LIHUE — The Menehune’s magical run was cut just short of winning it all.
Waimea High School’s varsity baseball team lost to Saint Francis School of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu in the championship game of the 2019 Wally Yonamine Foundation Baseball Championships-Division II state tournament.
The Menehune fell to the Saints, 10-4, Saturday night at Vidinha Stadium.
“I’m not disappointed at all. I’m excited for our program. I’m excited for what the kids have experienced,” said Waimea head coach Chad Delanoza. “You can never coach this way. You got to get them through the experience. And for our younger kids to be here on the fence, to see everything go down, I think it’s a big thing for them to see. Looking forward to their turn, hopefully we can get back to this point again.”
Waimea, this year’s Kauai Interscholastic Federation winner, faced a 6-1 deficit going into the top of the sixth inning. With one hit, the Menehune got a little closer.
Menehune first baseman Lacin Montemayor knocked a three-RBI home run to left field to cut Saint Francis’ lead to 6-4.
“I had two strikes. I just thought, ‘Brah, I just got to help my team and try to get them out of the slump.’ I saw an inside pitch. I turned on it, and that’s it pretty much,” Montemayor said. “I thought it one-bounced the fence, but it felt great.”
Montemayor added about the loss: “I’m just glad everybody had a chance to play. Everybody showed what they had. Not the greatest feeling, but its nice how we came here from last year. We had one win and 11 losses, and this year we came and played in the state championship game. I don’t know. It’s a different feeling for me.”
Waimea took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning on an RBI single to center field by shortstop Kaikoa Perreira-Alquiza.
Saint Francis answered back in the bottom of the third inning, plating five runs on four hits and taking advantage of three Waimea errors.
“First off, I want to say hats off to Waimea. Well-coached team, great athletes, formidable, deserving of being in the finals. They’re well-coached, and we’re really impressed,” said Saint Francis head coach Kip Akana. “For the most part, this team had a lot to play for. This is the last year that Saint Francis will be in existence. This is the last sports program that Saint Francis is going to have. This team had a lot to play for, and a lot of final chapters to be written.
“Probably the most important was the team grandma passing away today, this morning, because that was the only way she was going to see this game. She got her wings, and she saw this game. She didn’t miss anything. Her name is Nora Nakahara.”
Following Montemayor’s home run, Saint Francis again answered back with four runs scored in the bottom of the sixth inning.
In the top of the seventh, with a Menehune runner on second base and no outs, Saints starting pitcher Brayden Nomura struck out the next three batters to clinch Saint Francis its title.
“Our philosophy is ‘win every inning.’ We play seven little battles, seven one-inning battles,” Akana said. “Our goal is to win seven little battles. These kids worked hard on their mental game. They’re not affected by big innings. Right after that inning is the next inning. It’s a new battle.”
Waimea totaled four runs on five hits and recorded six errors. Montemayor was 1 for 3 hitting with his home run. Designated hitter Tysson Unciano was 2 for 3.
Menehune starting pitcher Max Ham took the loss. Ham threw 2 1/3 innings, allowed five runs on five hits and got one strikeout and one walk.
Saint Francis got 10 runs on 14 hits and recorded two errors. Saints right fielder James Yamasaki was 3 for 4 for an RBI and scored one run.
Nomura pitched a complete game and got the win. He totaled eight strikeouts, one walk and three hit by pitches.
In Delanoza’s first season as head coach, Waimea won its first KIF championship since 2012 and was just short of winning its first Division II baseball state championship since 2010.
This year’s success came after having finished last in the KIF the last few previous seasons. The Menehune went 10-5 overall in 2019, going 8-4 in the KIF season and 2-1 at states.
“It’s a great season. I had no expectation other than what they wanted,” Delanoza said. “My job was to help them achieve what their plan was, and to make sure they touch all their bases and they’re headed in the right direction. I’m not the one running, fielding and weightlifting. They are. I think they see the value of how that whole thing works.”
Montemayor said: “It means a lot, honestly. I’m just proud of the boys, how they fought, how they contributed to the team and bought into the process. We just went at it, played baseball and had fun.”
Waimea’s Perreira-Alquiza, Unciano and outfielder Levi Snowden were named to the Division II All-Tournament team, as selected by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association and the media.
Saint Francis’ Yamasaki was named Most Outstanding Player.
Catcher: Reece Kadota, Saint Francis
Infield: Matthew Lukins, Radford; Bubba Akana, Saint Francis; Kaikoa Perreira-Alquiza, Waimea; Stephen Kiyo Perry, Saint Francis
Outfield: Chase Akana, Saint Francis; Braedyn Coloma, KS-Hawaii; Levi Snowden, Waimea
Pitcher: Tai Atkins, KS-Hawaii; Tysson Unciano, Waimea
Utility: Makana Poole, Saint Francis
Most Outstanding Player: James Yamasaki, Saint Francis
Saints going out on top
Saint Francis won its third state title this month. Prior to the baseball tournament, the school won the Division II softball championship and the Division II boys volleyball championship.
Akana said perhaps the students, not just the ones in his team, were more motivated because Saint Francis is closing at the end of the school year.
“That’s a testament to the type of students we have there, the type of athletes we have there,” he said. “When a lot of us started, we were kind of the laughing stock. Respect was what we were after, and I think truly we accomplished that.”
Saturday’s Division II results
Game 9 (fifth place): Waipahu (OIA) 4, Konawaena (BIIF) 4, tie (time limit)
Game 10 (third place): KS-Hawaii (BIIF) 5, Radford (OIA) 5, tie (time limit)
Game 11 (championship): Saint Francis (ILH) 1o, Waimea (KIF) 4
Info from Hawaii High School Athletic Association.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.