By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
WAIPAHU — On a hot, sweltering day, Kamehameha brought cold bats to the ballpark. But luckily for the Warriors, ace Kupono Decker threw a gem that wasn’t completely beautiful, but was good enough to beat No. 4 seed Kapaa.
The senior right-hander pitched five innings of one-hit ball, Alika Young was perfect the rest of the way, and the Warriors squeezed out a few timely hits to upset Kapaa 2-1 in the first round of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state tournament on Thursday at Hans L’Orange Field.
In the semifinals at 7 p.m. today, Kamehameha (10-2) plays No. 1 seed Waianae (10-3), the Oahu Interscholastic Association champion.
Decker walked two, struck out one and stranded three on base, retiring the side only in the fourth inning. Four times in six innings, the leadoff hitter reached base, usually a recipe for disaster. But he handcuffed the Kauai Interscholastic Federation champion Warriors (8-5) with a combination of fastballs and curveballs on the corners, and a mountain of guile and composure.
No one paired hits for Kamehameha, which stranded 10 runners on base, including the sacks full in the third and seventh innings. All those missed opportunities didn’t come back to bite the Big Island Interscholastic Federation champs because Decker and Young didn’t make any costly mistakes, always a key in first-round games when butterflies often appear.
“In the first inning, the adrenaline got to me and I was overthrowing. In the third and fourth inning, I stayed calm and trusted my defense. All the state experience has helped,” said Decker, who has helped the Warriors reach states every year except in 2011 when he was a sophomore.
Decker left after hitting No. 3 batter Keola Lutz in the sixth. Young came in and retired six straight, getting three groundouts to second baseman Chad Teshima in the seventh. The second out was a brilliant defensive play when starting pitcher Nick Tabura hit a high chopper and Teshima jumped in the air and threw on the way down.
But for the most part, the game was consumed with missed opportunities by Kamehameha, which had coach Andy Correa looking at both sides of the coin.
“It was ugly,” Correa said. “We didn’t play particularly well, but we did enough to win. We couldn’t get the big hit when we needed to. We had so many scoring opportunities, but we hung together.
“Kupono and especially Alika pitched well. Alika came in and threw strikes and that’s what we needed.”
In the first inning, the two teams with the same nickname traded scoring opportunities when both starters, Decker and Tabura, struggled to find their control. Tabura walked two, but escaped trouble with a strikeout. Decker walked one, hit a batter, and gave up a run on a safety squeeze bunt by Turtle Kuhaulua.
Neither team had the benefit of a base hit, but the difference was the KIF champion Warriors got their leadoff hitter on, and could afford to give up an out for a run. The BIIF champs staged their rally with two outs and couldn’t manage a timely hit.
However, in the third, Kamehameha looked more comfortable at the plate against Tabura, a 6-foot-2 junior left-hander, who wasn’t overpowering. No. 9 hitter Daylan Calicadan led off with a double, went to third on Chad Teshima’s bunt single and scored on Chay Toson’s fielder’s choice. Jordan Hirae walloped another double to score Teshima for a 2-1 lead.
Then the timely hits dried up for the BIIF champs. In the fourth and fifth, Kamehameha stranded a runner in scoring position against Tabura, who pitched five innings in the loss. He allowed two runs on three hits and four walks, striking out seven with pitches that weren’t strikes or balls down the middle that Kamehameha simply missed.
Decker pitched himself into a pickle in the bottom of the fifth, issuing a lead-off walk to Tabura, the No. 8 hitter, and throwing Robert Soares’ bunt into center field for an error. Then AJ Cumming reached on a fielder’s choice and was thrown out at second trying to catch the unseeded Warriors napping. Decker struck out No. 2 hitter Chaz Pacleb, stranding Tabura at third.
Kuhaulua took over for Tabura in the sixth and retired the side. He struck out two over two innings, burning more holes into Kamehameha’s cold bats. The BIIF Warriors struck out nine times.
Kapaa got fired up in the bottom of the sixth when Decker hit Keola Lutz to lead off the inning. But Young threw his off-speed pitches for strikes, pitched past his butterflies and finished off the KIF Warriors for the save.
“Decker pitched a good game and I knew it was important for me to come in and do my job,” Young said. “There wasn’t a pitch I threw without my leg shaking, but I had to work through it, throw strikes and let my defense work. And we got the win.”
Kamehameha 002 000 0 — 2 4 1
Kapaa 100 000 0 — 1 1 2
At Hans L’Orange Field
Kamehameha-Hawaii 2, No. 4 Kapaa 1
No. 2 Maryknoll 7, Konawaena 6
No. 1 Waianae 12, Kaimuki 0
No. 3 Molokai 7, Radford 4
Molokai vs. Maryknoll, 4 p.m.
Waianae vs. Kamehameha-Hawaii, 7 p.m.
Kaimuki vs. Kapaa, 10 a.m.
Radford vs. Konawaena, 1 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.
Semifinal losers, 3 p.m.
Consolation winners, noon