It was survival pitching at its finest for Waiakea sophomore Tristen Cullio, who walked nine against Keaau but threw cold water on every brushfire before it got too big.
With ace Halee Sweat taking her SATs, Cullio drew the starting nod and pitched five innings for a 14-4 six-inning TKO win over the Cougars in a BIIF Division I game on Saturday at the Warriors field.
The sophomore right-hander allowed four runs, gave up three hits and struck out six. Alyssa McKeague closed the game with a scoreless inning.
Cullio helped herself at the plate. She batted 3 for 3 with three RBIs. Lyndsey-Mae Carvalho went 2 for 3 with three RBIs while Ziara Tosie, Jolene Hirata, and Sarahlin Likiaksa each added two hits for the Warriors (4-1), who pounded out 15 hits and whiffed just three times.
Bryana Grace went 4 2/3 innings in the loss. She gave up 12 runs on 13 hits and seven walks. Angela Gonzales pitched an inning before Waiakea scored the TKO win with a run in the sixth.
Gonzales batted 2 for 3 with two doubles to lead the Cougars (1-3).
The Cougars were hanging around. They trailed 7-3 after four innings. But Waiakea broke the game open with a six-run fifth.
It wasn’t too long ago that Keaau used to annually challenge for the BIIF title. The Cougars last qualified for states in 2015.
Since then, Waiakea and Kealakehe have been annual companions at the state tourney.
“We’re young,” Keaau coach Boy Wong said. “We’ve only got three seniors. The rest are freshmen and sophomores and one junior.”
Grace, Nohea Quilinderno, and Britney Calhoun are the three seniors for a squad that lacks experience.
“We don’t have enough game experience,” Wong said. “That’s what it is.”
The Warriors are on the other end of the spectrum. They’re experienced with most of the players in summer ball and deep in pitching.
Sweat, Imai, who was at Mufi Hanneman’s basketball Jamboree, Cullio, McKeague and Kayla Kodani all have spent time in the pitching circle.
Waiakea coach Bo Saiki is looking for Cullio to develop as a pitcher, so she can take over once Sweat, a junior, leaves after graduation.
“Tristen is our No. 4 pitcher and did fine,” he said. “She’s just a sophomore. She just didn’t have a consistent release point. That’s why her rhythm changed every time.”
Asked the reason, Waiakea has won the last four BIIF titles, Saiki had a simple answer.
“Pitching and defense,” he said. “They play summer ball, too. That’s a big difference.”
Waiakea’s lineup features no easy outs. Leadoff hitter Ziara Tosie reached base four times and scored two runs. McKeague, the No. 8 hitter, walked three times and kept turning over the lineup.
For the Cougars, they lack a lot of the important stuff, like experience and deep pitching. But Wong found a silver lining.
“We didn’t give up,” he said. “We’re going to be all right. We want to be a sleeper.”
Kohala 13, Ka’u 2: Mikayla Kekoa drove in seven runs on a three-run homer and a grand slam.
Kawai Polish added two RBIs for the Cowgirls.
Kamehameha 10, Konawaena 2: Senior ace Tai Atkins pitched 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball and had three RBIs, and Zakaia Michaels batted 2 for 2 with two RBIs.
Bula Ahuna hit a solo homer and went 2 for 4, and Ayson Mar added two hits for the Warriors.
Rydge Ishii pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
James Kapele pitched three innings in the loss and allowed four runs. Riki Furuto and Bronson Rivera each threw an inning and allowed two runs. Boaz Ayers pitched two scoreless innings.
Tevin Canda batted 2 for 2, and Jake Basque added two hits for the Wildcats.
Waiakea 15, Keaau 0: Khaden Victorino pitched a four-inning TKO complete game. He allowed two hits and two walks and struck out two.
Kalai Rosario bated 2 for 3 with three RBIS, Braxton Cagampang went 2 for 2 with two RBIS, and Stone Miyao was 2 for 3. Safea Mauai and Devin Midel each had two RBIs. Cody Min batted 2 for 2.
Jayten Kamakea pitcher three innings in the loss. Ricky Rapoza recorded an out in relief.