WAILUKU - All of a sudden, Na Koa Ikaika Maui and Chad Blackwell are on a roll.
Na Koa won for the fifth time in six games on Friday night, 4-2 over the Sonoma County Grapes in front of about 400 fans at Maehara Stadium.
The result leaves both teams at 7-9, two games behind the Hawaii Stars and San Rafael Pacifics in the North American Baseball League's North Division standings.
Na Koa Ikaika’s Waylen Sing Chow is tagged out at third base by the Grapes’ Michael Johnson in the first inning of Maui’s 4-2 win over Sonoma County on Friday at Maehara Stadium.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Coming off six scoreless innings in his last start, Blackwell (2-1) scattered 10 hits, gave up two runs, struck out five batters and walked none in 7 1/3 innings.
"I had to battle out there today," he said. "I gave up a lot of hits, but I had to get out there, try to get outs, try to get double-play balls if I could."
Maui turned double plays in the second and third innings, and pounded out 13 hits after coming into the game batting .221.
"My defense was behind me and did well," Blackwell said. "We came through with some runs late that we really needed."
Blackwell, a 2004 University of South Carolina graduate, is starting for just the second year as a professional.
"It is a different mentality I've learned, I have to pitch a little different," he said. "I like getting late into games. I know how to pitch in those situations, so I try to take that mentality late into games and hopefully it works out."
After Victor Ferrante got the final two outs of the eighth, Mike Koons earned his fifth save with a perfect ninth. Before transferring to San Diego State, Koons attended Arizona, which will face two-time defending NCAA champion South Carolina in the College World Series title series, which begins Sunday.
"We are going to have some side bets and some trash talking going, for sure," Blackwell said.
Maui, which lost 1-0 on Thursday, broke a 1-1 tie in Friday's game on RBI singles by Nick Valdez and Joseph Kala in the bottom of the sixth.
Na Koa loaded the bases after that with one out, but reliever Robert Savarese entered and got A.J. Alexander and Kalaika Kahoohalahala to pop out on back-to-back pitches.
Blackwell struck out the side in the top of the seventh and Maui added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning when Danny Sandoval slid around a tag at home plate on an RBI single by Valdez. Earlier in the inning, Keith Kandell was thrown out at the plate.
Three straight one-out singles loaded the bases in the top of the eighth and spelled the end for Blackwell. Ferrante walked in a run, but ended the threat with a pair of strikeouts.
Maui broke on top in the fourth and snapped a 12-inning scoreless streak in the process. Sandoval led off with a ground-rule double to the 370-foot sign in left field and scored on a sacrifice fly by Chemah Sanchez.
Sonoma tied the game in the fifth - Michael Johnson and Bunyu Maeda smacked back-to-back doubles with one out.
In the sixth, Kala kept the game tied, making a diving stop of George Ban's sharp grounder to first base with two outs and a runner on third.
After the bottom of the first inning, Maui manager Jamie Vermilyea visited plate umpire Stephen Cramer and following a conference with Sonoma manager Joe Marello, starting pitcher Dustin Crenshaw was ejected because he was not on the lineup card. With his scoreless first inning, Crenshaw left with a 0.00 ERA through 16 2/3 innings over three outings.
Eri Yoshida, the "Knuckle Princess," is slated to start on the mound for Na Koa today. She has won three starts in a row dating to last season and is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA this year.
"She's been one of our top two pitchers, basically, throwing strikes, making them put the ball in play - she is throwing really well," Vermilyea said.
The Central East Maui 9-10 Little League All-Stars, the county champions, were introduced to a rousing ovation prior to the game. They ran out, slapping high fives with Na Koa and stood with them for "Hawaii Pono'i" and "The Star-Spangled Banner."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Dustin Crenshaw, Vinnie Pacchetti (2), Jeffrey Lyons (6), Robert Savarese (6), Nicholas Alexander (8) and D.J. Dixon; Chad Blackwell, Victor Ferrante (8), Mike Koons (9) and Nick Valdez. W-Blackwell, 2-1. L-Jeffrey Lyons, 1-2. Sv-Koons, 5. 2B-S, Michael Johnson, Bunyu Maeda; M, Danny Sandoval, Keith Kandell.
Leading hitters-S, Maeda 2-5, RBI; Mark Micowski 2-4; Brandon Gregorich 2-3; Frederick Atkins 2-4. M, Sandoval 2-3, 3 runs; Valdez 2-4, 2 RBIs; Logan Kanamu 2-4; Kalaika Kahoohalahala 2-4.