By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — Kamehameha pitcher Kupono Decker makes his performances interesting, even when he has no-hit stuff. The senior right-hander was spinning a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings against Hawaii Prep in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II baseball game on Saturday with huge consequences hanging in the balance.
He eventually lost the no-hitter in the sixth inning, but the Warriors prevailed over the Ka Makani 5-1, holding serve on HPA even if both finish with the same record.
Kamehameha (5-1 BIIF, 7-3) has games left against Pahoa on Wednesday, Waiakea on Friday, and Keaau next week.
HPA (5-1, 8-2) has games left against Kealakehe on Wednesday, Kohala on Friday and Konawaena next week.
If the Warriors and Ka Makani end with the same regular-season record, Kamehameha, due to the head-to-head tiebreaker, will earn the league’s automatic berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament.
Waiakea toppled Kona 18-12 on Saturday, dropping the Wildcats to 3-2 and 7-2.
Decker’s no-hitter disappeared in the sixth with one out when cleanup hitter Mike Nakahara singled sharply up the middle. A double play ended the inning, briefly delaying the dramatics in the last frame.
In the seventh, the Kamehameha ace gave up four hits, lost his shutout when Cyrus Iglis hit a run-scoring single to load the bases, and faced the potential typing run at the plate in Ian Rice, HPA’s No. 3 hitter.
Decker got a groundout, the complete-game win and a vital lesson in game management — basically Kamehameha coach Andy Correa’s message to trade runs for an out, especially with two out and a relatively safe four-run lead.
“I felt good that my team was behind me all the time. I tried to stay in the strike zone and work on my control,” Decker said. “When I was in trouble, I trusted my team. I threw inside the zone and let them hit the ball.”
Kamehameha right fielder Jordan Hirae preserved the no-hitter in the fourth when Kama DeSilva hit a grounder that looked like a single. But Hirae charged the ball, scooped it and fired a bullet to get DeSilva at first.
“In the fourth inning, I knew I had a no-hitter,” Decker said. “Jordan made the throw and I was pretty excited. The no-hitter was still going and I thanked him for the throw.
“I wasn’t really disappointed when I lost the no-hitter. I wanted to get the win and it’s all about the team. I had the same mindset for the last two innings.”
Decker finished with a five-hitter. He struck out three and walked six, pitching himself into trouble with all those free passes. But he kept HPA scoreless through six, relying on his defense, especially his own in a pivotal second inning.
DeSilva led off the inning with a walk and eventually reached third. Then Kalan Camero hit a comebacker to Decker. He gloved it, turned and ran at DeSilva, who bolted off third on first contact. Decker threw to catcher Makoa Rosario, who tagged DeSilva.
After the inning, Kamehameha assistant Jon Arbles, who’s coach Correa’s nephew, told Decker the better defensive play would be to take an angle to run DeSilva back to third and get the out there. The obvious reason is if the ball is dropped, the runner is safe at third instead of safe at home.
Meanwhile, the Warriors played effective small-ball or capitalized when the Ka Makani committed an error, handing DJ Sekiya, who beat Hilo and Waiakea, his first loss. The sophomore left-hander pitched five innings, allowed four runs, two unearned, on five hits and one walk, with one strikeout. Koa Ellis pitched two innings of one-run relief.
In the bottom of the second, Micah Carter led off with an infield single, went to second on Decker’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Matt Chun’s single. Chun later scored on an error.
In the next inning, Bronson Pulgados reached on an error and scored on another HPA error for a 3-0 lead.
Pulgados belted his second double of the game in the fifth, driving in Chay Toson, who walked. Pulgados went 2 for 4 with an RBI and Hirae was 2 for 3 to lead Kamehameha.
The Warriors manufactured another run in the seventh when Daylen Calicdan singled, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Chad Teshima’s single.
Correa praised the efforts of Kobi Candaroma, who didn’t play, but contributed to the victory. Before the game, the sophomore simulated Sekiya, who doesn’t throw hard, but throws nothing straight.
“It’s important to understand that the guys who don’t play what they do in practice is important,” said Correa, who saved the biggest star award for Decker. “In the seventh, he wanted to finish. That’s the reason we left him out there. We didn’t want him to throw balls, and he pounded the strike zone. It was a good lesson in managing a lead.
“He didn’t have his best stuff, but he competed. He’s been doing that all year for us.”
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