Kamehameha collects first state baseball championship in 20 years

May 6—Two weeks after ending a 17-year drought by winning the ILH championship, Kamehameha (16-6 ) raised the koa trophy on the worn turf of Les Murakami Stadium for the first time since 2004.

So occupied with the runner at first, Baldwin never saw Jace Souza coming.

The Kamehameha junior smashed one of the hardest-hit balls of the pitching-dominated 11-game tournament, sending a walk-off triple to the wall in right-center to score Elijah Ickes in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Warriors beat Baldwin 5-4 in thrilling fashion in the Division I final of the Wally Yonamine Foundation /HHSAA State Baseball Championships on Friday night.

Two weeks after ending a 17-year drought by winning the ILH championship, Kamehameha (16-6 ) raised the koa trophy on the worn turf of Les Murakami Stadium for the first time since 2003.

"We play for others. For real kine, this is for the lahui. It is for the ke Akua, all of our supporters, and I just want to say, this is for my mom and dad who passed a little while ago, " Kamehameha coach Daryl Kitagawa said. "He taught me the game. He won a state championship as the Kamehameha softball coach years ago and I thank them for everything. I'm super grateful and blessed."

The emotion ran high as players rushed from the home dugout as Ickes crossed the plate with the winning run.

Many of the kids on the team didn't have a chance to play in a state tournament two years ago when it wasn't held because of the pandemic and were bounced from states in the first round last season by Hilo.

"I'm speechless, honestly. I've been on this team for three years and played with my brother last year, " said Ickes, who finished 3-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. "This year to finally bring it home is a great feeling."

Ickes, who led off the fifth inning with a single and stole second immediately, drew three consecutive pick-off attempts at first base after his one-out base hit in the seventh.

Souza took a ball to get ahead 1-0 in the count before pulling a drive deep into the gap in right-center. Baldwin never had a chance to track it down as Ickes was already flying around third to score.

"I just thought to myself, I'm scoring on the play. I'm not stopping, " Ickes said. "I looked up and everybody was coming out of the dugout already and I started to celebrate."

Souza had one hit in the tournament but had walked four times before he sent the Warriors home champions.

"I was just ultimately trying to hit the ball hard into the gaps, ' Souza said. "I've been struggling a little bit here and there and I just wanted to throw my hands out there, hit the ball hard, and you know, I barreled that one over the center fielders head and Elijah scored from first. One-hundred percent the game was over."

After riding the arms of two sophomore pitchers to get to the final, Kamehameha went with senior Ethan Waikiki, who made it through 41 /3 innings.

Junior Blade Paragas, who has been hurt the final few weeks of the season, knew all week long he would get his chance at the end of a game and delivered, closing it out with 22 /3 innings, allowing just one hit with five strikeouts.

"He gave us 49 pitches and battled his guts out and gave us everything he had tonight, " Kitagawa said of Paragas. "The (whole staff ) did what I expected. You never know what's going to happen in a game, but us using our young arms early and Blade knowing what his role would be coming in on short relief was, what a moment. He got us the 'W'."

Baldwin's 8-2 win over Leilehua in the quarterfinals was the only game of the tournament decided by more than four runs.

Six of the 11 games were decided by one run, including the final.

Bryson Nakamoto, who scored twice for Baldwin (14-3 ), tied the game in the sixth inning on a two-out error.

Baldwin got two hits in the seventh inning off Paragas, who also struck out the side to keep the game tied.

Nakamoto tripled and scored in a three-run third inning and first baseman Kuhio Aloy finished an impressive tournament, reaching base three more times and scoring a run.

"Heartbreaking. The game could have gone either way, " Baldwin coach Craig Okita said. "Baseball is baseball. I feel terrible for our kids. They've persevered and worked so hard and dealt with adversity all year long, and to get back here and lose like that, that's tough."

Baldwin lost 3-2 to Waiakea in last year's final on Maui at Iron Maehara Stadium.

Kamehameha's victory gives the ILH its second state championship since 2014 and first since Punahou in 2019. The neighbor islands had won four of the past five before Friday night, with Baldwin winning the last one held on Oahu in 2018.