Waimea rallies to claim Division II championship
• Photo gallery: State Division II baseball championship
By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Waimea High baseball team boasts the type of offense and heart where it is never out of a game.
Even when the Menehunes appear down and out, and the situation appears hopeless.
Kalani Fernandez singled to center to plate Mikeo Rita with the go-ahead run in the sixth as Waimea rallied from a nine-run deficit to beat Kamehameha-Hawai'i, 11-10, in the final of the Wally Yonamine Foundation Baseball State Division II Championships last night.
"I told them they got to play Waimea baseball," said Waimea coach Michael Rita, who has two sons on the team. "We started to play, we fell behind and we were down. I told them they got to believe in themselves."
Mikeo Rita led off the inning with a single to shortstop and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After a strikeout and groundout, Fernandez lined a 1-1 pitch to center to make it 11-10 in favor of Waimea, the Kaua'i Interscholastic Federation champion and No. 3 seed.
Lost in the offensive shootout at Hans L'Orange Park was a gutty relief effort by Waimea's Fernandez, who worked the final 4 1/3 innings for the victory.
Fernandez, a senior right-hander who started in center field last night, picked up three-inning saves the previous two days for Waimea.
"Adrenaline. All adrenaline," Fernandez said.
He retired the side in order in the seventh to set off a huge Menehune celebration.
"The team came up here to play for the island of Kaua'i and all the fans back in Waimea," said Michael Rita, the coach.
It was Waimea's first state baseball championship. This was the third year of the Division II championship.
"I just told them focus and believe in themselves and we can accomplish something we never did accomplish at Waimea High School," said Micah Rita, who drove in four runs.
Fernandez added three RBIs for Waimea, which scored eight runs in the fourth to get within one.
Kamehameha-Hawai'i, the Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion, took charge early, taking a 9-0 lead with a five-run bottom of the second and four-run third.
Waimea (13-2) stormed back with the eight-run fourth. The Menehunes sent 13 batters to the plate, had eight hits and drew two walks in the inning.
Fernandez had a two-single to center off the shortstop's glove with one out to make it 9-3. Gavin Jardin followed with a single to left and Paul Correa had a run-scoring single to center. No. 5 hitter Micah Rita then belted a pitch over the center fielder's head for a two-run triple, which made it 9-6.
"I just wanted to lay the metal on the ball and rip 'em," said Micah Rita.
Mikeo Rita added a two-out RBI single and Chyson Soares' second RBI single of the inning drew Waimea within 9-8.
In the fifth, the Menehunes battled all the way back to take the lead at 10-9 on Micah Rita's two-run single up the middle with one out.
Kamehameha-Hawai'i (12-4) tied it in the bottom half when pinch runner Cody Walker scored from third when the Menehunes shorstop let Gideon's Kalili grounder get past him.