By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Dallas Mahan turned in another quality start, and the Hawaii Stars' bats arrived from the airport after the team's trip to Japan, and were put to good use.
The Stars pounded out 11 hits and scored early and prevailed over Na Koa Ikaika Maui 9-5 in a Pacific Association game Thursday at Wong Stadium.
"We got some runs early on and that helped," Hawaii manager Garry Templeton II said. "We had another great pitching performance from Dallas and we held them off.
"Dallas throws strikes and changes speeds. Those are the two most important things.
"It's about time with the bats. We've got to keep it going. Obviously, we're not going to score nine runs every game, but if we can score three, four, five runs we can win the rest of our games."
Hawaii (23-35-1) and Maui (39-23) continue a five-game series at 5:35 p.m. Friday-Saturday and at 1:35 p.m. Sunday at Wong in the final homestand.
The Stars will start Onan Masaoka (2-5, 6.09 ERA) Friday, Ronnie Loeffler (1-3, 3.52 ERA) Saturday and Matt Stropoli (3-3, 5.94 ERA) Sunday.
Na Koa will start Eri "Knuckle Princess" Yoshida (2-3, 6.05 ERA) on Saturday.
A quality start is defined as pitching a minimum of six innings and allowing three earned runs or less. That's a 4.50 ERA, stretching the definition of quality.
In any case, in 10 starts, Mahan has turned in eight quality starts. But a lack of sufficient offense has tempered his won-loss record. He's 4-2 with a 2.81 ERA.
On a perfectly delightful night at the ballpark, Mahan pitched six innings, allowed two runs on eight hits and two walks, and struck out two before giving way to Hawaii's three homegrown pitchers.
Cortney Arruda, Michael Kenui and Reece Alnas each had varying degrees of success. Arruda tossed a scoreless inning, while Kenui recorded only two outs, and surrendered three runs (one unearned).
Alnas got only one out, but it was a huge one. He entered with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth inning with Hawaii ahead 9-4. Charlie Mirabal, Maui's shortstop and No. 2 hitter, was at the plate.
Only one pitch was needed, too. Mirabal hit the first pitch he saw and reached on an error. Maui ran itself out of the inning, getting caught in a rundown.
In 10 2/3 innings, Alnas has yet to surrender an earned run. He's 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA. He's allowed nine hits and two walks, and whiffed eight.
"I felt good, attacking the hitters and keeping the ball off the sweet spot of the bat," said the youthful 35-year-old Mahan. "I threw a lot of cutters today. It was a good win. We needed that."
For his cut-fastball, Mahan holds his two fingers inside the seam and when he releases the ball the tilt of his wrist determines the degree of break.
The difference between the cutter and slider is the former is thrown harder, but has less velocity than a four-seam fastball. The cutter doesn't have the spin like a slider, producing the dot on the ball that hitters target.
Mahan is 6 feet 3 and when he finishes his delivery the distance of 60 feet and 6 inches between the mound and home plate is significantly shorter, putting him in grave danger when a powerful slugger, like Maui's big fella Jeremy Williams, is at the plate.
"I like facing guys like that. Guys with big swings have more holes," Mahan said. "You can get in on their hands or throw sharp breaking balls down. It's the guys who slap the ball like Waylen Sing Chow I have trouble with."
Sing Chow batted 2 for 4 while Williams went 1 for 5. In an earlier series, Williams blasted a ball that dented Mahan's calf.
"I've had plenty of times when the ball is hit right back at my face," Mahan said. "But I use my glove. I've been hit before, off the toe, part of my hand, and Jeremy Williams hit my calf. That is just now healing up."
Meanwhile, the Stars went to work early against Maui left-handed starter Mike Williams, who in four innings allowed six runs (three unearned), including four in the first.
The bottom of Hawaii's batting order offered the most production. No. 8 hitter and center fielder Matt Hibbert went 3 for 5 with two RBIs while No. 9 hitter and third baseman Felix Brown was 2 for 4 with an RBI.
Mahan took his first trip to Japan last year when he was among the few Stars that accompanied Na Koa Ikaika Maui on an exhibition trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.
One thing he brought back from the recent journey to Japan, during Hawaii's six-game road trip, was a lot of nice memories.
"Every day we went to the hot bath in the hotels," he said. "It was hot. It must have been 104 degrees. The food was amazing and the sushi was great.
"Seeing (outfielder Katsuaki) Furuki's face light up was priceless. He was loving being back there. He's really famous and they all know him. Tons of fans waited for him after the games."
Furuki played in Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan's major leagues, from 1999 to 2009 with the Yokohama Bay Stars and Orix Blue Wave, Ichiro Suzuki's old team. Furuki was also involved in mixed martial arts for awhile, picking up a different segment of fans.
Hawaii manager Templeton said the latest word he received about the league's five-team playoff situation is best described as atypical or simply odd.
Later this month, the No. 4 seed (currently Hawaii) would play No. 5 (East Bay Lumberjacks) while No. 1 (San Rafael Pacifics) would play No. 2 (Maui). No. 3 (Vallejo Admirals) would get a bye.
The games would be played at Vallejo and San Rafael.
The winner between No. 4 and 5 would play No 3. The No. 2 seed would have to beat No. 1 seed twice to advance.
It would probably be a more conventional setup if the No. 1 seed drew a bye and played the lowest remaining seed. Or to make things easier, if it were a four-team playoff.
The Stars have signed former UH-Hilo pitcher Aaron Correa, 24, who was released by Winnipeg and St. Paul of the American Association.
"We tried to sign him last year, but he wanted to play on the mainland (Sioux City of the American Association). Maui was going to sign him, but they traded for Tucker Cardoza," G2 said. "Maui manager Jeff Brooks called me and said it would be better if we signed him because Hilo is his home."