High school baseball: Hilo is all it’s cracked up to be in 20-1 win

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Xaige Lancaster, pictured during his freshman season at Hilo High, hit his second home run Sunday during Big Island Wooden Bat Academy league play as a Hilo club team beat Kealakehe club 20-1.

One of the sweetest sounds in baseball, the crack of the bat, wasn’t just relegated to the major leagues Sunday.

Thanks to Tobey Jackson and a few of his Hilo club teammates, the Big Island Wooden Bat Academy league lived up to its name, and Jackson was hardly hamstrung by his choice of lumber.


The Hilo High junior started an onslaught off with the first of his three hits, and Xaige Lancaster homered for the second week in a row in a 20-1 victory against a Kealakehe club team at Walter Victor complex.

Players in the league have their choice of bat type, and the majority, such as Lancaster, use aluminum. Wood bats are mandated in pro ball, unlike other levels, where aluminum is overwhelmingly used.

“Coach Kaha (Wong) made this league based off wood bats,” Jackson said, “and I wanted to stick to the core values.

“I feel like I get more solid contact with a wood bat.”

Plus, when wood makes solid contact with ball, there’s nothing quite like it in the game.

“It sounds good,” he said. “I like the feeling, honestly.”

Jackson said he used a composite bat for his freshman and abbreviated sophomore BIIF seasons, and he plans to use a wood bat for his senior season in 2022.

However, Baba Lancaster, the coach for the Hilo wood bat team and the Vikings, had other words of advice.

“The ball is not going to go as far as with an aluminum bat,” he said. “I told the boys, this is high school, use your aluminum bats.”

Whatever Hilo (1-1) carried to plate worked wonders.

All 12 runners reached base in the first, with nine scoring before the half inning was called off because Hilo went through its order once.

Joining Jackson with multiple hits were Kekoa Ogawa, who drove in three runs, Kaikua Kokubun, Kaynan Kaku and Makenna Wakakuwa. Devin Saltiban hit a two-run single and Legend Lancaster doubled. Xaige Lancaster’s three-run blast came in the fifth.

Kellan Turner started and worked three innings – allowing Felix Guerpo’s run-scoring double in the second – and Tyler Halemanu (two innings) and Hekili Robello (one) worked in relief.

“We’re just happy the boys can play,” Baba Lancaster said. “For (Kealakehe coach) Kallen (Hiraishi) and I, we don’t care about the score.

“The main thing is everyone just gets a chance to play. It’s great for us, for me especially. I feel like I’m back home on the field again. For how long haven’t we been on the field?

Too long.

Hilo High won the BIIF Division I crown in Lancaster’s first season at the helm of his alma mater in 2019, but any thoughts of a rare D-I baseball repeat were ruined by the pandemic. This season, the wood bat league is allowing students who attend public school to play a makeshift schedule along with private schools Kamehameha and Hawaii Prep. There was also a fall season.

Jackson spent much of the down time working out, in the batting cage or at home with his father. The center fielder homered last week in a 7-4 loss to Honokaa-Konawaena.

There are no championships at play, but “Our goal is just to smash every team, just go hard,” he said.

He’s especially looking forward to a May 2 meeting at Walter Victor.

“Waiakea is the one, we just need to smash Waiakea,” Jackson said.


On Saturday, Honokaa-Konawaena won its second straight by beating Kealakehe 8-4. Justin Birch struck out eight in four innings, and he hit a three-run double.

For Kealakehe (0-2), Howard Robert hit a three-run home run and Elliott Vesauyadra launched a solo shot.

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