfielders, especially left fielder Dave Gerow and center fielder Tommy “Gun” Midstokke.

Top Lihue hitters included Laymon, who homered in the first inning of two games along with several extra base hits, third baseman Steve Marsh, first baseman “Wavey” Davey Stevens, shortstop Alonso, center fielder Midstokke, and left fielder Gerow. The other A’s batters hit and hustled consistently from top to bottom of the order.

Miles Tone pitched all seven games for the A’s. With his pin-point control, cat-like fielding, hitting and running, Tone was named tournament MVP by his teammates.

Other Lihue players were Rudy Villon, Eddie Sagatis, Howard Yamaguchi, John Patt, and J.C. Crouch who cheered on the champs from Kauai. The Lihue coach is Fujii, former Kapaa High School athletic director.

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