LIHUE — After years of being the third wheel in the league, the Menehune this season will contend for the league championship.
Waimea High School’s varsity baseball team defeated Kauai High School, 4-2, Wednesday night at Vidinha Stadium to clinch the second round of the Kauai Interscholastic Federation season.
When asked when was the last time Waimea was in contention for a KIF baseball title, first-year head coach Chad Delanoza said, “I have no idea.”
“That’s something we never really looked at. I think when you try to rebuild a program, those kind of things only gets in the way,” Delanoza said. “I think we just needed to do some work and trust each other with what we’re doing. In the end, they competed, and you cannot take that away from them. Both teams competed hard. They played baseball like we know they can, and I was proud of what they did tonight.”
Waimea (7-3 KIF, 5-0 2nd round) will play first-round winner Kapaa High School (4-4-1 KIF, 0-3 2nd round) in a playoff game for the KIF championship at a date and location to be determined.
“It feels pretty good. We finally get to feel what it feels like to be the second-round leader,” said Waimea starting pitcher Kainalu Lazaro. “In the past few years, we haven’t been dominant.”
Lazaro added: “We just put in the work. We worked hard from the start. In the first round, it really didn’t get us there, so we worked harder and harder to get the second round.”
The Menhune took advantage of two errors tagged on Kauai to score three runs in the top of the second inning to take a 4-0 lead.
In the inning, Menehune catcher Kanaan Ephan hit a two-RBI single to left field. Prior to Ephan’s two-RBI knock, designated hitter Tysson Unciano scored as infielder Kaikoa Perreira-Alquiza reached first base on an error with the bases loaded.
Waimea scored the game’s opening run in the first inning on an RBI double by Lazaro.
“I think we’ll continue to work. Baseball’s a funny game. The ball bounces differently at times,” Delanoza said. “We just got the better end of it tonight. It’s just part of us going back to work tomorrow, just like anything else.”
Kauai (2-6-1 KIF, 1-3 2nd round) scored two runs in the bottom of the second inning to chip away at Waimea’s lead.
Red Raiders outfielder Keanu Silva opened with an RBI triple to right-center field to score the runner from first base.
In the following at bat, Silva scored from third as outfielder Blake Probasco grounded to second base to drive in the second run.
“It’s been an OK year, I guess. We’ve had our ups and downs,” said Kauai head coach Hank Ibia. “But overall, all these kids worked hard. We put in the best fight we could. Waimea and Kapaa, they’ve been playing well. So, the credit goes to both of them.”
After both teams scored in the first two innings, starting pitchers Lazaro and Kauai’s Jaden Domingsel pitched shutout ball the rest of the way.
“It was a stressful game, but it all went well,” Lazaro said. “What went through my mind is that I need to pitch strikes, but I know my defense can work. So, I just the strikes there, and it just goes on from there.”
Ibia said of Domingsel’s performance: “He’s been throwing well. He’s always kept us in games. Helluva year for him. I tip my hat to him. He works hard.”
Tuesday was Kauai High’s senior night. Four Red Raider seniors were recognized following the contest.
Ibia said for his senior class, the highlight of their high school careers was winning the Division II baseball state championship in 2017.
“They’ve been good for four years. They got a state championship under their belt already,” he said. “Overall, this year has been a little bit harder for them to take. They won one, then we never really rebounded from that and got better. But overall, they’re great kids. They’re all going to do good in college or wherever they go in life. They’ll be good.”
Waimea got four runs — one run unearned — on seven hits, left five runners on base and recorded one error. Ephan was 2 for 4 batting with two RBIs.
Lazaro got the win for Waimea. In a complete-game effort, Lazaro struck out seven batters, walked three and hit two.
Kauai got two runs on two hits, left three runners on base and recorded three errors. Probasco was 1 for 2 with a double, one RBI and once was walked. Silva was 1 for 3 with his RBI triple.
Domingsel took the hard-luck loss for Kauai. In 6 2/3 innings, Domingsel got four strikeouts.
Kapaa High will host Kauai for a doubleheader Saturday at the Ron Martin Field on the Kapaa High School campus. The first game is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.
Waimea will host Kapaa at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hanapepe Stadium to conclude the KIF regular season.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.