HHSAA Baseball
Maui shuts out Saint Louis to reach Division I finale for first time since 2017


Fri, May 17, 2024 @ [ 4:00 pm ]

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Saint Louis 0 000000050
Maui 0 0 0001X111

W: Izaiah Koko    L: Kolby Gushiken    SV: Dawson Nuese

MAUI: Nicholas Nashiwa 1-3 rbi; Izaiah Koko 6.0 IP 0 ER
STL: Chase Sutherland 2-2; Kolby Gushiken 5.6 IP 1 ER

MANOA — Izaiah Koko and the Maui defense rained on the Crusaders' parade at Les Murakami Stadium.

In a pitching showdown for the ages, Maui's Izaiah Koko and Saint Louis School's Kolby Gushiken kept their Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Division I Baseball semifinal matchup scoreless through the first five innings.

Izaiah Koko left the game after throwing six complete innings and 74 pitches, allowing only five hits and no runs. Gushiken left the game in the middle of the sixth inning after throwing 77 pitches with a stunning no-hitter still intact. Nice plays in the field were also commonplace, as both defenses put up impressive showings in a game that only featured one total error.

When asked about his performance, Koko made sure to praise his defense.

"I had a lot of confidence in my teammates. I was pitching to contact, and I knew they were going to make the play. We only had one error, and it was me [overthrowing] on a pickoff."

Second baseman Nicholas Nashiwa quickly returned the favor.

"He's always an upbeat guy. He's positive all the time. He never puts anybody down and everyone has his back. Him being able to go out there and pitch strikes and do his job was huge."

The top of the sixth provided the crowd with their first taste of a scoring opportunity after the first 30 outs of the game came and went in a blink of an eye.

With Saint Louis up to bat, third baseman Kahanu Martinez ripped a leadoff single into left field to put Koko into the stretch. Centerfielder Tanner Chun followed up by laying down a sacrifice bunt to get Martinez over to second. This is when Koko made the only error of the game, throwing behind his second baseman and into center field as he attempted a turnaround pickoff move towards second base.

Martinez — a dangerous runner — was now on third base with only one out in the inning and designated hitter Kaili Kane stepping up to the plate. All things were pointing towards at least one Saint Louis run.

However, when Kane blistered a low liner towards Maui shortstop Nariyuki Dumlao, Dumlao made the short-hop look easy, looked Martinez off, and then gunned Kane out at first. Cleanup hitter Sean Yamaguchi stepped up with two outs, a runner on third, and Saint Louis' first and perhaps last real chance to score on the line. He popped out to second allowing his team to escape the jam unscathed, and the entire Maui dugout emptied to high-five their teammates as they came off the field.

The chaos carried into the bottom of the sixth.

Maui led off the inning with a runner on first after Dumlao got hit by a pitch. Koko then laid down a bunt that rolled to the left side of the pitcher's mound. Martinez anticipated the bunt, and after charging the ball whipped it with a twisting throw to second for the putout. As Saint Louis attempted to turn the double play, Koko got hit by the throw towards first as he tried to step on the base but crumpled to the ground just beyond the bag. The Saint Louis defense did tag him as he was on the ground, but Koko was ultimately ruled safe at first. Courtesy runner Micke Matson came into the game for him as the Saint Louis dugout and head coach Benny Agbayani exploded in disagreement.

This call would end up being crucial as a sacrifice bunt from Ekolu Arai advanced Matson to second, which was followed by Aycen Fernandez coming into the game in relief of Gushiken.

The first batter the reliever faced was third baseman Nicholas Nashiwa, who managed to pull a clutch two-out single into left field. Matson easily crossed home plate to break the stalemate and give Maui a chance to close out the game in the top of the seventh.

"When I saw them change the pitcher, I got a little bit of the butterflies. I can't lie. I thought it was going to be Tanner Chun, and then I saw it was Aycen Fernandez. I was watching the game last night, and he throws pretty hard, so I was trying to be on time, just trying to do my job," said Nashiwa when asked about the lead-securing at bat.

Dawson Nuese did not disappoint when he was given the opportunity to capture the save and send his team to the state final. He only allowed a walk as he retired three out of four batters, including a strikeout.

Now Maui is set to face another Valley Isle school in Baldwin for the Division I state title on Saturday at Moanalua High School following the conclusion of the Division II contest.

"Last year we didn't even make states; it feels good to be here and make a statement. We are not a sleeper team," said Koko.

"Representing Maui is a huge thing. It would mean a lot to show everyone that it came home," added Nashiwa.

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