By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
After a productive day on the mound and at the plate, Kamehameha junior Kobi Candaroma only had team chemistry on his mind.
He fired five shutout innings with eight strikeouts and batted 3 for 4 as the Warriors defeated Kealakehe 10-1 in six innings at the Stanley Costales Sr. Memorial/Hilo High preseason tournament Thursday at Wong Stadium.
In an earlier game, Konawaena tied Honokaa 8-8. The Dragons won a coin toss to reach the semifinals, where they’ll play Hilo at 3 p.m. today.
“I did all right. Without the team, nothing is possible,” Candaroma said. “I felt I could have done better. My curveball and changeup were not working. It was my fastball, basically. My fastball was good and I relied on that.
“I enjoyed our team chemistry. Chemistry is picking each other up. Without team chemistry, there’ s no team. If we stick together, play as a team and keep at it, we’ll do good. Confidence is the key.”
Last year, the Warriors won their second straight Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II championship on the strength of the one-two pitching duo of Kupono Decker and Pono Correa, and an airtight defense, led by third baseman Bronson Pulgados.
All three graduated and leave behind big holes, especially Decker, who doubled as a reliable shortstop when not hunting big-game victories as staff ace. Pulgados, who’s now at Luna College, was the BIIF Division II player of the year.
That valuable trio helped the Warriors reach the title game at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state championships, where they were runner-up to Maryknoll.
Competing for the job of No. 1 starter is Candaroma, who spent his summer hard at work in the weight room. The 5-foot-9 left-hander resembles senior catcher Makoa Rosario, who’s similarly built like a bulldog.
In five innings, Candaroma was never in trouble, firing his fastball for his strikeouts and to log quick innings. He only miscues were minor: two hits and a pair of harmless walks.
“He did a good job. He was around the plate, and mixed in his three pitches,” Kamehameha coach Andy Correa said. “He’s had four pretty consistent outings in the preseason, twice on Kauai and once when we scrimmaged Hilo High.
“He’s been on the varsity since he was a freshman. He was our third or fourth outfielder last year. Since his freshman year, he’s put more things together. He’s very competitive, prepares well and is always in shape. He’s got a good attitude and he’s a hard worker.”
Meanwhile, the hard-swinging Rosario was part of a hit parade that battered Kealakehe starting pitcher Pohaku Dela Cruz, who despite being in a 7-0 hole after three innings found a way to keep battling.
The Kamehameha catcher went 2 for 4 with three RBIs, launching a solo homer in the fifth inning that traveled beyond the left-field trees, about 360 feet away. It was the gorilla monster shot of the day in conditions that featured non-existent wind and blue skies.
Chay Toson, last year’s No. 3 pitcher and a contender for the ace spot, added to the offense with a 2-for-4, two-RBI effort. Matt Chun batted 2 for 3 with an RBI, while Daylen Calicdan and Micah Carter each went 2 for 4.
Malu Peralta closed out the sixth inning for the Warriors, whose infield defense includes three new starters in Jordan Hirae at second base, Calicdan, who had spot starts at shortstop, and Carter at third base.
“Our infield defense is the main thing we’re working on,” Correa said. “We lost three starters in the infield. Matt, Jordan, Makoa and Kobi, our Nos. 2-4 hitters, have been our leading hitters in the preseason. We can run and have speed. Hopefully, we can use that to our advantage.
“Today we hit the ball and we hit the ball hard. That’s always a good thing to see.”
Hilo 7, Pac 5 1: Conrad Kauffman pitched six innings of one-run ball, and the Vikings made the most of five hits.
Jalen Carvalho batted 1 for 2 with a two-run triple, and Micah Kaaukai was 1 for 3 with three RBIs, including a two-run double to lead Hilo. Jodd Carter went 1 for 1 with three walks.
Austin Menke pitched an adventurous seventh. He gave up a hit and walked to to load the bases. But the senior right-hander struck out two and got a groundout for the final out.
Caleb Miyasato went 4 1/3 innings in the loss. He allowed five runs on four hits and six walks.
At Wong Stadium
Honokaa 8, Konawaena 8*
Kamehameha-Hawaii 10, Kealakehe 1
Leilehua 2, Waiakea 1
Hilo 7, Pac-5 1
*Honokaa won coin flip to reach semifinals
Honokaa vs. Hilo , 3 p.m.
Kamehameha-Hawaii vs. Leilehua, 6 p.m.
Kealakehe vs. Waiakea, 10 a.m.
Konawaena vs. Pac-5, 12:30 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 4:30 p.m.
Semifnal losers, 2 p.m.
Consolation winners, 11:30 a.m.
Consolation losers, 9 a.m.