Online Extra: Carter, Cruz spark Hilo’s hit parade
By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Hilo junior Jodd Carter’s favorite sport is baseball, though basketball runs a close second, because he loves the feeling of getting a basehit.
He must have been in heaven because he was 3 for 3 and part of Hilo’s 15-hit parade in a 7-4 win over Waiakea in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation baseball game Thursday night at Wong Stadium.
The crosstown rivalry showdown counted to everyone from the players to the fans. The only place it didn’t count was in the BIIF standings.
The second meeting between the two will count and figure heavily in the race for the BIIF regular-season title, which includes an automatic berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state tournament.
Hilo (4-2 BIIF and 8-2 overall) and Waiakea (4-1, 7-2) will meet again at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 27 at Wong Stadium. The league’s first tiebreaker is head-to-head matchup.
“It’s a rivalry and we always want to beat each other,” said Hilo third baseman Elijah Cruz, who also went 3 for 3.
Last season, Waiakea rolled to a 20-0 record, captured the Division I state crown, its second straight BIIF championship and for good measure defeated Hilo three times, including in the league title game.
Besides a smooth swing, Carter also has a good memory. The left fielder remembers all that, a reason he sharpened his hitting mechanics and brought a healthy supply of enthusiasm, even in a game that didn’t count in the BIIF standings.
“They’re a good team. They always had the advantage against us (having ace pitchers Quintin Torres-Costa and Kodi Medeiros) and every game they beat us,” he said. “We wanted to win against them this time. I’ve been playing baseball since I was 3 years old. That’s a lot of years. I love getting a hit and making plays. That feels good and coming to the field and just playing baseball.
“I felt pretty good at the plate. The past couple of days I’ve been working with coach Kaha (Wong) on my timing and balance. I’m seeing the ball well. The team is doing good. We’re coming together and picking each other up.”
Carter estimates he’s at 80 percent from the left leg injury suffered during basketball. He said it doesn’t affect him at the plate or in the field. He added two RBIs, so his production is in top shape, too.
“He’s up there among the top two or three hitters in the league. He’s hitting .600 for the season,” Hilo coach Tony DeSa said. “He’s so quiet at the plate. He doesn’t get fooled and he’s got strong hands.
“I like how we’re hitting the ball. But we’ve got to keep working hard.”
It was a tuneup game so neither team threw its ace. Hilo right-hander Kody Kaniho pitched a two-hitter in a 3-1 win over Kamehameha on Tuesday in a game that counted. Waiakea junior left-hander Medeiros is still nursing his arm back into shape.
The Vikings got started early, banging four straight hits (from Tyler Higa-Gonsalves, Chayce Kaaua, Carter and Makana Josue-Maa) in the bottom of the first to grab a 2-0 lead.
Higa-Gonsalves batted 3 or 4 and scored twice. Josue-Maa was 2 for 4.
“Tyler is the sparkplug of our team. When he gets going, we get going,” DeSa said. “One time in the season we were hitting flyballs. We realized we can’t do it with hitting flyballs. Now, we’re getting line drives.”
Alika Guillermo started for the Warriors, went three innings and got a no-decision. Calvin Uemura pitched two innings, gave up four runs and took the loss. He gave way to fellow relievers Bryce Felipe, who got two outs in the sixth and Ryder Oshiro, who got one out — a flyout to second base with two on.
Meanwhile, Hilo senior right-hander Kian Kurokawa gave up a handful of hard hits, but pitched tough enough to earn the victory. He went six innings, surrendered four runs on five hits and one walk, and struck out three.
Jordan Tagawa pitched the seventh for the save.
“Kuro battled and he didn’t have his best stuff. He showed a lot of heart. That’s what we like about him,” DeSa said. “He’s a tiger out there.”
In the first inning, Waiakea senior Kean Wong clobbered a 2-1 fastball that caught too much of the dish for a solo homer. He drew walks in his other two at-bats. Medeiros went 2 for 3 with three RBIs, yanking a two-run double to right field in the fifth that tied it 4-4.
Hilo responded in the sixth with the bottom the lineup playing clutch ball. No. 8 hitter Micah Kaaukai blasted a double off Uemura. Then Isaiah Banasan and Higa-Gonsalves followed with infield singles, chasing Uemura.
Cruz eventually drilled a run-scoring single to make it 7-4 before Oshiro got a flyout to second base, limiting the damage to three runs. It was an inning that not only changed the game, but also showed the difference between the two teams, at least in a small sample tuneup game.
Waiakea’s Nos. 7-8-9 hitters went 0 for 7, reaching base twice on a walk and a hit by pitch, but not turning over the lineup enough. It’s a reason Wong, the No. 3 hitter, only had three plate appearances.
In contrast, Hilo’s last three batters went 3 for 7 with an RBI; Banasan, who also drew a walk, had a squeeze bunt in the second. Carter, the No. 3 hitter, had four plate appearance, drawing a walk in his other at-bat.
“I like the chemistry we have on the team,” Cruz said. “We practice hard every day and everyone is doing their part. We’re working as one team.”
Waiakea 101 020 0 — 4 5 1
Hilo 210 103 x — 7 15 0
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