Already armed with uncommon poise for a freshman pitcher, Keian Kanetani developed on the mound this season even as Keaau struggled.
His confidence came to a peak Monday, and Kanetani helped the Cougars to a breakthrough victory.
Backed by a three-run rally in the sixth inning and Kanetani’s complete game, Keaau earned its first victory against Hilo since 2008 with a 4-1 home victory in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation baseball game.
“It’s a big win for us,” coach Herbert Yasuhara said. “Hopefully it means we’re starting to turn the corner. No team, I think, is better than Hilo talent-wise.”
Meanwhile, its was a costly loss for Hilo (4-3 BIIF Division I, 8-3), which fell out contention for the regular-season title when Waiakea beat Kamehameha 6-5 to wrap up the league’s first berth at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament.
The Cougars strong senior contingent also played a role in the group’s first victory against either Hilo or Waiakea, the two perennial D-I title contenders.
Jonathan Segovia was 2 for 2 with three RBIs for Keaau (3-4 Division I, 4-7), and Rylan Martines was 2 for 3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Junior Rason Martines and sophomore Byron Cachola also collected two hit each.
Kanetani pitched a five-inning perfect game April 5 against Pahoa, but he said he felt even better on the mound Monday against the Vikings, especially after having gotten his feet wet against Hilo earlier in the season.
He al so pitched well in losses against Waiakea and Kamehameha, and now carries a 2-3 record with a pristine 1.13 ERA, according to Keaau’s statistics.
“I was more confident today than before,” Kanetani said after outdueling Kian Kurokawa in a 106-pitch effort. “I knew what to do (after facing Hilo before).”
He credited his curveball with helping him limit the Vikings to eight hits with four walks. The right-hander struck out two, and his coach said Kanetani did an admirable job of limiting the damage when Hilo’s runners got on base.
“They have some rabbits,” Yasuhara said, “but he mixed things up and held the ball.
“He’s developing well.”
Jodd Carter finished 3 for 4 for the Vikings, and he scored on Drew Kell’s two-out RBI single in the sixth inning to tie the game.
The deadlock was short-lived, however.
“We fought back, we knew we had to score and the bats came alive,” Kanetani said.
Cody Silva coaxed a one-out walk from Kurokawa, and an error put runners on first and third. Rylan Martines came through with a single to right to give Keeau the lead, and after Cachola singled, Segovia puncuated the rally with a two-run single center.
With Kanetani and Kurokawa engaged in a pitchers’ duel, the game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth, when Rylan Martines doubled to lead off and scored on Segovia’s single.
Kurokawa took the loss, pitching 5 2/3 innings and allowing nine hits, four runs — just one earned — and walked one with a strikeout.
Kell finished 2 for 3 for Hilo, which finishes with Pahoa on Wednesday and Waiakea on Saturday, before heading off to the BIIF tournament as the No. 2 seed in search of the league’s second berth at states,
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