KEALAKEKUA — Last season, games had a habit of getting out of hand in a hurry for Konawaena. When it looked like things weren’t going well, it didn’t take much to start a downward spiral.
This year’s Wildcat squad had many opportunities to cave early in Tuesday’s game against Honokaa. They could have folded when Canen Perreira led off the top of the second inning with a home run to right field, or they could have lost focus after one of two errors the team made in the field.
But in their first game of the new BIIF season, the Wildcats showed resilience, as the team cruised to a 10-3 victory over the visiting Dragons.
A healthy output of offense did not hurt either. The team pushed five runs across the plate in the bottom of the first inning and impressed fourth-year head coach Adam Tabieros.
“I saw a lot of what I wanted to see today,” Tabieros said. “Defense plagued us last year so it was good to see that the couple of errors we did have did not bring us down.”
Kolu Alani, who’s entering his third year as the Wildcats’ ace, had a solid performance against the Dragons. He allowed four hits and one earned run over five innings of work. Alani struck out five and walked two.
“He competed, coming in with that bulldog attitude and he wanted to carry the team,” Tabieros said. “He brings a lot of drive to the team and some laughter too.”
The Wildcat pitcher is also more than a one-trick pony. He can play anywhere in the infield if the team needs it, and he can also hit.
“It is pretty nice being versatile and being able to help the team in many ways,” Alani said. “But pitching is my favorite. I like that it is in the spotlight.”
Alani is one of three senior captains on this year’s Konawaena squad. He is joined by Stevie Texeira and AJ Allred. Both Texeira and Allred also led by example against Honokaa.
Texeira put Konawaena on the board in the first inning with a pair of RBIs when he drove the ball down the right field line for a single. The hit was his only one of the game, but he also made a couple of tough plays at first that saved a run or two.
“Stevie is a gamer and very driven this year,” Tabieros said. “He has sold defensive skills at first base and a plus-bat. He is a 3-4-5 guy that can bring some power.”
Allred went 2-for-3, which included an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth. He also walked in the first and came around to score the team’s third run of the game.
“AJ is quiet, but he grinds it out and his actions speak louder than words,” Tabieros said. “He has added some confidence this year, and along with that he has gained some good bat control and plate discipline. He is also showing some nice power. He is a silent assassin.”
Konawaena finished the game with 13 hits. Kanai Rivera, Boaz Ayers and Bronson Rivera all had multiple hit games. Rivera hit a shot into the right-center gap in the bottom of the fifth that resulted in an RBI triple. Rivera had a solid chance at an in-the-park home run, but he was held up at third by Tabieros, something the coach immediately regretted.
“You are a lot faster than I thought,” Tabieros told Rivera on the field after the play.
The coach then turned to his bench, jokingly asking if anyone else would like to coach third since he could not do it.
Andrew Udac closed out the game on the hill for Konawaena. He allowed one hit, walked one and struck out one.
Perreira, Honokaa’s cleanup hitter, went 2-for-3 with a home run and a double. He knocked in two and scored twice.
Taj Vera Cruz took the loss for the Dragons. He tossed 4 1/3 innings, while spreading out 12 hits for nine earned runs. He walked two.
Despite struggling on the mound, Vera Cruz showed some toughness in the second inning when he took a line drive to the gut before dropping to the ground. He managed to get hit in the same spot while playing shortstop later in the game, but both times he was able to laugh off the pain.
The Wildcats will be back in action on Thursday when they host Kamehameha-Hawaii at 3 p.m. Honokaa will travel to Kamehameha on Saturday for a game at 1 p.m.