Wong produces biggest hit of career on shared Senior Night
By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Waiakea senior Kean Wong’s biggest hit and the most heartfelt of his career came in the last Big Island Interscholastic Federation baseball regular-season game when he gave an emotional tribute to his mom, Keala, on a shared Senior Night with Hilo.
He poured his heart out to the Wong Stadium crowd, thanking his mom for a lifetime of support and calling her his No. 1 fan, after the Vikings beat the Warriors 8-1 on Saturday night, which honored Hilo seniors Elijah Cruz, Nick Fukunaga, Tyler Higa-Gonsalves, Chayce Kaaua, Kody Kaniho, Kian Kurokawa and Aidan Nakamura, and Waiakea seniors Wong, Andy Filoteo III, Alika Guillermo and Aaron Nishiura.
“It’s my last senior game and my mom has always been my No. 1 fan from a young age,” Wong said. “My favorite memory is her traveling with me around the world to watch me play.”
Waiakea (7-2 BIIF Division I, 10-3 overall) already has a berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament. The Warriors play Keaau (4-5, 5-8) in the BIIF semifinals on at 4 p.m. Friday at Wong Stadium. If Waiakea wins, the other BIIF semifinal between Hilo (6-3, 10-3) and Kealakehe (4-5, 6-7) at 6:30 p.m. would be for a state berth.
It was only fitting that Hilo and Waiakea held a shared Senior Night. The two archrivals have played each other for the BIIF Division I championship the last four years. The Warriors have won the last two titles, the Vikings a pair before that.
“We love to play Waiakea. We have a lot of respect for them,” Hilo coach Tony DeSa said. “We enjoy the competition and the camaraderie. It’s awesome to have a shared Senior Night. All the kids are friends.”
Hilo right-hander Jordan Tagawa pitched one-run ball over six innings, and Fukunaga tossed a scoreless inning to fill in the pitching part. Kaaua batted 2 for 4 with an RBI and Jalen Carvalho went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, showing good bat control by hitting breaking balls down in the count, to carry the offense.
Kaaua and Wong have been best friends forever, from the time when they were toddlers swinging plastic bats. The Hilo catcher, who signed to play at Hawaii with Wong, enjoyed sharing the spotlight. Kaaua understands the significance of Senior Night — that the window of his BIIF career is coming to a fast close.
“It’s an ending to a good career, and time to start a new one,” said Kaaua, already mindful that his line-drive bat could help UH’s hitting woes. “Senior Night was pretty good because we’ve got friends from the other team. We get to spend it with them. Kean has been my boy from Day 1. I’ve spent a lot of time with him.”
They were key players, along with Waiakea junior left-hander Kodi Medeiros, on the Hilo All-Star team that won the Senior League World Series in 2011. They have long dreamed of playing ball for UH together, and signed their national letters of intent with the Rainbows on the same day.
But the two friends may go their separate ways after graduation because a few more Major League Baseball cross checkers were in attendance. They have been a constant shadow to Wong, giving him private workouts and looking to turn over every rock to uncover any useful piece of information.
The scouts hardly paid much attention to Medeiros, who’s still working his arm into shape, when he whipped high-velocity fastballs over two innings, striking out two. He couldn’t locate his fastball, a reason he gave up two runs on two hits and two walks. However, he dominated when he unleashed a few curveballs for strikes that flashed sharp, two-plane break. Medeiros is a UH verbal commit and coach Mike Trapasso’s Rainbows could use pitching help, too.
The cross checkers can always return to Hilo next year to brush up on Medeiros. Their mission is to eyeball Wong, who batted 2 for 2, dropping a bunt single and clobbering a triple to the right-field corner. He also walked and twice displayed his major league caliber speed, going first to third base — on the walk after Medeiros singled in the first and his triple in the sixth inning.
Wong also played quarterback for the Waiakea football team and was a home-run threat every time he ran the zone-read option. He was fast in football, too. And while rounding the bases, he resembled the anchor on a 4x400 relay track team, racing the ball to third base. He beat the throw to third twice by wide margins.
He’s got a good arm as a catcher, too. Wong gunned down a runner attempting to steal in the fourth inning. The only thing he doesn’t do is pitch.
Waiakea junior Chase Komatsu didn’t have a grip on his slippery stuff, when his ball dances on the corners, and took the loss in 2 2/3 innings. Bryce Felipe pitched 1 2/3 innings and yielded a run, and Ryder Oshiro tossed a scoreless inning, before giving way to Medeiros, who had a quick battle with Kaaua. He belted a first-pitch fastball for an RBI single that made it 7-1.
DeSa appreciated Medeiros pitching against his Vikings. It was good preparation for the Waveriders, who’ll likely throw hard-throwing right-hander Teao Buehler.
“We never saw anybody who threw that hard all year,” said DeSa, whose Viks didn’t face Buehler in their victory over Kealakehe earlier. “We didn’t face Kodi all year and not in the wood bat league either. He’s the best pitcher in the state and we’re lucky to have faced him. All of our seniors got to play and we played flawless in the field. That’s always a goal in every game.”
Wong’s goal in every game is to play hard for his No. 1 fan. The scouts saw more than Wong’s baseball skills on the shared Senior Night. They witnessed Wong turn over a big rock to unveil his heart, something even bigger than his baseball talent.
Hilo 310 200 2 — 8 8 0
Waiakea 000 001 0 — 1 6 2
Keaau 14, Pahoa 2: Cody Silva went 4 for 4 with three RBIs for the Cougars, who scored 12 first-inning runs in a contest that ended after five innings because of the league’s mercy rule.
Jon Segovia and Rylan Martines each had two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored, and Byron Cachola also drove in two runs. Keha Wong finished 3 for 4 for Keaau (4-5, 5-8).
Keian Kanetani pitched three scoreless innings to get the win. He allowed one hit, striking four and walking one.
Dathan Wong Chong suffered the loss for the Daggers (0-9, 0-13). He didn’t record an out, surrendering eight runs on five hits. He walked three batters.
At the plate, Troy Rasse had a single and an RBI, and Wong Chong also drove in a run. Damien Mercado added a single.
Keaau (12)10 01 — 14 17 0
Pahoa 000 02 — 2 2 4
Kealakehe 4, Honokaa 2: Behind Teao Buehler’s complete game at Honokaa’s Parks and Recreation complex, Kealakehe earned the No. 3 seed in Division I.
Kealakehe scored three first-inning runs for Buehler, who worked out of jams in the fifth and sixth innings to hold off Honokaa (2-7, 3-10), which had runners on second and third with one out in both innings but could not score.
In relief of losing pitcher Keahi Esquerra, Robert Abran allowed just one run in six innings to keep the Dragons in the game. Honokaa’s defense turned two double plays behind Abran.
At the plate, Ty Kauai went 2 for 5.
The fourth-seeded Dragons (2-7, 3-10) will host Kohala (2-7, 2-11) at 3 p.m. Tuesday in a BIIF Division II tournament first-round game, with the winner taking on Kamehameha (7-2, 9-4) at 1:30 p.m. Friday in a BIIF semifinal at Wong Stadium.
Kealakehe 310 000 0 — 4
Honokaa 020 000 0 — 2
Konawaena 12, Kohala 2: Ona Manzano and J.J. Kitaoka each had two hits and three RBIs in Kealakekua as the Wildcats ended the regular-season with their fourth consecutive victory.
Manzano’s two-run double in the third inning broke a 2-all tie and put Konawaena (7-2 BIIF, 11-2 overall) ahead to stay. Domonic Morris also had two hits, and Shelton Grace stroked a run-scoring triple in the fourth inning.
Kitaoka pitched the first three innings to get the win. He gave up two runs on one hit — a two-run homer by the Cowboys’ Willy Perez in the first inning — striking out five and walking none.
Zane Gray and Morris each pitched a scoreless inning in a game that ended in the bottom of the fifth inning because of the league’s 10-run mercy rule.
Konawaena, which has a first-round bye in the Division II tournament, will play either Hawaii Prep (6-3, 9-4) or Pahoa (0-9, 0-13) at 11 a.m. Friday in a BIIF semifinal at Wong Stadium.
Austin Salvador-Racoma took the loss for Kohala (2-7, 2-11). In four innings, he gave up 12 runs on 11 hits, striking out none and walking three.
Kohala 200 00 — 2 1 3
Konawaena 230 61 — 12 12 1
Final regular-season standings
Waiakea 7-2 10-3
Hilo 6-3 10-3
Kealakehe 4-5 6-7
Keaau 4-5 5-8
Kamehameha 7-2 9-4
Konawaena 7-2 11-2
Hawaii Prep 6-3 9-4
Honokaa 2-7 3-10
Kohala 2-7 2-11
Pahoa 0-9 0-13
Hilo 8, Waiakea 1
Keaau 14, Pahoa 2
Kealakehe 4, Honokaa 2
Konawaena 14, Kohala 2
Division II first round
Pahoa at Hawaii Prep, 3 p.m.
Kohala at Honokaa, 3 p.m.
At Wong Stadium
Pahoa-Hawaii Prep winner vs. Konawaena, 11 a.m.
Kohala-Honokaa winner vs. Kamehameha, 1:30 p.m.
Keaau vs. Waiakea, 4 p.m.
Kealakehe vs. Hilo, 6:30 p.m.
At Wong Stadium
Semifinal winners, 5:30 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 3 p.m.
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