Waiakea pitcher steals spotlight
By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — The national cross checkers from about a dozen Major League Baseball organizations came to watch, videotape and scout Waiakea senior catcher Kean Wong, but it was his teammate, pitcher Chase Komatsu, who shined in the spotlight.
The junior right-hander fired a six-hitter and helped himself with a two-run single in Waiakea’s 8-4 win over Keaau in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I game on Wednesday at the Cougars field.
Komtasu finished with a six-hitter, striking out six, walking two and pushing the Warriors (6-1 BIIF, 9-2) closer to the BIIF regular season title, and the league’s automatic berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament.
The Cougars (2-4 Division I, 3-7) scratched Komatsu for three runs in the first inning when Cody Silva, Rason Martines and Keha Wong strung together three straight hits. Then Komatsu found a nice rhythm and relied on his defense, retiring 11 in a row from the second to the sixth inning.
“I kept my arm in front and up, instead of dropping it, and kept the ball low,” Komatsu said. “It feels good to help the team. The defense was good. I have to give them a lot of credit. My cutter was working pretty good and my two-seam fastball. Those were the only two pitches I threw the whole game.”
During his pitching groove, Komatsu recorded six ground-ball outs. He also worked both sides of the plate and struck out the side in the fourth, an inning Waiakea tied it 3-3 on Aaron Nishiura’s RBI single.
“Chase did an outstanding job with how much action happened in the first inning,” Waiakea coach Kevin Yee said. “He never gave up and made pitches. Kean did a great job behind the plate keeping him calm. Chase worked at a quicker pace. He picked himself up, and had a good working pace.”
No one paired hits off Keaau starter Maleko Remlinger, who gave up eight runs (one unearned) on eight hits and seven walks and three hit batters — a lot of base runners, 18, in all — in 6 1/3 innings.
But every Waiakea batter had at least one hit, except for Wong, who walked three times, was hit by a pitch and grounded out in his second at-bat. Wong batted 0 for 1, but scored two runs, still finding a way to help his team.
Komatsu batted 1 for 3 with two RBIs and Nishiura also went 1 for 3 with two RBIs to lead Waiakea, which grabbed a 5-3 lead in the fifth on Andy Filoteo’s RBI sacrifice fly and Caleb Freitas-Fields’ booming run-scoring double to right-center field.
Keaau’s Keha Wong went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and freshman right-hander Keian Kanetani snuffed out Waiakea’s three-run rally in the seventh, getting two outs and adding to the home team’s highlights.
While the national cross checkers didn’t get a chance to see Wong knock one out of the park, at least they saw his base-running speed. He walked in the fifth, then raced from first to third on Kodi Medeiros’ single to center field, and scored on Filoteo’s sac fly.
“I’m sure the scouts are a little disappointed how far they’ve come and not seeing Kean hit,” Yee said. “But that shows character on his part. He’s not swinging for them. He’s putting his team first.
“There are about 12 national cross checkers that I’ve never met. These are the guys who make decisions. All the regional and area scouts have done their homework. It means they’re seriously looking at Kean.”
The cross checkers still do background checks on Wong, asking Yee the same type of questions NFL teams have about potential employees from college.
“It’s always the same questions, ‘How’s he doing? How’s he hitting? How’s his attitude toward his team?’ I tell them he’s a great teammate,” Yee said. “He picks everybody up. He works hard at practice and is a good example for the young guys coming up.”
When Kolten Wong was drafted in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011, that likely helped his younger brother, sending scouts and cross checkers flocking to Hawaii to verify if the baseball bloodlines run strong in the Wong family.
“My brother helped me a lot and the Hawaii boys,” said the Waiakea catcher. “They ask me how I’m doing and feeling. I tell them, ‘I’m doing all right. But I’m still working on stuff and getting better day by day.’
“I’m working on taking ground balls at second base and my running speed. They ask me if I want to play pro ball. It’s always been my dream and if I get the chance I’m not going to give it up.”
It was Wong’s 18th birthday on Wednesday. Maybe his birthday wish will come true on June 6, the first day of the MLB first-year player draft, if he’s selected in the first round like his brother.
Meanwhile, he was planning to celebrate his birthday with dinner at grandma’s house. But before that, there was still unfinished business. Right after the game, he was going to meet his dad, Kaha Wong. More hard work was waiting at his dad’s hitting cage.
Waiakea 200 120 3 — 8 8 1
Keaau 300 001 0 — 4 6 3
Kealakehe 9, Hawaii Prep 7: The Waveriders broke a 4-all tie with a five-run fourth inning and survived a late rally by the Ka Makani for a victory in Waimea.
Zaynan Sanchez earned the win for the Kealakehe (3-4 BIIF, 5-6 overall) by pitching 5 1/3 innings. He allowed seven runs, striking out one and walking none.
Teao Buehler, who also had a two-run single in the Waveriders’ four-run third inning, got the save with 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
Louie Garcia led Kealakehe at the plate, going 4 for 4 with a double.
HPA starting pitcher D.J. Sekiya lasted four innings and took the loss. Koa Ellis followed with three scoreless innings.
Offensively, Mike Nakahara and Kama DeSilva both went 2 for 4 for Ka Makani (5-2, 8-3).
Kealakehe 004 500 0 — 9 9 3
HPA 112 021 0 — 7 8 3
Konawaena 14, Honokaa 4: Ryan Torres-Torioka and Kileona Manzano both went 3 for 3 with three RBIs in Kealakekua for the Wildcats, who pounded out 13 hits on their Senior Day.
The contest ended after five and a half innings because of the league’s 10-run mercy rule.
The top three hitters in Konawaena’s batting order — Domonic Morris, Torres-Torioka and Manzano — each scored three runs.
Morris finished 2 for 4, and Zane Gray went 3 for 4 with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs. Jarrett Kitaoka also drove in two runs.
Shelton Grace pitched the first four innings to earn the victory for the Wildcats (4-2 BIIF, 8-2 overall). He allowed four runs — none earned — on five hits, striking out three and walking one.
Gray followed with two shutout innings in which he gave up one hit and struck out three.
Honokaa starting pitcher Ikena Juan lasted three innings and took the loss. He surrendered 12 runs on nine hits, striking out two and walking three.
At the plate, Damien Kaluhimoku went 2 for 3 for the Dragons (1-6, 2-9).
Honokaa 013 00 0 — 4 6 5
Konawaena 426 101 — 14 13 8
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