KEAAU – It’s a developmental pitching week for Hilo High, and Wednesday was Kaimana Kuamoo’s turn.
Despite being betrayed by his defense in his start against Kamehameha, the Vikings have every reason to think that, in time, Kuamoo can mature into a front-line starter.
There is no such wait for Kamehameha. The Warriors have two aces, and for this BIIF baseball cross-divisional contest they turned to Zakaia Michaels, who fired six-plus shutout innings in a 5-0 victory on an overcast day at Kameeaimoku Field that kept Kamehameha unbeaten.
“My defense did good behind me,” said Michaels, who allowed six hits but didn’t walk a batter, striking out four. “I was kind of up in the zone. I was mixing my slider and my curve; was hard (for them) to get my release point going, and (I was) getting them confused.”
The junior right-hander has yet to allow a run in his three starts covering 12 innings, and Hilo (2-2, Division I) only advanced one runner to third base, Xaige Lancaster, who was stranded in the third after collecting one of his two hits.
Behind strikeout artist Tai Atkins, a senior left-hander who is 2-0, Michaels and a spot start from Breaden Coloma, Kamehameha (6-0, Division II) has allowed just five runs all season. Michaels departed after allowing Tobi Jackson’s leadoff single to left-center in the seventh – Atkins reacted as if he thought he should have caught it – and Rydge Ishii came on and induced three groundouts.
“We’re throwing a lot of strikes and we’re keeping the ball down in the zone,” said Michaels, who was handed a three-run lead in the bottom of the first inning.
Lancaster was the only player to finish with two hits, and Ishii had the only extra-base hit, an RBI triple in the second that put the Warriors ahead 4-0.
Making his first varsity start, Kuamoo settled down after that, pitching four innings. The freshman left-hander walked two batters and struck out one, and three of the four runs he allowed were unearned.
If Hilo could have mustered better defense, this could have been a tight game heading to the fifth inning.
“He did his job,” coach Baba Lancaster said. “He pitched a good game, we just made some errors.”
Atkins led off the first with an infield single, Ishii reached on an error and Dustin Asuncion coaxed a walk to load the bases. Kuamoo struck out the next batter, but Coloma singled to right to drive in a run and another run came home on an error in the outfield. Bryce Furuli singled to right-center to make it 3-0.
Atkins reached on an error in the second and scored on Ishii’s triple to the alley in left-center.
The Warriors went to opposite field for four of their six hits off Kuamoo.
“That’s what we have to do if they’re throwing the ball out there,” Kamehameha coach Andy Correa said. “That’s something that we’ve been trying to work on.
“Mana’s tough to handle. We took advantage of some errors and he got behind some hitters, but we know how good he is.”
Keaton McCallum singed off Hilo reliever Micah Freeman to start the fifth and scored as part of a double steal. Freeman struck out two batters in two innings of work.
Kekoa Ogawa got the victory for Hilo on Monday with 4 2/3-hitless inning against Hawaii Prep, and two days later Baba Lancaster handed the ball to one of the standouts from his 2017 Little League team that reached the West Regional.
Vikings ace Ocean Gabonia started at third, and the plan was for home to come in and pitch if Hilo carried a late lead.
“We know what Ocean can do and shut these guys down,” Baba Lancaster said. “When we go to states, Ocean is only going to pitch one game, we’re trying to get everybody else ready, if we do get to states.”
If and when Kamehameha gets to the state tournament, Correa knows he can hand the ball to Atkins and Michaels to start the first two games.
“We’ve used them heavily the last three years,” he said. “It’s a work-in-progress offense all year. We’re trying to find a consistent nine, but they put pressure, they get on base and try to manufacture runs.”
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