WAILUKU - This was looking like a tough one to swallow for Na Koa Ikaika Maui.
Then Kalaika Kahoohalahala took charge in front of about 300 fans Friday night at Maehara Stadium.
The 2006 Maui High School graduate delivered the first home run of his professional career to spark a listless Maui offense in the bottom of the seventh, and then his two-run single in the eighth provided the tying and go-ahead runs in an 8-7 Maui victory over Sonoma County.
On a night that began with Sonoma's scheduled starting pitcher missing the game after separating his shoulder while shagging fly balls in batting practice, the Valley Isle nine surrendered two leads and trailed 7-4 to the last-place Grapes when Kahoohalahala smacked just his second extra-base hit of the season.
"The main thing was just put the ball in play, just make people work, that is all I wanted to do," Kahoohalahala said. "(The home run pitch) was a mistake, I was just trying to hit a hard line drive and it just so happened that it went out. ... Right off the bat I knew it was out. It was fastball inside and I just caught it good."
After a bizarre seventh-inning rundown play where baserunner George Ban made contact with two Maui fielders, Na Koa shortstop Danny Sandoval and manager Jamie Vermilyea both bumped umpire Jaime Perez while arguing a fielder's interference call that awarded Ban second base. Sandoval remained in the game, while Vermilyea was ejected after more arguing.
"It was an emotional game," Maui hitting coach Jeff Brooks said. "That is the first time that has happened, our coach got thrown out of the game, but these guys just never quit - that is what I love about them. We needed this win."
It is Maui's eighth win in 10 games against the Grapes this season and Na Koa is 3-1 so far in this 12-game series. In danger of falling two games below .500 and six games behind in the North Division of the North American Baseball League, Maui is now 17-17 and five games back.
Ban, who is 6-for-14 with three runs and a homer in the last three games against Maui, eventually scored in the seventh to make it 7-4. He was hitting .198 before the hot streak.
Kahoohalahala smoked his homer to left field and then stepped to the plate in the eighth with runners on second and third. Two hitters earlier, Mark Okano singled in Keith Kandell to make it 7-6 with two outs. Kandell, who was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run from the No. 8 hole, and Okano both entered the game hitting less than .200.
Matt Gibbs, who was supposed to start on the mound tonight for Sonoma, went six innings, allowing four earned runs and left with the lead. Scheduled starter Greg Cadaret was wearing a sling on his right arm and street clothes after his pre-game injury.
Kandell, who came in with one RBI in 27 games, gave Maui a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning with a two-run single.
That lead lasted until the top of the sixth when the Grapes (11-23) scored four runs with the help of a one-out throwing error by pitcher Matt Walker. Chris Debiasi and Mark Micowski had RBI singles that sandwiched a two-run triple by Samuel Perry.
Maui left the bases loaded in the sixth when Waylen Sing Chow grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Kahoohalahala had an 11-game hit streak snapped Wednesday, but he is now batting .320 after getting hits in 17 of his last 19 games. He finished the night 4-for-5 with three RBIs.
"He kind of struggled the last couple of days, but what a night for him," Brooks said. "He was huge."
Eri Yoshida, 3-0 at home, makes her first start on the mound at Maehara Stadium tonight since going 0-2 on Na Koa's recent road trip.
"This is our stretch right here, we need to take a lot of games from these guys," Brooks said. "They are a tough team, so we need to step it up."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Matt Gibbs, Vinny Pacchetti (7), Jeffrey Lyons (8) and D.J. Dixon; Matt Walker, Yoshihiro Doi (6), David Jensen (7), Mike Koons (8), Victor Ferrante (9) and Alan Rick. W-Koons, 1-3. L-Pacchetti, 1-4. Sv-Ferrante, 3. 2B-M, Waylen Sing Chow. 3B-SC, Samuel Perry. HR-M, Kalaika Kahoohalahala (1).
Leading hitters-SC, Perry 4-5, 2 runs, 3 RBIs; Mark Micowski 3-4, 2 RBIs; George Ban 2-5, 2 runs. M, Kahoohalahala 4-5, run, 3 RBIs; Sing Chow 2-5, 2 runs; Nick Valdez 2-4, run; Keith Kandell 3-4, run, 2 RBIs.