WAILUKU - Presented with a second chance to nail down a state-tournament berth for the Baldwin High School baseball team, Branden Kaupe wasn't about to let it go.
The all-state infielder took the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning against Maui High on Friday at Maehara Stadium with a one-run lead and an opportunity to wrap up the Maui Interscholastic League Division I regular-season title, but allowed the Sabers to tie the score. He made another one-run advantage stand up in the eighth, however, finishing off the Bears' 5-4 win.
In the seventh, Kaupe hit the leadoff batter, and after a strikeout followed by a groundout that advanced the runner, a balk and slow roller to shortstop plated the tying run.
Baldwin High School’s Aaron Victorino takes off for a stolen base as Maui High’s Alistair Reynolds releases a pitch during the fifth inning of the Bears’ 5-4, eight-inning victory over the Sabers on Friday at Maehara Stadium.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
In the top of the eighth, Baldwin's No. 9 hitter, Akoni Arriaga, smacked an RBI triple, and Kaupe faced just three batters in the bottom of the inning.
For the second day in a row, the Bears pulled out an eight-inning, one-run win against a complete-game pitching performance from the Sabers.
"It is really fun," Kaupe said. "You know what this is good for? This is good for the state tournament, it gives us a good boost going into the state tournament because we are going to face good teams like this. Maui High is a good, scrappy team.
"Obviously, I came in, I thought I could close the door, but you know what? They fought back."
The Bears (10-1), third in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's statewide rankings, avoided a showdown for one of the MIL's two state berths in today's series finale.
The Sabers (7-4) will have to fight through the MIL tournament next week to garner a trip to Oahu.
Kaupe, a draft prospect who is also considering the University of Oregon and Central Arizona Junior College, expects to see Maui High next week. Regardless of how the league tournament plays out, Kaupe is assured of a third straight state trip - he was the starting second baseman in the 2010 state final and again last season for a final four team.
Kaupe is the shortstop now - his stellar diving snag of Noah Kolish's liner ended the third inning - except when on the mound.
"I knew I just had to do my job and just let the defense work because I knew they had my back," Kaupe said.
Kaupe's last previous appearance as a pitcher came in a 4-3, eight-inning loss to Lahainaluna on April 5.
"Branden had a tough outing prior to tonight," said Baldwin coach Jon Viela. "So the way he threw was a positive thing for us, to see that he was throwing strikes, throwing his curveball for strikes. That is very positive for us to see."
The Sabers' Alistair Reynolds allowed 11 hits, struck out six batters and walked one.
"We knew coming into the season that Maui High's pitching staff was tough," Viela said. "Good pitching beats good hitting, so we know it is going to be good games against Maui High."
Baldwin took a 2-0 lead in the first on RBI doubles by Kaupe and Isaiah Maddela. Maui High got a run back in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Micah Isagawa and took a 3-2 lead in the third - Jordan Yagi-Kawaha singled in a run and later scored on a wild pitch.
The Bears tied the game in the sixth on a two-out RBI single by Jameson Kahalekai-Bermoy. Maui High had runners on first and third with one out in the bottom of the sixth, but Baldwin starter Troy Shishido got out of the jam.
Baldwin took a 4-3 lead in the seventh - Arriaga was hit by a pitch to lead off, singles by Aaron Victorino and Kaupe loaded the bases and Maddela delivered a sacrifice fly.
The Sabers got their tying run when Isagawa dove safely into first base on his ground ball and Bryson Galicinao, the No. 9 batter hit by Kaupe, scampered home.
Patrick Burrows singled to start the Bears' eighth and scored two outs later on Arriaga's triple.
"I'm proud of our guys, we came back, had the lead, gave them back, we came back to tie them, it was an evenly played game - two games in a row," said Maui High coach Lee Yonamine. "Bottom line was who makes that key hit when it counted and they did it today. My hat's off to Baldwin."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Troy Shishido, Branden Kaupe (7) and Isaiah Maddela. Alistair Reynolds and Jaylen Suda. W-Kaupe. L-Reynolds. 2B-Baldwin, Kaupe, Maddela, Patrick Burrows. 3B-Baldwin, Akoni Arriaga.
Leading hitters-Baldwin, Aaron Victorino 2-5, run; Kaupe 2-3, run, RBI; Burrows 2-4, run; Jameson Kahalekai-Bermoy 2-3, RBI. Maui High, Jordan Yagi-Kawaha 3-4, 2 runs; Micah Isagawa 2-4, RBI; Chazz Ishikawa 2-3.