Na Koa win with late rally
WAILUKU – Na Koa Ikaika Maui and the Shinano Grandserows played give and take with the lead Sunday at Maehara Stadium.
Na Koa got the final advantage with a two-run eighth inning, then held on in the ninth for a 5-4 victory.
“We battled back and forth, back and forth, but luckily we came out on top against a tough team,” said Na Koa manager Jeff Brooks. “We’re tired. (Shinano) battled, battled, battled. Nothing was easy against these guys.”
Maui tied the score at 4-4 in the eighth off reliever Naoki Okamoto when Jeremy Wil-liams beat a throw home after shortstop Ryoken Niimura fielded DJ Dixon’s grounder. Jose Sanchez followed with an RBI double.
“He started with a cutter and it was a strike,” Sanchez said. “I knew he had a pretty good fastball. Everything he was throwing was straight. I’m working on some stuff, trying to stay inside the ball and stuff, but I was prepared for that fastball and thankfully I was able to hit it there.”
Shinano made things interesting in the ninth against reliever Byron Minnich by loading the bases with two outs via a wild pitch on a strikeout, two walks – one intentional – and a throwing error. Minnich got Kazuki Miyazawa on a fly ball to Williams in left field to end it.
“I just try to get first-pitch strikes and attack the zone,” Minnich said. “Staying ahead is key. Struck out the first batter. Second one, ball in the dirt, kicks off the side, it happens. I’m here to put up zeroes.”
The Grandserows took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on an RBI double by Keita Nitoh and run-scoring single by Tomoya Onaka.
Na Koa went ahead with single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Dixon scored when third baseman Shoma Iryo booted Kalaika Kahoohalahala’s ground ball, and Nick Valdez and Waylen Sing Chow each had RBI singles.
Shinano took a 4-3 lead in the eighth on RBI singles by Tomoya Onaka and Takuri Miyazaki – the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in the lineup.
Na Koa’s Jesse Smith struck out 11 batters over six innings. He allowed five hits and three walks, and left after throwing 113 pitches.
Smith was followed by TJ Macy, Naoki Yamagami, Zach Foster and Minnich.
After totaling 14 runs in its first two games of the season, Maui had scored seven times in its next three.
“Thank goodness we have our pitching staff,” Sanchez said. “They have been carrying us through these six games. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be able to stay in the game so long. We just need to start hitting more. This game was a lot better. We started hitting more and started doing the little things better. Hopefully it’s a little turnaround and we can start swinging it the way we expected to swing it.”
Ray Serrano went 2-for-4, bringing his batting average to .348, and Dixon scored two runs for Maui, which had five of its eight hits go for extra bases.
Shinano’s Tomonari Seki allowed two hits in five scoreless innings. Onaka was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Nitoh finished 2-for-4 with a double and triple, and scored twice.
Na Koa will begin its Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs schedule Tuesday on the Big Island against the Hawaii Stars. The teams will play a six-game series.
* Kyle Sakamoto is at email@example.com
Tomonari Seki, Kai Takuya (6), Kento Shibata (8) and Tomoya Onaka, Naoki Okamoto (8); Jesse Smith, TJ Macy (7), Naoki Yamagami (8), Zach Foster (8), Byron Minnich (9) and Nick Valdez. W-Foster. L-Shibata. Sv-Minnich. 2B-Shinano: Keita Nitoh, Kazuki Miyazawa. Maui: Ray Serrano, Brandon Gregorich, Jeremy Williams, Jose Sanchez. 3B-Shinano: Nitoh. Maui: DJ Dixon.