WAIPAHU — Damien will live to fight another day.
Leadoff batter Akila Arecchi batted 4 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored as the Monarchs to a 9-7 win over Saint Francis in a playoff game at Hans L'Orange Park Tuesday afternoon.
Damien, winners of seven straight and nine of its last 10 games, twice erased a three-run deficit to improve to 14-5.
The Saints fell to 14-6 with their third loss in four games — all at the hands of the Monarchs.
It was the eighth game between the teams this season. Saint Francis won the first three times, but Damien has taken the last five meetings.
"I hope we can make it six. I'll be happier," said Monarchs coach Timo Donahue, whose team won the Interscholastic League of Honolulu's second round (double-elimination tournament).
The Saints, by virtue of winning the league's first round (regular season), have another chance to wrap up a second straight ILH title with a win in Thursday's winner-take-all rematch.
A loss Tuesday would have brought Damien's season to a close.
"We've just been able to come up when we've needed to," said Arechhi, the Monarchs' left fielder. "Our pitchers have been pitching good; They threw strikes when they needed to throw strikes and it was just a team effort. Everybody was contributing and just trying to stay up in the dugout when we get down and just know that we have a shot to always come back."
Damien pulled to within a run at 7-6 after Arecchi's two-out RBI-single to score Chayne Wayton in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The bottom of the sixth saw the Monarchs send seven batters to the plate. The first four hitters in the inning reached base safely.
Jordan Donahue got the rally started with his leadoff walk and moved to second when Jayden Cabbab was hit by the very next pitch by Saint Francis reliever Bubba Akana, who started the inning and was consequently pulled after facing just two batters.
Akana was replaced by Kiyo Perry, the Saints' third and final pitcher of the game. His first pitch to Shiloh Kaeo was bunted back to him. Perry checked the lead base runner at second before firing a throw to first, however, no one was there and his throw sailed into right field. That allowed both base runners — Donahue representing the tying run and Cabbab the go-ahead run — to score and put Kaeo all the way at third base.
Two pitches later, Kaeo scored after Pomai Kim lined a double down the left field line and past a diving Makana Poole at third base.
"I think we were in the right spot in the order for that to happen," Damien coach Timo Donahue said. "I mean, our top guys are at the top of the order. Once we get there, then things happen. That's good to see going into the last game."
The Monarchs' top four hitters in the lineup — Arecchi, third baseman Kaimana Cameron, shortstop Donahue and first baseman Cabbab — combined to go 7 for 11 with seven runs scored Tuesday. Each of them registered an RBI.
"We have a lot of practices where we're focusing on our at bats and swinging at good pitches, not out of the zone and staying within ourselves and just putting our faith in our bats and in God," said Arecchi, a 5-foot-6 junior.
Saint Francis threatened to reclaim the lead for a fourth time in the top of the seventh. The first two batters — Reece Kadota and pinch-hitter Devin Rita — got on base via a walk and a hit-by-pitch, respectively.
Kayson Kajiwara, Damien's third pitcher in the game, got the first out of the inning by striking out leadoff batter John Paul Tilley on three pitches. Two pitches later, he got Bubba Akana to hit a ground ball to Poole at third, who went to second to get the force out on the trail runner (Chase Akana, who had re-entered the game for Rita). Alcos' ensuing relay from second was not in time to get Akana at first, but Chase Akana was called for interference on the play and Bubba Akana was consequently ruled out at first for the final out of the game.
"It was an illegal slide," Timo Donahue said. "As I understand it, the rule is you're supposed to slide straight into the bag and make no contact (with the middle infielder), and he got a big piece of my second baseman there."
Kajiwara tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings with three walks and a strikeout to get the win — his first of the season. It was his longest outing this year.
"You could tell that the nerves and the youth got to him a little bit there, but I think he battled enough to get us to where we need to be," Donahue said.
Starter Milton Gainey was charged with three runs on three hits in just 1 1/3 innings. He walked four and struck out two before giving way to Justin Naleielua, who surrendered four runs on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts in three innings.
James Yamasaki went five innings in the start for Saint Francis. He was tagged with six runs on nine hits with six walks and three strikeouts.
Bubba Akana was charged with two runs and was the losing pitcher.
Saint Francis held leads of 3-0, 5-2 and 7-5, but allowed the Monarchs to score the game's final four runs. It was unable to overcome five errors, including three in a two-run third inning for Damien.
Poole had a pair of doubles with three RBI to lead the Saints. His two-out, two-run double in the top of the fourth put his team ahead 5-2.
Jordan Donahue walked three times and scored thrice. Kim batted 2 for 2 with two walks for the Monarchs.
Saint Francis left the bases loaded in both the first and fifth innings. Eight of the 10 runners it stranded were left in scoring position.
Thursday's game will be part of a championship doubleheader at Hans L'Orange Park. Damien and Saint Francis will play for the D2 crown at 3:30 p.m. and the D1 title game will feature No. 1 Kamehameha and No. 2 Saint Louis at 6:30 p.m.
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