By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
There was no lead to lose this time for the Hawaii Stars, who experienced nothing but frustration and setbacks to Na Koa Ikaika Maui in a six-game series.
Unlike the previous five games, Maui didn’t need to rally to beat Hawaii, instead jumping out to an early lead and holding on for a 6-3 win in a Pacific Association baseball game on Sunday at Wong Stadium.
Maui (10-2) and Hawaii (2-10) get a day off today before starting another six-game series at Iron Maehara Stadium on Maui.
The Stars not only lost their seventh straight game, but maybe the services of Ronnie Loeffler, who tweaked something in his elbow and felt a sharp pain. He left after 4 2/3 innings, allowed two runs (one unearned) on six hits and three walks, and took the loss.
Hawaii managed nine hits, but not enough were timely, stranding nine on base. Other headaches were two wild pitches that led to Maui runs, and two errors that extended innings and forced manager Garry Templeton II to use five pitchers.
“We had opportunities to win the game, but we didn’t take advantage of it,” G2 said. “We’ve got to get better at all facets of the game: pitching, situational hitting and we’ve got to hold on to leads better. Hopefully, we’ll get things together when we go over there on Tuesday.”
At least, Maui center fielder Waylen Sing Chow didn’t torture the Stars again. Entering the series finale, he was 9 for 18. He went 1 for 5, extending his hitting streak to seven games.
The 2007 Kamehameha-Kapalama graduate and former University of Nevada ballplayer had his own personal fan club. His cousin Leo Sing Chow, the Hilo High softball coach, was there to cheer him on.
He’s batting .400 for the season. Last year, Sing Chow hit .266 in 63 games and 233 at-bats for Na Koa Ikaika. In 2011 at Nevada, he hit .297 in 34 games and 91 at-bats as a senior.
Sing Chow had an easy explanation for chewing up Hawaii’s pitchers.
“I put good swings on the ball and a lot of the balls find holes,” the leadoff hitter said. “A little luck played into it.”
Likewise, Maui manager Jeff Brooks didn’t want to pour salt on the wounded Stars, who scored three runs in the ninth — reinforcing the old, famous motto, “Too little, too late.” Not to add any further insult, but no one was warming up in the bullpen.
“We’re still not as good as we can be. We put the bat on the ball and our pitching has been good,” he said. “In every game, they played us tough. Both teams can play a lot better.”
At least, there were some fun moments for the 200 or so fans on a gorgeous day at the ballpark. Too bad fishermen aren’t really big baseball fans. A boatload of them were at nearby Hilo Civic, weighing in their catch at a S. Tokunaga Store fishing tournament.
Meanwhile, with two on in the fifth inning, Maui cleanup hitter Jeremy Williams cranked a towering blast down the left-field line, going, going, going ….. foul.
But according to him and Brooks it was fair. Brooks argued on his left fielder’s behalf to no avail. Williams, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound former farmhand of the Texas Rangers, stepped back into the batter’s box with deadly intent.
He took a Godzilla swing on a Loeffler changeup, catching nothing but air and grief from the fans. The partisan locals shouted, “Strike him out, Ronnie.” Loeffler complied and whiffed Williams, who didn’t exactly have a great day.
Williams went 1 for 4, but struck out again with runners in scoring position in the seventh against Hawaii reliever Bryan Escanio, who tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings, entering after Loeffler whiffed the big guy back in the fifth.
Earlier, in the fourth inning, Williams singled off Loeffler. Then catcher Ray Serrano flied out to right fielder Reece Alnas, who fired a fastball to first base. Williams wasn’t paying attention and was doubled off, starting his grief.
Several Maui hitters fattened their batting averages during a 13-hit parade. Chema Sanchez went 3 for 4 with an RBI, Evan Frazar 2 for 5 with an RBI, and Kala Kahoohalahala 3 for 5 with an RBI.
Matt Walker pitched six-hit ball for the win, and old friend and former Hawaii Star Josh Larson locked down a 2-0 lead created in the fourth with two scoreless innings. Then Maui added four runs over the final two innings, giving Byron Minnich a nice cushion in the ninth.
In the bottom of the ninth, Glenn Walker belted a two-run single and Dustin Smith peppered an RBI single between the first-base hole. It was suddenly 6-3 and No. 3 hitter Katsuaki Furuki at the plate.
He was on the Ishikawa Million Stars and is part of an exchange-player deal. Furuki also played ball in Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan’s major leagues. The outfielder/third baseman is a tough guy, too, holding a 1-1 record in mixed martial arts.
Walker and Smith, two Stars with good wheels, were on base and ready to run. But Minnich busted a fastball on Furuki’s hands, getting a flyout to left to end the game.
Walker batted 2 for 5 with two RBIs, Smith 2 for 5 with an RBI and Tyler Krobetzky 2 for 2 to lead the Stars. Furuki went 1 for 5, but at least he left the ballpark happy.
Two of his friends were vacationing at Kahala Hilton on Oahu, found out that he was playing and flew over to watch the game. They all went to dinner and his two friends were set to fly out at night.
“We gave the players passes to work out at BJ Penn’s,” Hawaii Stars assistant general manager Karen Chaves said. “He was all happy.”
Maui 000 200 031 — 6 13 2
Hawaii 000 000 003 — 3 9 2