Bears win MIL title

Baldwin shuts out Maui High to claim eighth straight league crown

Baldwin High School’s Ekolu Watanabe follows through on a pitch in the fourth inning of the Bears’ 4-0 win over Maui High on Wednesday in the Maui Interscholastic League Division I overall championship game at Maehara Stadium. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Baldwin High School’s Ekolu Watanabe follows through on a pitch in the fourth inning of the Bears’ 4-0 win over Maui High on Wednesday in the Maui Interscholastic League Division I overall championship game at Maehara Stadium. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — This is precisely what Ekolu Wa-tanabe transferred to Baldwin High School to do.

“I came to play in the big games and try to help the team out,” Watanabe said after pitching six-plus innings in a 4-0 win over Maui High for the Maui Interscholastic League Division I pennant on Wednesday night in front of a packed house at Maehara Stadium. “It feels good.”

The Bears (13-2) won their eighth straight title after being forced to the winner-take-all game by a 5-3 loss to the Sabers in the league tournament final on Saturday. Watanabe was the losing pitcher in that game.

“Coming back from the loss, it kind of turned our heads a little bit, like, ‘We can still do this,’ “ said Watanabe, a senior left-handed transfer from Kamehameha Maui who will play at Ventura (Calif.) Junior College next year.

Baldwin scored twice in the top of the first inning, and added an insurance run in the sixth on a towering double to center field by Cade Kalehuawehe that brought in Nainoa Keahi, who led off the inning with a single.

Baldwin’s Nainoa Keahi follows through on a first-inning single. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Baldwin’s Nainoa Keahi follows through on a first-inning single. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The reigning state champions added another run in the seventh on an RBI single by Keahi, who finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.

Keahi said he is fully recovered after breaking two bones in his leg during the 2016 football season.

“It feels great. I love this sport and coming back for my baseball boys, I wouldn’t want to leave them hanging,” Keahi said. “So I came back for them and the team.”

Nigel Mayfield relieved Watanabe in the seventh after singles by Waylon Golis-Bacos and Mikito Barkman, and retired all three batters he faced.

Watanabe allowed five hits, struck out three batters and walked one.

Maui High center fielder Micah Jio settles under a third-inning fly ball between shortstop Jyrah Lalim and right fielder Orrion Suda. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui High center fielder Micah Jio settles under a third-inning fly ball between shortstop Jyrah Lalim and right fielder Orrion Suda. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Bears took three of the five games they played against the Sabers (10-5), who will join Baldwin at the state tournament on Oahu next week.

“It’s a very tough series either way. It’s always a toss-up,” said Maui High coach Chase Corniel. “Watanabe was effective, threw a lot of strikes, kept us off-balance.”

Chayce Akaka led off the game with a double and Mayfield walked two outs later. Keahi then delivered an RBI single before Mayfield scored on a wild pitch.

Watanabe cruised through the first three innings, facing just 10 batters with the help of a pickoff of courtesy runner Kai-nalu Tancayo in the second.

In the fourth, the Sabers had runners on first and third with two outs when Barkman hit a high pop fly between home plate and first base that landed, but bounded foul, negating what would have been a run by Kao Mindoro. Barkman grounded out two pitches later.

The Bears’ Nigel Mayfield celebrates after getting the final out. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Bears’ Nigel Mayfield celebrates after getting the final out. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Baldwin opened this season with 19 straight victories in MIL and nonleague play, part of a streak of 42 wins in a row before a loss to Maui High on March 28.

“This is a good thing for us, this extra game, the two (extra) days of practice was worth something,” said first-year Baldwin coach Shane Dudoit. “It made our guys work a little harder than just going to the state tournament. Ekolu was able to spot his pitches, which he wasn’t able to do the other day. These kinds of games are good for the MIL, it’s good for our concession, everybody wins in this situation.

“We get to go to the state tournament as the No. 1 seed from here and it means a lot to us. The kids worked hard for this. These are the games that we work hard to play in.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

Baldwin 200 001 1–4 9 1

Maui High 000 000 0–0 5 0

Ekolu Watanabe, Nigel Mayfield (7) and Cade Kalehuawehe; Kyle Oshiro, Micah Jio (4) and Bryant Nakagawa. W–Watanabe. L–Oshiro. 2B–Baldwin: Chayce Akaka, Kalehuawehe.

Leading hitters–Baldwin: Akaka 2-4, run; Nainoa Keahi 3-4, run, 2 RBIs.

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