By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Honokaa freshman Caden Perreira-Lau pitched better than his stats, and with much more composure than his class standing would suggest at the 21st annual Stanley Costales Sr. Memorial/Hilo High preseason tournament.
However, a few untimely errors proved harmful and Leilehua raced away from the Dragons 6-1 for third place in a time-limited game Saturday at Wong Stadium, which was a paradise for baseball with perfect weather.
In earlier games, Pac-5 thumped Waiakea 11-5 for fifth and Konawaena defeated Kealakehe 6-4 for seventh. The championship between Hilo and Kamehameha finished after the Tribune-Herald’s deadline.
In 5 2/3 innings, the Honokaa right-hander gave up five runs (only one earned) on five hits and six walks and avoided bigger disaster despite all the base runners. Perreira-Lau, who doesn’t throw hard, struck out only one, but showed a gritty tendency to battle, whenever the Mules poked him in the ribs.
Kamaehu Richard batted 2 for 3 to lead the Dragons, who had only three hits and couldn’t solve the soft offerings of three Mules pitchers: starter Dancin Ah Quin (one run in 1 2/3 innings), winning pitcher Jared Academia (3 1/3 scoreless innings) and Preston Timas (one scoreless inning). Each had one strikeout.
Mikah Takashige went 2 for 3 to lead the Mules, who finished with five hits, but exhibited a good habit of capitalizing on miscues. They had zero errors to Honokaa’s three, which led to five unearned runs. Leilehua also scored two runs on bases-filled walks.
Honokaa coach Gayne Kobayashi isn’t a teacher at the school. He’s a Hilo contractor for Kobay Garage Doors. But the first-year coach already knows the diamond is a favorite subject for Perreira-Lau, who trailed just 2-1 entering the sixth — when a floodgate of four unearned runs changed the tempo of the game.
Still, Perreira-Lau’s pitching perseverance (five stranded runners, including the bases loaded in the fourth) and bulldog mindset shined the brightest in his coach’s eyes.
“Caden stood out. He really wanted this game,” Kobayashi said. “He worked really hard. He’s a scholar of the game. He loves the game. He did an excellent job. He was hitting his locations and keeping the batters off-balanced.
“Our defense held their own until later in the game. Coming from a small school, our defense has come a long way. We’ve started slow and are moving forward. That’s my goal this year, for the players to learn the game and get motivated and have confidence in themselves. We’re young and inexperienced. But the kids want to learn and they try hard.”
For the self-confidence part, the Dragons can take their cue from Perreira-Lau who pulled big pitches out of his back pocket when necessary. In the first inning with two on, he got a flyout to extinguish that threat. In the fourth with the sacks full, he got a two-out flyout.
The sixth inning would be his undoing, though little fault of his own. That frame also provided a lesson in fundamental execution and opponent analysis, courtesy of Leilehua, from the Oahu Interscholastic Association.
But first, here’s a brief primer what the Mules learned when running into outs. Perreira-Lau picked off one runner and Honokaa catcher Austin Jardine gunned down a pair, the second by a country mile. That didn’t stop Leilehua’s running game; it only made the visitors pick their spots better.
Leilehua’s Ricky Van Gelder walked and Trayson Kubo reached on an error. Runners on first and third with two outs, perfect setting for a double steal to swipe home. Patience is often required with runners on the corners, especially against a team with a gambling running streak.
The best defense is for the pitcher to hold the ball to jump the runners. The second alternative is to step off the rubber to throw the timing off or do the first-to-third fake. Another option after a pitch is for the catcher to throw to the pitcher, easy access to nab the runner at home or back-tracking to third base.
First pitch, Perreira-Lau fired to Jardine, the throw went to second and Van Gelder easily swiped home for a 3-1 lead. Dustin Ancheta-Maeda chased Perreira-Lau with an RBI single and he was replaced by Haulana Birch, who walked in two runs.
The Mules were 0 for 3 on their first three steal attempts. They finished 5 of 8. They also sacrifice-bunted another run home; the Dragons had the same situation and bunted back to the pitcher and lost a potential run.
But Kobayashi is a teacher on the diamond — patient and encouraging and a long-time youth coach. Born and raised in Hilo, he’s been coaching Little League in his hometown since 1987. His dedication is displayed in his car mileage to his latest coaching job.
“The kids are really excited about the program I’m bringing,” he said. “I love coaching the youth kids and watching them grow. That’s my passion.”
Luckily for him, he’s got a lot of Dragons, like Perreira-Lau, who share that same enthusiasm.
Leilehua 010 104 — 6 5 0
Honokaa 010 000 — 1 3 3