Menehune come up big in playoff
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
Moanalua High School, long known for its successful basketball programs, officially became a baseball power yesterday when it beat Kaiser, 11-7, in an O'ahu Interscholastic Association semifinal.
The road victory not only propels the Menehune (9-3) into tomorrow's championship game against Kailua, it also secures their first state baseball tournament berth in the school's 30-year history.
"Our coaches said that if we could do it, we'd be the first, so we were real excited about that," said left fielder Jim Strombach, who hit two home runs yesterday. "We really wanted to win."
Moanalua will play Kailua, a 16-2 winner over Pearl City, for the title at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Hans L'Orange Park in Waipahu. Kaiser will play Pearl City for third place and the OIA's last state berth at 4:30 p.m.
The Menehune, seeded fourth in the OIA West, upset No. 1 seed Campbell 4-3 on Friday. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning against Kaiser (East No. 2, 8-3-1) on a solo home run over the center-field fence by Strombach, a wild pitch and Mike Miyagi's RBI groundout.
The Cougars answered with a run in the bottom half when John Uehara was hit with the bases loaded, and Kaiser took a 5-3 lead in the third on a two-out rally highlighted by Chris Gallego's RBI double, a two-run single by Uehara and Jason Peters' steal of home.
But that lead was short-lived, as Moanalua exploded for six runs in the fourth inning. Ronald Yasuda, Abe Manutai and Lorin Nakamura each had RBI singles, Ric Fukushima drew a bases-loaded walk and the Menehune took advantage of an error and a wild pitch in sending 11 batters to the plate.
The Cougars scored a run on an error in the bottom of the fourth, but David Chu was stranded at third base after a controversial play ended the inning. Gallego hit a grounder back to Moanalua starter Scott Batula, who threw to first to get the third out. Kaiser coaches argued that the ball had bounced off Gallego's foot and should have been ruled foul, but to no avail.
Strombach's two-run homer to right-center field gave the Menehune an 11-6 lead in the sixth.
Eric Ching led off the Cougars' seventh with a single and Dayne Uchiyama followed with a walk, but pinch-hitter Jason Morita's line shot was caught at second base and turned into a double play.
Uehara's RBI single made it 11-7, but reliever Nakamura stranded runners at second and third by getting a popup to end the game.
Twice this season, Kaiser had rallied to win from five-run deficits in the seventh inning.
"We've done it before, but you never really want to play that way," Cougars coach Duke Chinen said. "We knew we had our work cut out for us from the beginning, and Moanalua came out to play. They executed and played tough two days in a row. They deserve it, they earned it."
Strombach said the Menehune were concerned about a letdown from Friday's dramatic win, but the team's personality usually is kept on an even keel.
"Our coach (Scott Yamada) likes us to have a low profile, to be real quiet," Strombach said. "That's why we might have sneaked up on people. Nobody expected us to be here."
Moanalua (9-3) 030 602 011 5 2
Kaiser (8-3-1) 014 100 1 7 8 3
Scott Batula, Lorin Nakamura (7) and Nakamura, Brett Tanigawa; Nathan Ota, Todd Nishihira (4) and Chris Gallego, Dayne Uchiyama (5). W: Batula. L: Ota.
Leading hitters: Moanalua Jim Strombach 2-3, two home runs, 3 RBI. Kaiser John Uehara 2-2, 4 RBI; Gallego 2-3, double, RBI; Eric Ching 2-4, double.