By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Kean Wong didn’t put up big numbers, but produced enough and so did the new-look Waiakea baseball team, which relied on consistent instead of overpowering pitching and steady defense to kick off its season.
The senior shortstop batted 1 for 3 and the Warriors beat Lahainaluna 2-1 at the 2nd annual Waiakea Invitational Tournament on Thursday at Wong Stadium, showcasing a defending Division I state championship team that returns only three starters in Wong, junior pitcher Kodi Medeiros and senior second baseman Alika Guillermo, and a different style of play.
Instead of two flame-throwers, the Warriors have only one after staff ace Quintin Torres-Costa graduated. The Hawaii freshman left-hander is set to start Saturday night against No. 15 Oregon. At least, there’s still Kodi Medeiros, a UH verbal commit.
But Medeiros didn’t start against the Lunas of the Maui Interscholastic League. Instead the start went to Chase Komatsu, who put in a good day’s work and went four innings in a no-decision. The junior right-hander allowed a run on three hits and one walk, and struck out three. He pitched himself out of trouble in the third after allowing an RBI single to Bronson Kaina, getting Lunas cleanup hitter Amateo Flores on a groundout.
Freshman right-hander Calvin Uemura picked up the win with two scoreless innings, striking out two. Like Komatsu, he also gained experience pitching out of an inconvenient situation, stranding a runner on third with one out in the sixth. Then sophomore lefty Evan Ishihara shut down Lahainaluna in order for the save.
Waiakea coach Kevin Yee said he doesn’t plan to throw ace Medeiros this weekend, and started Wong at shortstop, where he was flawless in the field, starting two double plays and making one putout. Wong was the catcher last season, and will catch Medeiros and also play shortstop and third base — positions that should satisfy Major League Baseball scouts.
Wong, who has signed with Hawaii (soon to be the Warriors on July 1), was the center of attention for at least three scouts from the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.
“They were asking the typical things, ‘How’s he looking?’ They’re not unfamiliar with him. They’ve seen him at showcases,” Yee said. “Right now, they’re just checking in on him to see where he’s at. I think they saw what they needed to see, the arm and they saw him run. He hit the ball really hard, but he was just missing. He’ll make adjustments and rebound.”
The scouts had their stopwatches out and one video-taped Wong’s at-bat in the fourth, with two on and two out. He took a mighty swing, but popped out on the first pitch to right field against Lahainaluna starter Kaimana Ancog.
It was the same thing in the first against Ancog, who got Wong on a first-pitch fastball for a flyout to start the game. But in the third, Wong flashed the base-running instincts that have attracted the interest of MLB teams.
Leading off the innign, Wong beat out an infield single to shortstop, blazing down the first-base line in 4.07 seconds (better than the MLB average of 4.2 seconds), then went from first to third on Alika Guillermo’s single to right field. Wong scored on a short flyout to center, giving Caleb Freitas-Fields an easy RBI and Waiakea a 1-1 tie.
“I felt all right,” Wong said. “I got out in front my first at-bat and I was out in front all day. It was not my day today. But I like that we got our first win. It’s a new team and a new team chemistry. It felt different at shortstop, but I liked it.”
In the sixth, Andy Filoteo III singled off reliever Ryan Delatori, stole second and went to third when Grant Nonaka reached on an error. Filoteo scored on Taylor Mondina’s RBI groundout to second for the go-ahead run.
Three of Waiakea’s freshmen had smashing debuts. Uemura threw up goose eggs for two frames. Third baseman Mondina batted 1 for 3, and first baseman Freitas-Fields was 1 for 2 with an RBI. Also the defense was flawless and Filoteo made a diving catch in right field to end the game.
“I liked that we gave ourselves opportunities to score runs,” Yee said. “We played defense really well and that’s our philosophy, pitching and defense. Chase threw really well. He threw strikes early and fought through adversity, same thing with Calvin. We threw our freshman out there to see what he could do. Evan didn’t have a great scrimmage against Keaau, but he made a big adjustment with his approach.
“The thing with this team is we have to take advantage when the opportunity is there. That’s the type of lineup we have. We’ve got a tough lineup and I like our chances.”
Ancog went 3 2/3 innings and allowed a run on five hits and one walk. Delatori pitched 2 1/3 innings and took the loss in relief.
In other games, Keaau edged Honokaa 3-2, and Konawaena thumped Hawaii Prep 11-5.
Lahainaluna 001 000 0 — 1 3 2
Waiakea 001 001 x — 2 6 0