By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Waiakea’s worst nightmare — staying home from states — almost came true, but Reyn Kihara pitched tough when his team needed stability, and Kean Wong turned things around with his lethal bat.
The senior left-hander fired a four-hitter and Wong clobbered a two-run homer to spark the Warriors over Keaau 4-2 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I baseball semifinals on Friday at Wong Stadium.
Waiakea (16-0) was in danger of not defending its BIIF title and not having a chance to reach the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament for a 10th straight time.
The Cougars (6-10) have never qualified for states, but held a 2-0 lead heading into the fifth, nine more outs for the Warriors to dent the scoreboard.
The BIIF champion earns the league’s lone automatic berth to the Division I state tournament. The BIIF runner-up will host a play-in game.
“I have to give credit to Keaau. They battled all the way,” Kihara said. “For me, the defense made plays and the offense came through. It was good. I was kind of sketchy (about the deficit), but Kean’s homer brought back our fight and momentum.”
With one out in the fifth, Quintin Torres-Costa roped a triple to left field off Maleko Remlinger, who tossed goose eggs four innings, baffling the Warriors with an assortment of offspeed pitches.
Then Wong worked the count to 1-0 and waited for something good to hit, while a drizzle sprinkled the field. He got his pitch and didn’t miss, slamming a two-run homer through rain drops over the right-field fence.
“It was a changeup. I saw it, waited back and threw out my hands,” Wong said. “The game was a rude awakening for us. It’s good for us to get a close game. It showed we’re an all-around team.”
In the sixth, Waiakea loaded the bases on back-to-back singles by Kihara and Robbey Meguro and Kylen Uyeda reached on an error. Dean Hosaka hit into a double play to score the go-ahead run, and Meguro scored on a wild pitch by reliever Adrian Huff.
Remlinger’s one troublesome inning warped his numbers. In 5 1/3 innings, he allowed four runs on six hits and three walks, and struck out none. Huff recorded two outs.
Kodi Medeiros, Waiakea’s No. 2 starter, was scheduled to start. But he had a tender arm and Kihara filled in and posted shining numbers: seven innings, two unearned runs on four hits and one walk, and two strikeouts.
Two errors, three well-placed hits, and excitement on the bases co-starred in the fourth when the Cougars scored their runs.
Jonathan Segovia singled, an error put him on third and he scored on Adrian Huff’s single. Then Rason Martines reached on an error and Remlinger bunted. He was thrown out at first, and the runner on third, Huff, raced home. He was gunned down at the plate.
Cody Silva singled, scoring Martines for the second unearned run. Kihara got a groundout, squashing that trouble. Then he followed with a string of three scoreless innings.
“It took us five innings to get going, but the kids stuck with it and stuck together as a team,” Waiakea coach Kevin Yee said. “We’re a tough team once we get rolling.”
Keaau 000 200 0 — 2 4 1
Waiakea 000 022 x — 4 7 3
• Hilo 11, Kealakehe 0: Koa Matson and Jodd Carter each went 3 for 3 and the hits just kept on coming for the Vikings, who racked up 12 hits in a five-inning TKO victory.
Kian Kurokawa pitched a two-hitter with no walks and two strikeouts to earn the win for the Viks (12-4).
Austin Galigo pitched one inning in the loss. Teo Bueler went four innings.
Bricen Ferreira and John Alokoa had two hits each for the Waveriders (4-9).
Hilo 361 01 — 11 12 1
Kealakehe 000 00 — 0 2 5