WAILUKU - With infielders behind him who all played college baseball and a lineup of teammates even deeper than that, Joey Castro wasn't worried.
Castro took over pitching duties from his brother Allen on Saturday at Maehara Stadium and promptly permitted an RBI single that gave Kauai a six-run lead over Maui in the fourth inning of their semifinal in the 77th annual AJA state tournament.
Joey Castro was lights-out from there, however, and the Maui bats awoke in time for a 12-9 win that catapulted the host team into today's 11:30 a.m. final against Oahu, which beat the Big Island 10-4 in Saturday's second game.
Kauai’s Kainoa Santos steals second base as Maui’s Gered Mochizuki waits for a throw during the fourth inning of Maui’s 12-9 victory in an AJA state tournament semifinal game Saturday at Maehara Stadium.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The Valley Isle nine will be seeking a fifth championship, and first since 2008, the last time the tournament was at Maehara.
Joey Castro, the MVP of the Maui league this year for champion Daimyo, wasn't in the starting lineup Saturday.
Maui's starting infield comprised third baseman Van Delos Santos, who played at Washington State University; shortstop Gered Mochi-zuki, who has Central Missouri, the New York Mets organization and Na Koa Ikaika Maui on his resume; second baseman Royce Fukuroku, formerly of the University of San Francisco; and first baseman Kyle Shimizu, who played at Pacific University.
"Our team can hit and I knew they were going to get it going sooner or later," Castro said. "I talked to my brother in the dugout and I just told him to get ahead, but he was kind of tired, he threw a lot of pitches. He did good, he worked through it, but I had to come in and help him out."
Three Maui errors allowed five unearned runs to score against Allen Castro as Kauai built an 8-2 lead. Joey Castro allowed five hits and one run in the final 5 1/3 innings, with six strikeouts and three walks.
Missed opportunities did not rattle the younger Castro.
Maui cut its deficit to 8-6 in the bottom of the fifth on RBI singles by Mochizuki, Brent Fukagawa and Aaron Matsui, and an RBI fielder's choice by Chase Corniel, but the inning ended when Lance Migita hit into a bases-loaded double play.
The 5-foot-3 Fukuroku, once the smallest player in the NCAA Division I ranks, led off the Maui sixth with a towering home run to left field to make it 9-7. Fukagawa smacked a two-run double off the left-field fence three hitters later, and Delos Santos gave Castro a lead he would not surrender with a single that scored Fukagawa.
Migita made it 11-9 with a sacrifice fly after Maui loaded the bases, but Logan Kanamu was caught off first base on the same play, ending the inning.
In the seventh, Fukuroku, Kalaika Kahoohalahala and Mochizuki walked with no outs, but Maui did not score - Fukagawa hit an infield fly, Delos Santos flied out to shallow left and Matsui hit into a fielder's choice.
"All of our guys have played college ball, they have been in this situation before, so I came out there with confidence that our guys were going to come back and score," said Castro, a 2005 Maui High graduate who played one season at Diablo Valley (Calif.) Junior College.
Maui added its last run in the eighth when Migita scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded. Castro struck out two batters in the ninth and did not allow a runner past first base in the final three innings.
Maui pounded out 15 hits, led by three each from Matsui and Mochizuki. Delos Santos, Fukuroku and Fukagawa all had two. Those five combined for nine runs and nine RBIs.
"We were ready to fight back," the 31-year-old Delos Santos said. "Joey pitched awesome, he was excited, he was good to go, he was prepared and he got it done. It is really an honor to play with all these young guys."
Maui High coach Lee Yonamine was Maui's manager on Saturday, handling the role so Corniel, Daimyo's player-manager, could focus on catching.
"It was good to see him on the field, made me real comfortable to have him coaching us again, it gave me butterflies," Castro said.
Corniel said that Kahoohalahala will probably get the ball on the mound to start today and will have plenty of help ready to go if necessary.
"This isn't about the individual, this is about Maui, so we have got to come out hitting," he said. "Kalaika tomorrow, he has good command of his stuff. He is going to give us a good opportunity to win. We also have Jason Miyahira, Alika Aheong, Cory Takamura and we do have the option of going back to Allen or Joey. It is basically going to be pitching by committee."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Kauai ..... 013 ..... 401 ...... 000-9 ..... 13 ..... 0
Maui ...... 200 ..... 045 ..... 01x-12 ..... 15 ..... 3
Kaleo Saiki, Jake Oketani (5), Klayford Nakaahiki (6) and Brandon Ishibashi. Allen Castro, Joey Castro (4) and Chase Corniel, Logan Kanamu (6). W-J. Castro. L-Oketani. HR-Maui: Royce Fukuroku. 2B-Kauai: Saiki 2, Oketani, Ishibashi. Maui: Gered Mochizuki 2, Aaron Matsui, Brent Fukagawa.
Leading hitters-Kauai: Saiki 3-5, 2 runs, 3 RBI; Keola McCallum 3-5, 2 runs; Oketani 2-5, 2 runs, RBI. M, Mochizuki 3-4, 3 runs, RBI; Van Delos Santos 2-3, 2 runs, RBI; Fukuroku 2-4, run, RBI; Matsui 3-5, 3 RBI; Fukagawa 2-5, 3 runs, 3 RBI.
OAHU 10, BIG ISLAND 4
Big Island ..... 000 ..... 040 ........ 000-4 ....... 7 ..... 3
Oahu ............ 510 ..... 100 ..... 30x-10 ..... 13 ..... 3
Cortney Arruda and Kiley Kawazoe. Randy Castillo, Josh Nakamura (8), Jayson Kramer (9) and Brandon Kon. W-Castillo. L-Arruda. 2B-Oahu: Chris Mols, Danny Kimura.
Leading hitters-Big Island: Kawazoe 2-4, run. Bryce Onaga 2-5. Oahu: A.D. Mols 3-5, run, 2 RBI; Chad Itokazu 3-5, 2 runs, RBI; Davin Morita 2-3, 2 runs, RBI; Jason Takamoto 2-3, run, RBI; Chris Mols 1-3, 3 RBI; Kimura 2 RBI.