By JOE FERRARO
Kupono Decker still remembers the specific directions Kamehameha coach Andy Correa gave the Warriors’ pitching staff at the beginning of the season.
“He told us, ‘We don’t have hard throwers.’ He told us to stay inside the strike zone and hit our spots.’’
On Saturday at Kealakehe, Decker and Bronson Pulgados did exactly what Correa asked of them, combining on a no-hitter as the Warriors defeated the Waveriders 8-1 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation contest.
“My off-speed (pitches were) working, and I stayed inside the strike zone,’’ said Decker, who walked three and struck out six in four innings to get his second win of the season. “I was trying to stay on the inside corner and jam them.’’
Kealakehe (0-1 in the BIIF, 1-1 overall) had two loud outs against Kamehameha (2-0, 2-1). Sage Valenzuela drove the ball to center field in the second inning but right at center fielder Chay Toson. Two innings later, Bricen Ferreira hit a screaming line drive right at second baseman Chad Teshima.
Other than that, Decker and Pulgados were in control against the Waveriders.
“(Decker) did a good job keeping us off-balance all day,’’ Kealakehe coach Josh Hansen said. “You have to tip your cap to him.’’
Pulgados came on in the fifth after Decker walked Kealakehe No. 9 hitter Keith Pabre and ran the count to 2-1 on leadoff man Zaynan Sanchez. Pulgados promptly struck out Sanchez and Louie Garcia, but Pabre eventually made his way home on two passed balls and a wild pitch for Kealakehe’s lone run.
Pulgados walked four and struck out four in three innings.
“They stayed ahead in the count and threw strikes,’’ Correa said of Decker and Pulgados.
Offensively, Pulgados supplied some power, hitting a ringing RBI double to right-center that gave Kamehameha a 1-0 lead in the first. The senior made it 4-0 in the fifth when he hit a shot over Kealakehe center fielder Louie Garcia’s head in center, chasing home Daylen Calicdan from third.
Calicdan finished 2-for-4.
But the Warriors, who managed just five hits, thrived against Kealakehe starter Teao Buehler with a smallball attack that forced four Waverider errors.
Matt Chun, Calicdan, Toson and Teshima all laid down bunts that moved runners over.
In the second inning, Buehler hit Chun with a pitch, and the Kamehameha left fielder later scored on a throwing error. Three innings later, Chun’s bunt moved Jordan Hirae to third base in the fifth inning, and on the same play, Hirae scampered home on another throwing error.
Buehler, who threw 128 pitches over six innings, took the loss. He gave up six runs — four earned — on five hits, striking out five and walking seven.
“He just didn’t have his control today,’’ Hansen said of the hard-throwing Buehler, who has been clocked in the high 80s. “He was pitching from behind and trying to find his rhythm.
“In the middle innings, he was competing a little bit.’’
Buehler’s pitching line could have been worse considering 11 of the 12 runners Kamehameha left on base were in scoring position.
Correa said Buehler did well to wiggle out of trouble.
“That’s a credit to him,’’ Correa said. “He throws hard.’’
Kamehameha 120 111 2 — 8 5 1
Kealakehe 000 010 0 — 1 0 4