Na Koa edge Lumberjacks
WAILUKU – The scheduled opponent didn’t show up, but Na Koa Ikaika Maui and Jesse Smith didn’t mind at all.
After falling behind early to a semi-professional team filling in for a financially strapped league opponent, Maui scored three times in the bottom of the third inning and cruised behind the pitching of Smith in a 4-2 win over the East Bay Lumberjacks on Thursday night at Maehara Stadium.
Smith (5-1) struck out eight batters in seven innings and allowed two runs, one walk and four hits on his 33rd birthday. He retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced. Smith gave way to Naoki Yamagami in the eighth.
“I haven’t thrown a baseball since Sunday,” said the former Triple-A player for the Anaheim Angels organization. “We were traveling back from San Rafael (Calif.) so I was a little stiff, not because of my age. When you don’t throw you stiffen up a little bit. I felt pretty good.”
Maui (24-13), coming off a 6-6 road trip and starting an 18-game home stand through July 27, stayed 3 1/2 games behind Pacific Association-leading San Rafael (26-8), which beat the Hawaii Stars in Hilo on Thursday.
“Absolutely, good to be back, it was the longest road trip ever,” Maui manager Jeff Brooks said. “Glad to be back, glad to get a win, glad to have all these fans out here, this was great.”
Brooks said playing the Lumberjacks – here because Vallejo apparently couldn’t make the trip due to monetary issues – was a “last-minute thing, but it doesn’t matter. We had a great game and these guys always play us good.”
Smith was tough on the Lumberjacks, who won one of three games here in June.
“Jesse pitched well on his birthday, he always gives us a good game,” Brooks said. “We are happy, we are having a good time. We are going to come out tomorrow and work harder.”
Zach Foster got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the eighth by getting a comebacker from former Maui player Mark Okano. Chris Mobley pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save.
Trailing 2-1, Maui loaded the bases with one out in the third on an error, single and walk. Another error tied the score, Ray Serrano singled to left to give Maui a 3-2 lead and the newest Na Koa, Australian Angus Roeger, lofted a sacrifice fly to right to make it 4-2.
Maui broke on top 1-0 in the bottom of the first when Waylen Sing Chow singled, took second on a ground out, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Brandon Gregorich.
East Bay jumped on top 2-1 in the third when Joe Wittig doubled home Tommy Lyons and Wittig later scored on a single to left field by D.J. Andrade.
Maui got a lead-off triple in the seventh by Jeremy Wil-liams, but he was stranded.
Na Koa was scheduled to play Pacific Association foe the Vallejo Admirals.
The Vallejo (Calif.) Times-Herald reported Wednesday that due to players not showing up because they were upset over lack of pay, the Admirals did not play their scheduled home game on Tuesday. The newspaper said the Admirals were back on the field for their home game Wednesday that was played in front of 20 fans.
The Admirals played another semipro team, the Santa Rosa Rose Buds, in Vallejo, Calif., on Thursday. The Admirals had been scheduled to play a six-game set Thursday through Monday here, according to Maui’s team website.
Brooks said that the Lumberjacks will play all six of those games here instead. The Lumberjacks were helped by several local players.
Okano, the first Na Koa Ikaika signee in team history who is from Oahu, played center field, batted cleanup and went 0-for-4 for the Lumberjacks. Okano played at Aiea High School and the University of New Mexico.
Mo Lau Hee, a former Kamehameha Maui standout and current assistant coach for the Warriors, was the designated hitter and batted 0-for-4.
Logan Kanamu, a former Baldwin standout, was the catcher and went 0-for-3, and Barry Takahashi, another former Bears standout, was the first-base and pitching coach.
Joseph Kala, a former Maui High standout who is the bullpen catcher for Na Koa, is also on the East Bay roster for this series.
Okano, Kanamu and Kala were all on the Maui roster last season.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Rob Ellis, Eric Edwards (8) and Logan Kanamu; Jesse Smith, Naoki Yamagami (8), Zach Foster (8), Chris Mobley (9) and Nick Valdez. W-Smith, 5-1. L-Ellis. Sv-Mobley (6). 2B-East Bay: Joe Wittig; Maui: Brandon Gregorich. 3B-East Bay: Justin James; Maui: Jeremy Williams.
Leading hitters-Maui: Waylen Sing Chow 2-4, 2 runs; Williams 2-4; Ray Serrano 2-4, RBI.