By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports editor
Thanks to engine trouble and errors in the field, the Konawaena baseball team took the hard route to reach extra innings Monday.
But once the eighth inning rolled around, the Wildcats had regrouped and were motoring on all cylinders.
Evyn Yamaguchi and Shelton Grace keyed a three-run rally at Wong Stadium as the Wildcats downed Hilo 5-2 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation baseball game.
Konawaena’s trip to East Hawaii got off to a rocky start when the engine in the team van overheated, causing the start of the game to be delayed by about 15 minute. This came after an empty to trip to Hilo on Saturday when rain forced a postponement.
Yamaguchi and Grace both helped make the long wait worthwhile for the Wildcats by coming up with timely hits and displaying short memories after fielding miscues.
“Leadership and maturity are what really won the game for us,” Konawaena coach Dave Distel said. “Very sweet. Anytime you get a victory against a great program, it’s even more rewarding.”
Ona Manzano was 3 for 4 and Zane Gray went 2 for 4 with two runs scored as Konawaena (3-1 Division II, 5-1) had a runner reach base in each inning and outhit Hilo (3-2 Division I, 6-2) 12-5.
Ryan Torres-Torioka pitched the final two innings in relief, working around an error in the seventh to pick up the victory.
Yamaguchi, a junior catcher, finished 3 for 4, including three RBI singles. His hits in the fourth and sixth both gave Konawaena the lead, but his last one, which scored Grace and gave Konawaena (3-1 Division II, 5-1) a 4-2 lead in the eighth, was his most satisfying.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Wildcats had the Viking’s Elijah Cruz caught off third base, but Yamaguchi threw the ball into left field, allowing Hilo to tie the game 2-2.
“I needed to make up for that to the team,” Yamaguchi said. “The team really helped me get past that.
“The whole team bounces back real fast. Everybody knows how to help each other out.”
The victory was a study in perseverance for Grace as well. He fielded a double-play grounder in the fifth, but his error helped the Vikings put runners on second and third with nobody out. But Grace got out of a bases-loaded jam, inducing Jodd Carter to flyout with the bases loaded.
“I knew my team was going to back me up, so I let (the error) go,” Grace said. “I have a lot of confidence in my team they would come back.”
Featuring a heavy dose of off-speed pitches, Grace allowed five hits, two runs – one earned – in six innings. He walked three and struck out one. He was 2 for 3 with a walk at the plate.
Gray led off the eighth with a single and scored the go-ahead run when Grace’s hit was misplayed.
“(Shelton) is the kind of kid guy you can build a program around,” Distel said. “He got a lot of help from Evyn.”
The first-year coach said he lets Yamaguchi call most of the pitches, adding, “I’m 63 years old. I’ve been around a long time. I know not to mess with success.”
Kody Kaniho took the loss for the Vikings in relief of Kian Kurokawa, who allowed seven hits, two runs with two walks and five strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
Hilo’s Makana Josue-Maa ripped an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth to score Chayce Kaaua, who had walked.
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