By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Waiakea right-hander Caleb Freitas-Fields’ fastball powered past Keaau’s bats and his offspeed pitches neutralized every attempt to accelerate swings, resulting in quick innings, a low pitch count and a victory over his counterpart and offseason teammate, another standout freshman in Keian Kanetani.
Freitas-Fields, about 6 feet and with extra mustard on his heater, fashioned a two-hitter and the Warriors managed enough timely hits to take down the Cougars 3-0 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I semifinals on Friday at Wong Stadium, reaching the title game for the 11th straight year.
“It was freshman vs. freshman,” Waiakea coach Kevin Yee said. “They’re PONY League teammates and I’m sure it was a fun battle between them. I thought both pitchers threw great games. Keian was around the strike zone and threw a lot of five-, 10-pitch innings against us.
“We hit the ball hard but right at guys. You can’t help that. Keian wanted to get us to swing at his first three pitches. We made an adjustment and when he missed he had to come in with his hard stuff. I thought we did a better job of that.”
Waiakea (8-2 BIIF, 11-3 overall) is the two-time BIIF defending champion and already had a berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament. The defending state champion has won seven BIIF crowns in that 10-year stretch.
Freitas-Fields finished with 65 pitches, walked none, struck out two and stranded seven on base. He allowed the leadoff hitter to reach only in the second and fourth, smothering innings before the Cougars had a chance to get something started.
“I felt more comfortable. I know how to pitch against them,” said Freitas-Fields, who threw six shutout innings in a first-round win over Keaau. “My fastball and curveball were working and I hit my spots. Kean Wong (Waiakea’s catcher) helped me behind the plate.”
Kanetani went the distance in the loss for Keaau (4-6, 5-9), which has never reached the BIIF championship. The slightly built but crafty right-hander surrendered seven hits and one walk. He didn’t strike out anyone, handed Wong an 0 for 2 collar, but had difficulty against Kodi Medeiros, the cleanup hitter who follows Wong in the lineup.
“The middle and bottom of the lineup will get a lot of opportunities,” Yee said. “The key for us is turning over the lineup. We didn’t get the one or two hits that could have given us a little distance, but Caleb kept us in the game.
“He did a good job. He threw enough strikes and he got first-pitch outs, about five or six times. That kept his pitch count down.”
In the first, Waiakea shortstop Alika Guillermo singled, went to second on a wild pitch and up stepped Wong, who flied out to right field. Medeiros roped an RBI single to left and Andy Filoteo III clubbed a double that made it 2-0.
The Warriors added a run in the fifth when Guillermo reached on a fielder’s choice, went to second after Wong walked, and scored when Medeiros singled to right field, showing that when teams pitch around Wong there’s no time to rest and take it easy. Filoteo lined a shot to second to end the inning.
Medeiros batted 2 for 3 with two RBIs, Filoteo 1 for 3 with an RBI and Freitas-Fields 2 for 3 to account for the majority of Waiakea’s offense, which threatened in the sixth and lost a run on an inning-ending double play when Keaau center fielder Rylan Martines caught a ball and threw a rocket home to get a runner at the plate.
Yee noted that not all contributions show up on a box score. He pointed to the pitching calling of Wong, who didn’t get a hit, RBI or score a run, but still provided a valuable presence.
“Kean called a lot of great pitches. You could tell by how many batters swung and missed,” Yee said. “He called for pitches that they were not expecting. When Caleb was behind in the count, he called for breaking balls and ahead in the count he called fastballs. They worked well together and Kean did a great job behind the plate.”
Keaau 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
Waiakea 200 010 x — 3 7 2