Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Oahu emerged as the victor in the 2015 State AJA Baseball Championship Tournament by defeating Maui, 11-3, and Hawai‘i Island, 19-6. It was the 21st time in the last 23 years that Oahu has brought home the state championship trophy.
This year’s tourney was hosted by the Maui AJA Baseball League and held April 4 and 5 at the Ichiro “Iron” Maehara Stadium in Wailuku. Everyone enjoyed the neighbor island hospitality extended by our Maui hosts.
Gov. David Ige displayed his athletic prowess in the tournament’s opening ceremonies, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch from the top of the pitcher’s mound. For the governor, it was a throwback to his youth, when he played baseball in the heralded Pearl City Little League. Gov. Ige and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa offered speeches of encouragement for the perpetuation of the AJA baseball tradition and culture.
Oahu was represented by the Oahu AJA Baseball League champion Waipahu and supplemented with players from other O‘ahu teams. The Oahu league was led by Chevas Numata, who was selected the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Numata also took home the Batting Champion and Most RBIs awards and, in historic performance, set state tournament records for batting average, hits and RBIs by collecting 10 hits in 12 at-bats (0. 8333 batting average) while driving in 11 runs. Numata’s Most Outstanding Player performance included two home runs, two doubles and closing the championship game by pitching the final inning.
Chevas and his dad, Nathan Numata, who was the 2000 state Most Outstanding Player, became the first father–son MOP combination in the 80-year history of the State AJA Baseball Tournament.
In Sunday’s championship game, Oahu jumped out to an early four-run lead in the top of the first inning by sending 10 men to the plate. Maui, represented by the Maui AJA Baseball League’s Happy Hour team, countered by scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning against Oahu starting pitcher Charles “Kale” Kaalekahi. Oahu continued its scoring with a run in the fourth inning on Numata’s RBI single, three runs in the fifth inning led by Numata’s two-run homer and three runs in the ninth inning with a Numata RBI single. Oahu third baseman Landon Nakata contributed three hits and first baseman Zach Kometani added two hits. Waipahu veterans and numerous state tournament-participants Kaipo Paiva and Tevin Kobashigawa added hits in pinch-hitting appearances. Oahu pitcher Kaalekahi won in his first state tournament game appearance by throwing seven strong innings and striking out nine Maui hitters while allowing two runs on seven hits. Pearl City veteran Daven Hermosura chipped in with one scoreless inning. Maui was led by two hits from Joey Tam Ho. The tournament saw pinch-hitting appearances by Keali‘i Murray and his father, longtime Maui player Jeff Murray, who has been participating in state tournaments since the 1980s.
In the Sunday consolation game, Kauai defeated Hawai‘i, 8 to 4. The Kauai AJA Baseball League, represented by the Kalaheo Farmers, was led by Micah Furtado’s two RBIs as Travis Shigeta earned the win with five innings and six strikeouts. The Hawaii AJA Memorial Baseball League, represented by the Keaukaha Warriors, was led by Jordan Jinbo’s two hits.
O‘ahu routed Hawaii, 19 to 6, on Saturday to advance to the championship game. Oahu jumped out to an early five-run lead by sending 10 batters to the plate in the first inning. Oahu scored in seven of the eight innings. Chevas Numata led the way with six hits out of seven at-bats with seven RBIs, including a two-run homer and two doubles. Oahu catcher Zach Kometani contributed three hits and second baseman Tyler Hanzawa added two hits. Tyler Thornley led Hawaii with four hits with two hits contributed by Alton Penrose, Warren Shikuma and Jordan Jinbo. Oahu AJA Baseball League’s Most Valuable Player, pitcher Shaun Kiriu, grinded through five innings to earn the win while allowing five runs on 10 hits and four strikeouts. Pitchers Evan Yamamoto and Cruz Hatanaka finished out the nine-inning game.
In the dramatic back-and-forth tournament first game, pinch-hitter Royce Fukuroku doubled in the bottom of the ninth inning to drive in the tying and winning runs as Maui defeated Kauai, 9-8. Trailing 7-1 after six innings, Kauai scored three runs in the seventh inning on a three-run homer by Jake Oketani and four runs in the top of the ninth inning to take the lead, 8-7, only to see Maui rally to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game. Maui was led by two hits from Kyle Shimizu and Kalaika Kahoohalahala. Joey Castro earned the win in relief of Maui’s Most Valuable Player, Kory Takamura. Kauai’s Travis Shigeta led the way with three hits while two hits each were contributed by Micah Furtado, Jordan Kamakea and Jake Oketani, including a home run.
Mahalo to the Maui AJA Baseball League and their supporters for their neighbor island hospitality and a well-run 2015 tournament.
AJA Baseball’s 2016’s State AJA Baseball Championship Tournament will be held April 9 and 10, 2016, at the Francis Wong Stadium in Hilo. It will be hosted by the Hawaii AJA Memorial Baseball League.
Wallace “Wally” Izumigawa is president of the Oahu AJA Baseball League. In his AJA Baseball playing days, he was a member of the Pearl City team. Izumigawa also notes that he was a member of the 1982 Pearl City team, which was the last Pearl City team to win the Oahu AJA Baseball championship tournament.