KAILUA-KONA — Hilo head coach Baba Lancaster preached to his players from the third base line that he didn’t need them to swing for the fences. Facing a feisty Kealakehe squad, he just wanted to see contact, knowing that if his team could do that the runs would eventually come.
It took some time for his message to sink in during the BIIF Division I semifinal contest that took just more than 3 ½ hours, but with a bevy of timely hits and solid base running fueling a late rally, Hilo erased an early deficit and scored the final 13 runs of the game to come away with a swift 14-3 victory.
“It’s always a battle against Kealakehe. We knew they were going to come to play and we couldn’t take them lightly,” Lancaster said. “I didn’t want our guys over swinging. I just wanted to see them hit the gaps. Once we got some hits, we were able to execute on the bases and pick of the win.”
Hilo can advance to the BIIF championship series with a win Friday against Kealakehe in the best-of-three series. The game is slated for 3 p.m. at the Walter Victor complex.
Top seed and defending BIIF champion Waiakea will begin its series against Keaau on Friday on the other side of the D-I bracket.
Hilo ace Ocean Gabonia entered the game in the fourth inning, picking up the win while allowing just one hit and walking one. Sabu Kahee started the game, allowing three runs in 3 1/3 innings of work.
Maui Ahuna did the heavy lifting for Hilo offensively, notching a pair of triples in a 3-for-3 performance.
Asked the last time he had a pair of triples in a game, Ahuna didn’t have to think long.
“Never,” the junior slugger said with a laugh. “I was just feeling hella good today.”
Davin Amar added a two-RBI double in the seventh and Gabonia scored twice with an RBI.
As a team, Hilo drew 1o free passes, including four consecutively in the seventh inning to sew up the win. The Viks also capitalized on five Kealakehe errors and were able to get on base with some slick bunts.
Lancaster was happy with the way his team responded after falling behind, but credited Ahuna for getting the team on track early when they were down.
“He really set the table with his first triple,” Lancaster said. “That opened the door for us and we were able to capitalize after that.”
“The guys on this team never give up,” Ahuna added. “We were down there a bit, but we never doubted ourselves and were able to come back.”
Kainoa “Boo” Jones took the loss for Kealakehe, but made things uncomfortable for the Vikings with his 106 pitches. He struck out eight, walked four and allowed four runs. Hilo did not manage to string together consecutive hits until the fifth inning.
“It was a good game,” Lancaster said. “Boo kept our batters off balance the first four innings, but we were eventually able to get to him, put the bat to the ball and hit the gaps.”
Felix Guerpo was 2 for 2 for the Waveriders with a run scored and was hit by a pitch twice. Howard Roberts also had a pair of hits, including a two-strike single that drove in the ‘Riders first run.