Kamehameha junior ace left-hander Tai Atkins was efficient, effective, and overpowering while sophomore right-hander Zakaia Michaels was the same in his own way.
La‘a Asuncion provided the bulk of the offense with a two-run homer and three RBIs, and the Warriors blanked Konawaena 6-0 in a BIIF Division II showdown on Friday.
“They threw a lot of strikes and kept Kona off-balanced,” Kamehameha coach Andy Correa said. “They did OK. What can you say?”
Actually, Correa perfectly summed up the new era of mandatory pitch limits, imposed last season by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
In four innings, Atkins allowed a single and walk and struck out five on 55 pitches. He basically blew his fastball past the Wildcats, who mounted one mini-threat at Kame‘eiamoku Field.
Atkins surrendered a two-out single to Jake Basque in the fourth and walked Stevie Texeira. He recorded a flyout to second base to maintain a 2-0 lead.
“My stuff was pretty good,” Atkins said. “The best thing I liked was my rhythm. Coach Scot (Tomita) told me to have confidence in myself and work slow.”
Michaels followed with three innings. He gave up two hits and one walk and whiffed four on 42 pitches. He changed speeds and kept the Wildcats off-balanced.
“I was pretty accurate with my fastball. I was throwing a two-seamer, but it wasn’t working too much,” Michaels said. “I kept the ball over the plate and let my defense work.”
Michaels said his mom had a dream, and that’s how she came up with his first name.
“I like it because it’s unique,” he said. “The only thing is some people don’t pronounce it right.”
Asuncion blasted a two-run homer in the first, and Kekona Naipo-Arsiga hit a two-run single in the fourth.
“I was looking for something to drive,” Asuncion said. “He gave me a fastball and left it up.”
It was a first-pitch mistake, and Asuncion greased it over the left-field wall.
Sometimes, two base hits outweigh the lack of on-base contagious hitting. The Warriors (9-0) stranded nine on base.
Asuncion batted 2 for 3 with three RBIs, and Naipo-Arsiga was 1 for 2 with two RBIs.
Texeira, a senior left-hander, started and took the loss in 3 2/3 innings. He gave up five runs (three unearned) on four hits and three walks and struck out three.
He probably deserved a better fate, but in the second year of the national pitch count rule, Texeira was pulled with 84 pitches.
The bases were loaded with two out. James Kapela entered and issued a walk to Asuncion, who picked up an easy RBI, and surrendered a two-run single to Naipo-Arsiga.
Konawaena coach Adam Tabieros didn’t want to burn his other senior left-handed co-ace, Kolu Alani. If Texeira reached 86 pitches, he would have been required to rest three days.
The Wildcats (5-2) play at Hawaii Prep (5-4) on Tuesday and host Waiakea on Saturday.
“You can’t go one game at a time and teach,” Tabieros said. “You have to plan two or three games ahead.”
Konawaena needs all arms on deck. Kapela, who went 1 2/3 innings, threw 35 pitches and is eligible to pitch on no days rest.
It was good adversity pitching experience for Kapela, who’s just a freshman. He also played shortstop and went 1 for 2.
The Wildcats started two other freshmen in right fielder Drew Basque, whose older brother is junior second baseman Jake Basque, who batted 1 for 3, and third baseman Bronson Rivera, who also was 1 for 3.
Boaz Ayers recorded two outs and threw five pitches, also under the minimum of the 35-pitch no-rest limit.
One day of rest is for 36-60 pitches, two days for 61-85 pitches, and three days for 86-110 pitches. No pitcher can pitch in three consecutive days.
The Warriors are strong favorites for a seventh consecutive BIIF title because they’ve got a deep staff of efficient strike throwers, even if the offense manages only five hits.
Before Texeira exited, he displayed his crafty pitching style. He was spotty with his best pitch, a big-bending curveball. He’d spin a few good ones on the corners for strikes but left too many up in the zone for balls.
With the bases loaded on a hit by pitch, walk and error with one out in the fourth, Texeira next faced No. 3 hitter Bula Ahuna, who worked the count to 3-0.
Texeira battled back to a full count. Then he whipped a high fastball that Ahuna, who took a healthy cut, fouled off. Then it became an intriguing guessing game.
Would Texeira try to spin a sharp bender or fire another fastball?
The senior southpaw reached into his back pocket and offered a surprise: a low changeup. Ahuna swung over it for the second out, Tabieros checked the pitch count, and Texeira was pulled.
“Stevie was very crafty, and he threw a masterpiece,” Tabieros said. “It’s just unfortunate that we had to take him out. Even if he doesn’t have his curveball, he has his changeup. It’s just his arm slot. He needs to be more consistent with that.
“But he’s so crafty and will pitch backward. He’ll throw his curveball, and he also threw a few knuckleballs as an offspeed pitch and followed with fastballs.”
With the possibility of extra innings or the dreaded prospect of rain, more postponed dates, and bunched games, counting pitches moves to the top of a team’s list of in-game priorities.
If it were the best of three BIIF semifinal series or championship series, Atkins (55 pitches) and Michaels (42 pitches) would be eligible to pitch again after one day of rest.
That’s an overpowering thought for the opposition.
Konawaena 000 000 0 — 0 3 3
Kamehameha 200 310 x — 6 5 1