KAILUA-KONA — All the wind, all the rain, none of it seemed to matter in the end as Waiakea and Kealakehe will meet for the fourth consecutive year in the BIIF Division I championship series this weekend.
The Warriors, the best Division I team on the Big Island all season long, faced little resilience from Keaau on the way to a semifinal sweep, wrapping up the best-of-3 series with a 14-2 romp on Tuesday.
The Waveriders faced some stiff competition early in their series from Hilo, but took the second game on the road before clinching the rubber game of the series 19-7 in six innings at Kealakehe High School.
Waiakea (11-2) has gotten the better of their rival, winning three consecutive titles against Kealakehe and four straight overall.
The Warriors also beat the Waveriders (9-6) in both regular season games, outscoring Kealakehe 24-6 overall.
Despite the Waveriders’ history with Waiakea, head coach Loni Mercado is pretty confident in her girls.
“I think we have a good shot at it this year,” she said. “We just have to work on a few things and we have a couple of days to do it.”
Kealakehe is hosting both the Division I and Division II championship series and the Waveriders will look the dethrone Waiakea, starting Friday at 3 p.m. Saturday’s game and Monday’s game, if necessary, will take place at the same time.
“It is always a good match-up when we go against Waiakea,” Mercado said. “This is a young team, a fairly new team, and we need to trust our training, stay within ourselves and prepare for battle.”
Kealakehe reached the finals with a dominating Game 3 performance from freshman pitcher Mia Joaquin and sophomore shortstop Nanea Kaluau.
Joaquin brings depth to the Waveriders’ starting rotation, as she backs up sophomore ace Telsea Taketa.
“With Mia now we know we have options to work with,” Mercado said. “She commanded the corners well today and has a natural drop to the ball. She has worked hard and I am happy for her.”
Joaquin kept the ball on the ground through the day, only running into trouble in the fourth and fifth innings when five errors by the Kealakehe defense allowed five unearned runs to cross the plate.
“We kind of had those innings where we were just throwing the ball around and that is where we need to get our practice in,” Mercado said. “Know when to say when. It is better to not throw the ball sometimes.”
Allowing only two earned for the game, Joaquin threw all six innings for the victory. She allowed six hits, while striking out and walking one.
“I had a lot of confidence today because of the support from my team,” Joaquin said. “As a freshman I don’t really know anything but I know picking up this win was important and I was able to improve.”
Kaluau led the offense, going 3 for 5 with 5 RBIs and 3 runs scored. In the second inning, she sent a pitch deep into the left-center gap for a solo home run.
“I didn’t do too well in our last game. I had a lot of pop-ups,” Kaluau said. “Even in this game I had a lot of pop-ups, but I was able to adjust to the pitcher.
“I wasn’t trying to hit a home run,” Kaluau added. “I was just trying to get a base hit and get us some runs early.”
Joaquin also picked up three hits at the plate to help her own cause. Taketa, batting second, also had a good day at the plate. Together, the 1-2-3 batters in the lineup picked up eight of the team’s 13 hits.
“That is what we need to do to create chaos,” Mercado said. “We cannot create chaos if we do not put the ball in play.”
In a surprise move, Hilo started Hau’oli Kalipi over Game 1 and Game 2 starter Chalisse Kela. Kalipi struggled with her control in the first inning, walking two batters and hitting two more.
The Waveriders pushed six runs across the plate in the opening frame.
Kela took the circle in the second inning, but Kealakehe’s bats stayed hot. Nearly every batter in the Waveriders’ lineup had a hit.
Kalipi took the loss for the Vikings. She re-entered to pitch the final inning of the game, allowing 11 runs, five earned, off six hits and six walks. She struck out two.
In her final game with Hilo, Kela, a senior, recorded a no-decision, allowing eight runs and six hits over four innings. She struck out four and walked four.
“Chalisse is a strong kid, both mentally and physically, and we were expecting to see her out there for the start today,” Mercado said. “I was surprised, but even for us, Telsea threw a heck of a game for us yesterday and was tight as well today.”
The Division II series pitting Kamehameha against Kohala, will be played at 1 p.m. each day at Kealakehe High School.