By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Hilo desperately needed someone to step into the lion’s cage and slam the door shut in the bottom of the seventh inning with runners in scoring position and the game on the line.
The call from coach Tony DeSa went to junior right-hander Jalen Carvalho, who sat out last season to concentrate on basketball and pitched only briefly against Pahoa during the Big Island Interscholastic Federation regular season.
He hit the first Waiakea batter he faced to load the bases. Carvalho got a groundout to squash that threat, keeping the score locked at 5-5. And then he proceeded to pitch out of episodes of inconvenience in every inning after that.
Behind Carvalho’s 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, the Vikings outlasted the Warriors 8-5 in 11 innings in the BIIF Division I baseball championship on an overcast and gusty Sunday at Wong Stadium.
“This feels really, really good, especially after not winning in basketball and losing to Kamehameha in the BIIF semifinals,” said Carvalho, who allowed two hits, one walk, struck out two and stranded eight on base.
“It was my first long outing of the season and it was really nerve-racking. It was tough for me, but my team gave me a lot of strength. I just threw strikes and if they hit the ball, they hit the ball. I trusted my teammates to get me out of jams,” he said.
Hilo (8-3 BIIF, 12-3 overall) drew the No. 4 seed to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament, which runs Wednesday-Saturday at Iron Maehara Stadium on Maui. The Vikings face the Iolani-Kailua winner at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Waiakea (8-3, 11-4), the defending state champion, will play Leilehua (6-10) at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the first round.
In Division II state tourney, BIIF champion Kamehameha (9-2, 11-4) will play No. 4 seed Kapaa (8-4) at 10 a.m. Thursday at Hans L’ Orange Field on Oahu in the quarterfinals. BIIF runner-up Konawaena (8-3, 12-4) will play No. 2 seed Maryknoll (8-3-1) at 7 p.m. also on Thursday.
Last year, it was a magical run for Hilo and Waiakea at states. The Vikings upset Punahou in the first round, No. 1 seed Kailua 3-2 in the quarterfinals and eventually placed third. The Warriors defeated Castle, Pearl City and Baldwin in succession for the school’s first state title, relying on aces Quintin Torres-Costa and Kodi Medeiros.
Medeiros fired a three-hitter in a 2-1 victory over Pearl City and pitched one inning to polish off a combined no-hitter with Torres-Costa in the 5-2 state championship finale.
He hasn’t been the same since.
In his first start of the season, Medeiros lasted 3 2/3 innings, threw 75 pitches, allowed five runs (two unearned) on four hits, three walks and four hit batters. He struck out two and fired lasers, but not with the same pinpoint accuracy or velocity from a year ago.
Medeiros hit the first three batters he faced in the fourth. He got the next two outs but then trouble was around the corner. He beaned Chayce Kaaua to force in a run, threw a wild pitch that went over catcher Kean Wong’s head, and an error scored another run.
Elijah Cruz singled off reliever Calvin Uemura to close the book on Medeiros, a junior left-hander, who like starting counterpart Hilo senior right-hander Kody Kaniho warmed up thinking they were going to pitch on Saturday night.
The game was rained out and the two starters left their best stuff in the bullpen. Kaniho was also ineffective. He was pulled after two innings. He gave up three runs on four hits and a walk.
Then Jordan Tagawa kept Hilo in the ballgame, and took a 5-3 lead into the seventh. But he left after Wong reached on an error and Medeiros roped a 1-2 low changeup for a single. Nick Fukunaga came in, got a strikeout, but threw a wild pitch to let in a run and gave up an RBI single to Caleb Freitas-Fields for a 5-5 tie.
Medeiros didn’t let his pitching affect him at the plate. He went 4 for 6 with two RBIs. Wong was 1 for 4 but drew two walks and scored three runs. Freitas-Fields was 2 for 5 with two RBIs.
Other than those guys, Waiakea’s offense was a black hole. Everyone else was 2 for 28. The Nos. 7-8-9 hitters were 0 for 13. The Warriors stranded 15 on base, including the sacked filled in the first and seventh innings.
Uemura pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, and Freitas-Fields, who threw 65 pitches in a 3-0 three-hitter over Keaau in the semifinals on Friday, went five innings in the loss, surrendering all three of his runs in the 11th.
It was Carvalho who got things started with a single to right on a 1-1 count against Freitas-Fields. Carvalho, a lefty swinger, also showed good bat control against Medeiros, keeping his hands back and snapping his wrists to yank a single off a Medeiros changeup to right field in the second on a 1-2 count.
Like in the fourth, the two-out bumble bee came back to sting Waiakea in the 11th. After Carvalho’s single, Freitas-Fields got two quick outs. Then he beaned the next three hitters, the last Kaaua, who took one for the team again. A wild pitch scored the second run and Carter followed with an RBI single.
Kaaua was 2 for 4 with two RBIs, both on hit by pitches. Carter went 2 for 5 with an RBI, Carvalho 2 for 3 with the go-ahead run, and Kell was 2 for 2. Everyone in Hilo’s lineup either had a hit, scored a run or had an RBI.
“I hope this goes down as one of the classics between Hilo and Waiakea,” Waiakea coach Kevin Yee said. “It had everything in it. Both aces struggled a little bit and it took the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 guys to pick up the slack and keep their teams in the ballgame.
“Both sides has opportunities to score but didn’t cash in earlier. But that’s a credit to Hilo’s pitching and defense.”
Every Hilo pitcher got scratched, except for Carvalho, who pitched on a highwire over his last four full innings. In the eighth, there were runners on the corners, but he got a groundout. In the ninth, there was a runner on second, but he got a lineout and strikeout. In the 10th and 11th, he stranded a runner on first base.
And even better, he pitched tough against the best-hitting Warriors. Wong went 0 for 1 with a walk and had a deep flyout to center in the 10th. Medeiros was 1 for 2, singling in the eighth.
It’s the first BIIF medal for Carvalho, who is already hoping that something magical will happen on Maui.
“The one thing I’ll remember most is our team having heart and fighting to the very end,” he said. “We came so far for this moment and we wanted to take it.
“I think this will help us moving forward. Anything can happen. I feel really excited and can’t wait for more.”
Hilo 001 400 000 03 — 8 10 1
Waiakea 120 000 200 00 — 5 8 4