Na Koa rally for win
WAILUKU – Things couldn’t have looked much worse for Na Koa Ikaika Maui going to the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night at Maehara Stadium.
Trailing by three runs to the Ishikawa Million Stars – three of the Japanese team’s runs were unearned – Maui turned things around by sending eight batters to the plate.
Chema Sanchez’s single to left field brought in Evan Frazar to tie the score, and Jeremy Williams’ line-drive single up the middle sent Kalaika Kahoohalahala home for a 5-4 victory that set off a celebration among the crowd of roughly 200.
“Yes sir, it feels very good,” said Williams, a 36th-round draft choice of the Texas Rangers in 2011 out of the University of Mobile (Ala.). “To be in a situation like that, the first thing you are thinking about is that you can deliver. That’s what I did.
“During the game the guys were down when Japan took the lead, but you have to keep pushing them and let them know that we can come back and win the game.”
Na Koa overcame four errors.
“It was a tough battle, but that is exactly what we wanted,” Sanchez said. “We just wanted to make sure we pick each other up if we are going to be making errors.”
Maui scored the game’s first run in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly by Ray Serrano that brought in Sanchez, who led off with a high pop fly that was ruled a single after catcher Kazuya Akiyama could not field it.
Na Koa starting pitcher Chris Waters, a former Baltimore Oriole who is also Maui’s pitching coach, helped himself by picking off runners in the second and third innings.
The Million Stars took a 2-1 lead in the sixth. Katsuaki Furuki led off by reaching on an error, stole second and scored on a single by Shunsuke Matsuda, who then came home on a two-out double by Kenta Sato. Both runs were unearned.
Maui left the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth when Suguru Matsuyama got Nick Valdez to ground out.
Ishikawa made it 3-1 without a hit in the seventh when Chris Carter, a former member of the Boston Red Sox, drove in Nobuyuki Ogura on a fielder’s choice groundout. Waters got out of further trouble by striking out Kazutaka Minami.
The Million Stars stretched the lead in the eighth on another unearned run, again without a hit, this time on Kazuya Aki-yama’s RBI groundout.
“That wasn’t the prettiest game I have ever seen,” Maui manager Jeff Brooks said. “But like I said last night, these guys can fight, but we have got a lot of work to do.”
Ishikawa manager Shinji Mori, a 38-year-old former big leaguer for the Tampa Bay Rays and in Japan, struck out Williams to finish the eighth.
Masao Kida, who pitched for the Detroit Tigers – recorded only two outs in the ninth and took the loss.
Serrano led off the bottom of the ninth with a groundout before Valdez and Jimmy Rohan singled. Frazar doubled to left to score Valdez, and Kahoohalahala singled to right to plate Rohan. Waylen Sing Chow was hit by a pitch to set up San-chez’s game-tying base hit.
“I just wanted to drive something and stay off the corners,” Sanchez said.
“It was a slider inside and I just stayed inside as much as I could and I got the barrel to it. I just got lucky it went through.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Suguru Matsuyama, Takashi Koh (7), Syota Matsuda (8), Shinji Mori (8), Masao Kida (9) and Kazuya Akiyama, Manabu Sasazawa (6), Toshio Fukazawa (9); Chris Waters, Zach Foster (8), Josh Larson (9) and Ray Serrano. W-Larson, 1-0. L-Kida, 0-1. 2B-Ishi-kawa: Kenta Sato; Maui: Evan Frazar.