Before the start of the HHSAA Division I baseball tournament, Waiakea coach Eric Kurosawa presented his team a challenging goal: It’ll take a five-game winning streak to bring home a state title.
The BIIF runner-up Warriors qualified for states when Ty Honda fired a two-hitter in a 9-0 win over Leilehua in a play-in game last Friday.
Honda was at it again against St. Louis in the first round on Wednesday at Maui’s Iron Maehara Stadium. The senior right-hander pitched to contact, gave up 10 hits but tossed a complete game in a 9-4 win over the Crusaders.
Waiakea (15-3) plays No. 1 seed Baldwin (14-0) in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Thursday.
For a history review, when the Warriors won their first state title in 2012 the team they beat was the Bears. That was back at Les Murakami Stadium. Iron Maehara Stadium is Baldwin’s back yard.
“We told the team we have five games to get to where we want to go,” Kurosawa said. “We’re two down with three more to go. It’s still a long road. We’re not close.
“We told the team to enjoy the win, then put it aside and we have to get ready for Baldwin.”
Kurosawa turned into a riverboat gambler with his decision to start Honda, his No. 2 pitcher, and his cards perfectly fell into place.
Honda threw 103 pitches and is done pitching for the tournament. But he saved the bullpen and made Kurosawa look like a genius for saving senior ace Cody Hirata.
The Crusaders scored two runs in the third and fourth innings on two-run homers by Caleb Lomativa and Hunter Peneueta.
“Ty struggled a little bit, then he started hitting his spots and changing speeds and was deceptive again,” Kurosawa said. “We started the game off with four straight hits and jumped up early. That allowed us to relax.”
St. Louis banged 10 hits but Honda limited his free passes. He hit one batter and walked no one. He also struck out none, which meant the ILH runner-up consistently put the ball in play.
Waiakea had just one harmless error while St. Louis had a harmful four, which led to four unearned runs.
Left fielder Cody Kunimitsu recorded seven putouts, a sign that the Crusaders kept swinging for the fences. Center fielder Kala’i Rosario had four putouts. Right fielder Chris Hatakenaka-Gibbs had three putouts.
Stone Miyao batted 3 for 4 with an RBI, Rosario went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, including a two-run homer, Safea Mauai went 1 for 3 with an RBI, and Cody Min was 2 for 4 with an RBI.
That’s Waiakea’s top four hitters. They went a combined 8 for 15 with five RBIs, a lineup design Kurosawa stuck with from the start.
In the first, Mauai and Min had RBI singles, and Waiakea scored another run on a double play.
Rosario blasted a two-run homer in the second inning, and the Warriors struck for four runs in the third, helped by three errors.
“We had good timely hitting, good defense, and Ty pitched a great game,” Kurosawa summarized in a neat nutshell.
The Warriors played the Bears in the preseason but didn’t get a chance to face ace Roy Meinen, whom the Waiakea hitters know well.
Last year, Meinen pitched 4 1/3 innings of four-run ball in Baldwin’s 14-5 win over Waiakea for the state title.
“Hopefully, the cards fall the way we want them to. But we’re happy to advance,” Kurosawa said.
For one day at least, the Warriors brought over tough pitching, solid defense and timely hitting. They left the rain back home in Hilo.
“The weather is very nice. It’s hot,” Kurosawa said. “Hopefully, there’s no rain. Knock on wood.”
St. Louis 002 200 0 — 4 10 4
Waiakea 324 000 x — 9 11 1