KEAAU – At first glance, Kamehameha senior left-hander Tai Atkins’ numbers didn’t look particularly dominant: 5 2/3 innings, three runs and nine strikeouts with one walk and three hit batters.
But even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he’s still pretty close to unbeatable.
Atkins pitched tough when he needed to and his offense helped in a 7-3 win over Konawaena in Game 1 of the BIIF Division II championships series Saturday at Kame‘eiamoku Baseball Field.
Kamehameha (17-0) and Konawaena (11-7) play Game 2 at 3 p.m. Monday at Wong Stadium. The Warriors are trying for their eighth straight championship.
“Like all playoff games, you expect the game to be close,” Kamehameha coach Andy Correa said.
But not everyone has a staff ace like Atkins, who only allowed two hits, singles to Jake Basque and Bronson Rivers in the fourth, and of the three runs he allowed two came home on his errant throw to third base.
The Wildcats scored three in the fourth to cut the lead to 4-3. But they would get nothing more against Atkins, who struck out four of the next six hitters.
That’s the thing with Atkins. Even if he doesn’t have his Grade A stuff and gives away free passes (one walk, three hit batters), he has more than enough experience to draw from a deep well to find a groove again and get strikeouts to erase brushfires and close out innings.
Almost everybody in Kamehameha’s lineup did something: a hit, run scored, RBI. Bula Ahuna batted 3 for 4 with an RBI and Zakaia Michaels went 2 for 3 with three RBIs, and Braeden Coloma went 1 for 2 with a solo homer.
Rydge Ishii shut the door with 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Jaimison Medeiros pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed six runs in the loss. Bronson Rivera pitched 1 2/3 innings of one-run ball.
In the first, Kamehameha got off to a healthy start when Atkins and La’a Asuncion walked, and Ahuna singled to load the bases for Michaels, who emptied them with his triple.
The Warriors manufactured a run in the bottom of the fourth to gain a bit of momentum back after Konawaena scored three. Ishii walked, went to second on an error and scored when Ahuna singled over shortstop. Ahuna got jammed on the pitch, but he’s so strong the ball still went to the outfield for a 5-3 lead.
“Our team battled,” Ahuna said. “We stayed in there and came back strong.”
Michaels ignited the offense again an inning later. He singled, took second on a wild pitch and went to third on a balk. He scored on Ayson Mar’s RBI sacrifice groundout.
In the sixth, Coloma added to the insurance with a solo homer.
The first innings was a squandered opportunity for the Wildcats, who loaded the bases with two hit batters and a walk in the first. But the Warriors got a pick-play at second base, Atkins recorded a strikeout and a groundout to get out of the inning.
“We were lucky to get that pick play,” Correa said.
The Warriors make their own luck, too, with great pitching, one reason they’re shooting for their eighth straight BIIF title.
Konawaena 000 300 0 — 3 2 1
Kamehameha 400 111 x — 7 8 3