At the end of Kaha Wong’s Wood Bat League final, Hilo and Waiakea celebrated Senior Day together, sending off Vikings Kekoa Ogawa and Kellen Turner, and Warriors Carson Kawaguchi, Braxton Cagampang and Dallas Kaili with smiles as they slid into home plate and got a bucket of water as their own personal waterfall.
“That’s the special thing about Hilo baseball, all the kids grew up together, from the youth leagues to the PONY level,” Waiakea coach Chris Honda said. “They’re all friends, and this is something they’ll remember forever. It’s just great to be playing, and we’re fortunate to be playing. Kaha and his administrative staff put this on during Covid and it was tough. They followed the rules, and we did it in a safe way. We were lucky.
“We had fun today. We all root for each other, whether it’s the collegiate level or life in the community. That’s super important. Off the field, these guys are all brothers. It was awesome.”
There was no BIIF season in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, nor in 2021. But according to the BIIF title trade history, it was Hilo’s turn in 2021. Waiakea gets the even-number years, which started in 2012.
Behind junior right-hander Hekili Robello’s brilliant relief work and a 10-hit attack, the Vikings defeated the Vikings 7-1 on Sunday at the Walter Victor Complex, where it wouldn’t be a Hilo-area baseball game without a few showers.
“I’m just happy the boys got to play,” Hilo coach Baba Lancaster said. “I told Kaha hat’s off to him because the boys had a chance to play. I told them as long as we play as a team we should be all right.”
Robello came in relief of Ogawa, who left in the fourth with the bases full and two out. Robello got a flyout to end the threat and finished with 3 1/3 innings of shutout relief for the save. He allowed one hit, one walk, and struck out three.
“Robello throws in the mid-80s. He came in the fourth inning and did his job. He shut them down,” Lancaster said. “He was on the varsity from his freshman year. He was a big factor for us when he was a freshman because we brought him in to close back then. He still has room to grow, and next year, he’ll throw harder.
“We hit the ball really well today. I told the boys don’t overswing, just shoot the gaps.”
Ogawa pitched 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball for the win. The right-hander gave up three hits and three walks and whiffed three.
Kawaguchi had an RBI single in the fourth off Ogawa for one of Waiakea’s four hits.
The Vikings scored a run off Kaili, a left-hander, in the first when Xaige Lancaster singled and scored on Devin Saltiban’s RBI double. Kaili allowed two runs in two innings in the loss.
Klayson Herolaga baffled the Vikings for three shutout innings. He allowed no hits, walked two, and whiffed one.
Cagampang pitched two innings and gave up five runs, all in the seventh. Robello reached on a two-base outfield error, Lancaster showed his hitting savvy with an RBI single off an 0-2 pitch through the first and second base hole. He missed on two curveballs, kept his hands back, and poked a seeing-eye single for a 4-1 lead.
Saltiban and Ogawa had consecutive RBI singles, and Josh Ward singled before Kaikua Kokuband roped a two-run double for a 7-1 cushion.
The future for the Vikings looks bright if there’s a BIIF season in 2022. Xaige Lancaster will lead the offense and Robello the pitching staff. The Hilo shortstop is verbally committed to New Mexico State, after playing on the Trosky national team this summer on the mainland.
“I got about six or seven juniors coming back, so it’ll be an interesting season next year,” Baba Lancaster said.
It’s the same thing with the Warriors, who return the bulk of their team, including key pitchers Dylan Honda and Kyson Wada, and hitters Devin Garza, Kedren Kinzie, Elijah Igawa, and Yukon Yomono.
It’ll be an even-number year next season, and maybe history returns to order or there’s an alteration. Either way, it’ll be an interesting season next year.