WAILUKU - Na Koa Ikaika Maui have been looking to get on a roll all season long, and they just might have found one.
With its fifth win in six games, Maui climbed within three games of .500, and with its fourth victory in five games against the Calgary Vipers, moved one win from claiming the nine-game series.
Na Koa put up their 7-6 win on Friday night at Maehara Stadium in front of 411 fans with solid hitting and pitching early, a dramatic play at home plate and Clayton Uyechi's second save in three days.
Na Koa Ikaika’s Gered Mochizuki slides into third base behind the Vipers’ Louis Templeton during the second inning of Maui’s 7-6 win over Calgary on Friday at Maehara Stadium.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Na Koa Ikaika pitcher Ryan Page releases a pitch during the third inning.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Uyechi ended the game with a curveball that froze Louie Templeton for a strikeout.
"The guys came out swinging again and once again we played good defense," said Uyechi, a former closer for Hawaii-Hilo. "Pitching, you know, we got the job done."
Maui (17-20) is now 12-11 at Maehara and didn't trail at all in a home game for just the second time this season. It is the fourth time this year Na Koa did not have to bat in the last inning, but the third in a row.
"It has been close, but just getting the win is what counts," Uyechi said. "Anything else can go on, but when we win it feels good."
Clinging to a one-run lead with one out in the top of the eighth and runners on second and third, Maui got the play of the game from Steve Boggs. The left fielder caught Jimmy Rohan's deep fly ball and then nailed Jonny Kaplan at the plate - catcher Jowen Murray-Thornton was bowled over but held on.
One run had already scored in the inning on Kaplan's double.
"Our team never gives up, no matter what," Uyechi said.
Eight of Maui's wins at home have been walkoffs and all four victories in this series have been by two runs or less.
"We are starting to get on a roll but we are still making things hard on ourselves," said Na Koa manager Garry Templeton. "We have got to play better defense and especially focus late in the game. The score should have been 7-3."
Maui jumped on top 3-0 in the first inning. Patrick Rose led off with a double to center field and took third on a dropped third strike that allowed Jose Sanchez to reach first base before scoring on Mitch Einertson's single to left. Murray-Thornton and Stephen Pearson added sacrifice flies.
Meanwhile, Na Koa's Ryan Page retired the first six batters he faced, three on strikeouts.
In the third, Page walked leadoff hitter Kevin Price - Maui's league-worst 221st base on balls this season - and Bryan Burke followed with a fielder's choice groundout. Pitcher Edward Valdez, who was 0-for-4 on the season, doubled to the center-field wall to give Calgary (23-19) its first run.
Kaplan popped to first for the first out, but a walk and an error loaded the bases. Page got out of further trouble by striking out cleanup hitter Justin Tellam.
Page was solid through his 5 2/3 innings of work - he allowed three runs and four hits, struck out six batters and walked two. Page didn't give up his second hit until Burke led off the fifth with a bunt single. He began to tire in the sixth when he allowed a one-out single to Miller and then hit Louie Templeton - that brought a visit to the mound from new pitching coach Nick Renault, who arrived Friday and is also the team's new closer. After striking out Price, Page was done after 108 pitches.
Rusty Jones needed just one pitch to finish the sixth - Burke flew out to Gered Mochizuki at shortstop.
Jones ran into his own trouble in the seventh when he allowed two singles and walked Tellam to load the bases. Miller hit a roller down the third-base line just fair to drive in two runs and chase Jones.
Mike Koons came on and walked Louie Templeton on four pitches to load the bases again, but got out of the jam by striking out Price on a full count to keep Maui ahead 7-5.
Na Koa had their hitting shoes on early - when Sanchez singled with two outs in the fourth, each of their starting position players had a hit. Moments later, Einertson hit a blast well over the left-field fence to make the score 7-1.
Einertson finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs - he has six of the team's 16 homers this year.
"It was starting to get into the middle of the game and I faced the guy a couple of times and he started throwing the slider a few times to our guys and he came at me with fastballs," Einertson said. "I just had it in the back of my mind that possibly a slider was coming and he threw it and I was able to put a good swing on it."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.
Calgary ..... 001 ..... 020 ..... 210-6 ...... 8 ..... 3
Maui ......... 302 ..... 200 ..... 00x-7 ..... 12 ..... 1
Edward Valdez, Scott Watson (7), Chris Bodishbaugh (8) and Justin Tellam. Ryan Page, Rusty Jones (6), Mike Koons (7), Clayton Uyechi (8) and Jowen Murray-Thornton. W- Page, 2-1. L-Valdez, 2-2. Sv-Uyechi, 2. 2B-Calgary, Valdez, Jonny Kaplan, Wilver Perez; Maui, Patrick Rose, Stephen Pearson. HR-Maui, Mitch Einertson.
Leading hitters-Calgary, Kaplan 2-4, RBI, 2 runs; Drew Miller 2-4, 2 RBIs. Maui, Einertson 2-3, 3 RBIs, 2 runs; Pearson 2-3, RBI, run.
|Rio Grande Valley||22||20||.524||5|
Lake County 6, Yuma 1
Edinburg 6, Rio Grande Valley 4
San Angelo 13, McAllen 6
Chico 13, Edmonton 5
Maui 7, Calgary 6
TODAY'S GAMES (HST)
McAllen at San Angelo, 2:05 p.m.
Yuma at Lake County, 2:05 p.m.
Edinburg at Rio Grande Valley, 2:05 p.m.
Edmonton at Chico, 4:05 p.m.
Calgary at Maui, 6:35 p.m.