By JOE FERRARO
Stephens Media Hawaii
Thrown into another pressure situation Saturday on Oahu, Phillip Grace claimed he was “nervous and scared.” If that’s the case, his emotions didn’t match his performance.
Grace’s bases-loaded triple with two outs in the seventh carried North Hawaii to a dramatic 11-10 win over Pearl City in the Junior League state tournament at Hans L’Orange Field.
In the top of the seventh, North Hawaii trailed 9-6 with a runner on first and two outs. Now the Big Island champion is a win away from making the West Regional tournament, which takes place Aug. 2-7 in Vancouver, Wash.
“It was the bases loaded, and I didn’t want to mess up,’’ said Grace, who also had a bases-loaded double in North Hawaii’s 8-3 win over Central Maui on Friday. “It felt good finally getting a hit. In the past few games, I’ve been in a slump. It picked me up, and it picked my team up.”
At 3 p.m. Monday, North Hawaii will play in the first of two possible championship games against either Pearl City or the winner of Saturday’s other game between Kailua and Central Maui. If North Hawaii loses, it will play the same opponent at 6 p.m. in a game that will crown the state champion in the ages 13-14 tournament.
With North Hawaii down to its final out, Hunter Cuaresma and Finn Richmond walked to load the bases. Dawson Abiley then came through with a two-run single that made it 9-8.
Jonah Hurney followed with a single that loaded the bases again, setting the table for Grace, who cleared the bases with a triple to center field.
Grace finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs, and Caden Perreira-Lau finished 2-for-4.
North Hawaii also trailed 5-0 after four innings before exploding for six runs in the top of the fifth. Richmond highlighted the inning with a two-run double, and Perreira-Lau added a two-run single.
North Hawaii manager Pat Abiley has stressed one word with his team over the past week: finish.
“(There were) two or three games where we were up until the last out of the game and we’d lose,” Abiley said. “This time we wanted to finish. They took it upon themselves, and they came up big today.
“When others come off the bench, it’s not an easy out. Everybody’s been contributing.”
Kilipaki Akau, who pitched a 1 2/3 innings in relief of Perreira-Lau, earned the victory.
Pearl City statistics were unavailable.
N. Hawaii 000 060 5 — 11 12 3
Pearl City 002 304 1 — 10 7 1