Central Maui passes first test
MAKAWAO – The door of opportunity opened in the bottom of the first inning and Shadd Santos smacked the baseball right through it.
Santos’ two-run triple on one hop to the fence in left-center field was enough for three Central Maui pitchers to lead the host team to a 7-1 victory over Kaneohe on Saturday in the opening game of the Hawaii State Little League Senior (15-16) Tournament at Eddie Tam Field.
“I was just looking for my pitch, middle-inside,” said Santos, a rising junior at Baldwin High School. “So I just pulled it. It felt really good.”
With Maui Interscholastic League Division I Player of the Year Noah Apolo, a Baldwin senior-to-be, on the mound to begin the game, Santos knew his team was in good position with a 2-0 lead.
“We felt in control of the game,” Santos said.
Central Maui manager Tyson Higa pulled Apolo after four innings and 60 pitches to keep him eligible for a possible championship game appearance on Tuesday. Central Maui can reach that game with a win today at 1 p.m. against Pearl City in this four-team, double-elimination tournament. Pearl City defeated Aiea 11-1 in Saturday’s second game.
Kaneohe and Aiea will play an elimination game today at 10 a.m.
The state champion will play in the West Regional in Ontario, Calif., July 30 to Aug. 6.
Higa said it would have been difficult to take Apolo out without a lead.
“Shadd’s hit was a big hit right there,” Higa said.
Apolo struck out six, walked none and allowed four hits, leaving with the 2-0 lead.
Central Maui added four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning for relievers Mikey Hooper and Linden Kanamu to work with. Lane Kashiwamura had a two-run double, Skylor Ishikawa had an RBI single and T.J. Kanamu added a sacrifice fly in the fourth for Central Maui.
Central Maui added another run in the fifth when Javin Legsay walked, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Rylie Velez.
Central Maui is made up mostly of Baldwin players, but also has Colby Tam from St. Anthony, and Velez, T.J. Kanamu and Maile Santiago from Kamehameha Maui.
Kaneohe managed only an RBI single by Conner Burch in the sixth.
“The first game is always a big game, you don’t want to go into the losers’ bracket,” Higa said. “We were fortunate to be able to keep Noah on two days’ rest. Noah is our gamer.”
There is work to do, according to Higa. Today’s tilt between Central Maui and Pearl City is a key game with the winner advancing to Tuesday with two chances to wrap up the crown. The loser will have to win three straight over two days.
“I think this team has a lot of potential, but we still have to put things together,” Higa said. “We swung the bat all right today, the defense made the plays, the pitchers threw strikes. Tomorrow is a big game.”
Central Maui will go with Joshua Nobriga, a second-team MIL D-I All-Star for Baldwin in 2013, on the mound today.
Kaneohe coach Baron Kaneshiro sees plenty of potential for Central Maui.
“Tough pitching, real good pitching,” he said. “I think they can go far. We played Pearl City and they are tough, too. I think it will be between (Central Maui) and Pearl City.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Sean Kamaunu, J.K. Ah Mook Sang (4), Conner Burch (6) and Dane Itomura; Noah Apolo, Mikey Hooper (5), Linden Kanamu (7) and Lane Kashiwamura. W-Apolo. L-Kamaunu. 2B-Maui: Kashiwamura. 3B-Maui: Shadd Santos.
Leading hitters-Kaneohe: Itomura 2-3. Central Maui: Skylor Ishikawa 2-3, RBI, run.