A year to celebrate
By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The Division I state baseball championship has been elusive for so long, but Waiakea seized it — under the weight of great expectations — with spectacular pitching in the spotlight.
The Warriors were ranked No. 1 in the state for most of the season, and for good reason. They were led by pitchers Quintin Torres-Costa and Kodi Medeiros and catcher Kean Wong, three potential University of Hawaii teammates.
Torres-Costa is a freshman at UH. Wong signed with the Rainbows last month, and Medeiros, a junior left-hander, is a UH verbal commit.
Waiakea not only captured the school’s first state title in May at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament, but did so in fine fashion in front of a statewide OC16 television audience with Torres-Costa and Medeiros combining on a 5-2 no-hitter over Baldwin.
The Warriors were chosen as the Tribune-Herald’s No. 1 sports story of 2012, a year in which the Big Island Interscholastic Federation made itself proud with six team and 13 individual state titles.
It was the first no-hitter in a championship since Punahou’s Glenn Goya beat Saint Louis in a nine-inning gem in 1972. The only thing that stopped Quintin-Torres from going the seven-inning distance was the HHSAA rule that limits pitchers to a maximum of 39 outs.
In six innings, he struck out 13, whiffing seven Bears in a row, and retiring 16 consecutive batters at one point. Over two games, including a 5-0 win over Castle, Quintin Torres finished with 21 strikeouts in 13 innings to earn the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player honor.
Medeiros was impressive as well. He fired a 2-1 three-hitter over Pearl City in the semifinals and struck out eight. Then he closed out the Bears with his one-inning relief job, helping Waiakea bring home its first state title.
It was the BIIF’s second state crown. Hilo won states in 1985 under coach Eugene “Buzzy” Capellas. The Warriors finished second at states in 1996, and third in ’04, ’05 and ’06. Here’s a look at the rest of the Top 10:
2. Konawaena and Kamehameha girls basketball.
It’s the second time the Wildcats and Warriors brought home state titles together in February. The first time was in 2007, the second Division I championship for the Wildcats and the second Division II crown for the Warriors.
Kona’s Lia Galdeira scored 21 points on 9 of 16 shooting in a 56-45 win over Iolani. Kamehameha’s Casey Poe scored 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting in 56-36 victory over Kauai. Both earned Most Outstanding Player honors.
Despite the loss of Galdeira and Dawnyelle Awa to Washington State, Kona has a chance to threepeat, a feat not done in Division I since Kamehameha-Kapalama took four in a row from 1990 to ’93.
Courtney Kaupu, who scored 10 points in the championship, is helping fill Kona’s holes and reload a program that has won five titles in nine years.
Since statewide classification started in 2004, no one has won back-to-back Division II titles. The Warriors came close in 2006, finishing second after pocketing their first crown the previous season. They’ll have to overcome the graduation loss of point guard Chelsea Poe and guard Bobbie Montibon, but at least Casey Poe is leading the way.
3. Waiakea boys and girls air riflery.
A true team effort helped the Warriors make their own history in October. No Waiakea shooter won the individual title. But the school still brought home state titles for both the boys and girls teams, a first for the BIIF.
The girls snapped the Interscholastic League of Honolulu’s dynasty. In the previous 13 years, either Sacred Hearts or Punahou won the title. Lindsey Kimura, Karise Kuroda, Kellie Iwasaki and Crystal Rances were all consistent, helping Waiakea top Mid-Pacific by 15 points.
The Waiakea boys — Tyler Aburamen, Justin-Joe Gray, Abe Sylvester and Brentson Kinoshita — won the state title with a bunch of new shooters, edging Punahou by a mere six points.
4. Honokaa boys soccer.
The Dragons repeated as the Division II champion, on a lone goal from Nino Quijano with eight minutes left in a 1-0 win over Kapaa in February. It was a championship rematch from a year ago, when Honokaa crushed the Warriors 4-1.
Honokaa finished with a 19-0 record, and became the first team in the tourney’s five-year history to win back-to-back titles. Adding another one will be a lot tougher.
Midfielders Robert Connors (the MOP) and Chayce Moniz, forward Justin Warren and defender Alden Aguirre made the all-tourney team. Only Warren returns from that group.
5. Kolten Wong/Max Unger.
It’s not often a local ballplayer makes three all-star teams in professional baseball, like Wong did. The St. Louis Cardinals second baseman and 2008 Kamehameha graduate was named to the Texas League Double-A all-star team, Futures all-star roster, and the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars Game.
Wong batted .287 with a .348 on-base percentage and a .405 slugging average for Double-A Springfield. In 17 games and 74 at-bats for the AFL’s Surprise Saguaros, he batted .324 with a .342 on-base and .392 slugging averages against the more advanced competition.
Unger, the Seattle Seahawks center and a 2004 Hawaii Prep graduate, is the first Hawaii product to make a Pro Bowl roster since former Chicago Bears center Olin Kreutz was named for the 2007 game, the last of his six selections.
6. UHH’s Joey Estrella.
He will retire after the 2013 season, his 37th year as the University of Hawaii at Hilo baseball coach. Estrella, 62, has an overall 648-897-5 record, and accomplishments that include three trips to the NAIA World Series, five NAIA District championships, and 12 consecutive playoff appearances.
Estrella started the Vulcan program in 1977, and his ’97 team made school history by sweeping the Rainbows. He played shortstop at UH from 1972 to ’74, and was the first recipient of the Jack Bonham Award, which is presented to Rainbow athletes who excel in athletics, academics, public service, leadership and character.
7. North American Baseball League.
Professional baseball returned to Hilo for the first time since the Hilo Stars of the Hawaii Winter Baseball League ran their operation from 1993 to ’97, introducing a slap-hitting outfielder from Japan named Ichiro Suzuki in the inaugural season.
The NABL is an independent organization and the Hawaii Stars featured a few local players such as Ronnie Carvalho, John Holley, Cortney Arruda, Reece Alnas and Keoni Manago as draws.
8. 40 sign scholarships.
A record number of 2012 graduates signed national letters of intent to play in college. The total increases to 46 if BIIF student-athletes from earlier graduating classes are included.
Volleyball led the way with 11 signees, highlighted by Hawaii Prep’s Leeta Grap at North Idaho College, which reached the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship.
9. State champions.
Kamehameha’s Megan Aina, Hilo’s Lia Nakamura and Waiakea’s Tanalei Louis won gold medals in judo. Hilo’s Beth Tsuha and Hawaii Prep’s Anu Nihipali took first in swimming. Kamehameha’s Akoakoa Paleka-Kennedy repeated as the wrestling heavyweight.
Kamehameha’s Aukai Akau got gold in track for the long jump. HPA’s Shane Brostek won the shot put. Kona’s Galdeira had a two-win day, the long jump and triple jump. Keaau’s Cliff Eriksson took the high jump and Alexander Engdahl the 300 hurdles, and Kealakehe’s Luca Walker the 400 meters.
10. Ka‘u girls volleyball.
The Trojans don’t win BIIF championships often, but when they do it’s something to savor. Ka‘u captured the school’s first league title behind the brilliant play of senior Marley Strand-Nicolaisen.
She slammed 29 kills against Konawaena in the BIIF championship, and Strand-Nicolaisen summed up the general feeling for a banner school year for everyone.
“The joy from winning was amazing,” she said.
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