KEALAKEKUA — Konawaena’s Adam Tabieros stood in the coaching box down the third base line watching his Wildcats battle Hawaii Preparatory Academy in a game that despite being so early in the BIIF season, could very well decide who gets the No. 2 seed in the BIIF Division II tournament later in the year.
Tabieros is a positive guy and it shows with the smile he caries on his face throughout every game. However, it is also a smile where it looks like he knows something — something that no one else might know.
It was that smile that stayed plastered to his face for nearly the entire rain-soaked game on Monday in Kealakekua. That smile never went away. It was there when Hawaii Prep loaded the bases with a tied game in the sixth inning and it was still there when the next Ka Makani batter blasted a pitch over the double-high fence in left field for a grand slam.
As he came into the dugout with his team now trailing by four with two innings to play, Tabieros casually bent over in his seat toward one of his assistant coaches, smiled, and said, “this will just make it more interesting when we come back.”
Tabieros’ words proved to be prophetic. Konawaena scored five unanswered runs over the next two innings to pick up an 8-7 home victory.
“It was a very ugly win but we will take it,” Tabieros said. “After that home run, I came into the dugout and told the guys we have two chances. This was our chance to change what we want the headline to be in the paper tomorrow.”
Hawaii Prep managed to take the early lead in the game, scoring three runs in the top of the third, but Konawaena cut the deficit to one in the bottom of the frame and then tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth.
Errors continued to plague the Wildcats for the second game in a row. The team committed five total, including three to start the top of the sixth inning, loading the bases for Finn Richmond. Richmond worked the count full off Konawaena captain Kolu Alani on the hill and then crushed the next pitch for a four-run cushion.
“Even as that was happening, Kolu never showed emotion and the rest of the team feeds off that,” Tabieros said. “That is what makes these guys really special this year. No one hung their head. They just kept battling.”
The Wildcats managed to score one run in the bottom of the sixth before Alani rebounded in the top of the seventh, putting Hawaii Prep down in order with two strikeouts and a groundout.
In Konawaena’s final at-bat, the Wildcats managed to load the bases when Ka Makani relief pitcher Sheldon Aribal hit two batters and walked one. Kanai Rivera then stepped to the plate and hit a soft liner to center. Hawaii Prep centerfielder Michael Hughes attempted to make a diving play on the shallow hit, but would come up short. The ball got by him and two runners scored.
Down by one, Rivera’s brother, Bronson, stepped up to the plate. As the only multiple hit on the day for the Wildcats, there was no better person to have at the plate. However, his bat would not be needed as the tying and go-ahead runs both crossed the plate on wild pitches.
“The guys looked at me after the final run crossed the plate and they were like ‘you called it coach,’” Tabieros said. “They did it, it wasn’t me. It was their chance to shine and they did.”
Alani earned the victory on the hill. He threw four innings, allowing four runs, none earned, off three hits. He struck out three. Stevie Texeira started the game but did not get a decision. He allowed three runs off three hits in three innings of work. He struck out three and walked five.
Aribal took the loss for Ka Makani. In 2 1/3 innings, he allowed six runs, four earned, off two hits, while striking out three and walking none. Hawaii Prep starting pitcher Jonah Hurney threw well in the no decision. He allowed two earned off three hits over four innings. He struck out six and walked four.
The Wildcats will be back in action on Friday when they travel to Keaau for a 3 p.m. game. Hawaii Prep will play at home on Saturday. They will host Waiakea at 1 p.m.