BRAD BALLESTEROS/Stephens Media
Kona’s Andrew Udac slides safely into home plate Saturday against Hilo during the PONY Bronco Big Island championships at Old Kona Airport Park.
By JOE FERRARO
His untimely fielding error handed Hilo Bronco Gold a victory, crushing Kaehu Kuahuia.
But Kuahuia responded the way Kona PONY hoped he would: by continuing to crush the baseball Saturday at Old Kona Airport Park.
Kuahuia drilled a two-run home run and drove in three runs as Kona defeated Hilo 8-4 in Game 2 of the PONY Bronco Big Island championships.
Toby Estrella added a two-run homer, and Steven Texiera scattered four hits over six innings to get the win as Kona forced a decisive Game 3, which will take place at 11:30 a.m. today at Old Kona Airport Park. The winner will earn a berth in the PONY Bronco state tournament, which takes place June 28 through July 2 at Hilo’s Walter Victor Complex.
“He knew what he did wrong,” Kona coach Nick Kaawa said of Kuahuia, a first baseman who in Game 1 dropped a throw from pitcher Texiera with two outs in the eighth inning that would have retired Kaeo Cachola and sent the game to the ninth inning. Instead, Cachola reached, and pinch runner Kypp Miyashiro scampered home from third with the winning run in an 8-7 Hilo victory.
“I just told him, ‘Don’t hang your head. It’s how you respond after a mistake (that matters),’” Kaawa said.
After Hilo took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first in Game 2, Andrew Udac, Tevin Canda, Harvey Alani, Kuahuia and Dennison Joaquin strung together five consecutive hits in the first inning, with Kuahuia launching a majestic blast well over the left-field fence for a two-run homer that gave Kona a 4-2 lead.
“(After Game 1), everybody was kind of down, mostly me because I messed up,” Kuahuia said. “I played hard. I had to come back.”
Kuahuia’s RBI groundout in the second inning made it 6-2, and Estrella’s two-run homer capped the scoring in the bottom of the sixth.
Kaawa came away pleased with an offense that totalled 22 hits in both games. Udac, Canda, Alani and Joaquin each had two hits in Game 2.
“We can hit with anybody,” Kaawa said.
Meanwhile, Texiera pitched around trouble to keep Kona in front, walking six batters but stranding five runners on base, including the bases loaded in the fourth inning.
Cachola had two of Hilo’s four hits.
Donald Saltiban, who gave up six runs on seven hits in three innings, took the loss for Hilo.
“We just have to be a little more mentally tough, and we should be OK,” Kaawa said.
Hilo certainly showed some mental toughness in Game 1, rallying for three runs to tie the game at five in the bottom of the seventh and scoring three more in the bottom of the eighth after Canda’s two-run homer gave Kona a 7-5 lead in the top of the eighth.
Hilo took advantage of a crucial error to pull within 5-4 in the seventh before Saltiban came through in the clutch, lining a run-scoring single that scored Cachola.
With two outs and a runner on first in the eighth inning, Noah Ohara lined a double to right-center, putting runners on second and third and setting the table for L.J. Ito, who blooped a two-run single that tied the game.
Ito went to second on a throw home, and Miyashiro, who pinch ran for Ito, advanced to third on a wild pitch before coming home when Cachola grounded to Texiera and reached on Kuahuia’s crucial error.
“In the seventh and eighth innings, everybody did their part,” Hilo coach Mel Kilaulani said.
Cachola went 4 for 5, while Saltiban was 3 for 3.
On the mound, Briden Silva pitched the final three innings to get the win.
Kuahuia led Kona at the plate, going 2 for 4 with three RBIs. His two-run homer in the third-inning gave Kona a 3-1 lead, and his RBI double in the fifth made it 5-2.
Canda and Alani were both 2 for 5.
Kona 003 020 02 — 7 12
Hilo 010 010 33 — 8 11
Hilo 200 020 0 — 4 5
Kona 420 002 x — 8 10