WAILUKU - When the Baldwin and Maui high school baseball teams reach their annual year-end series in Maui Interscholastic League play, excitement almost always follows.
The first game of the 2013 three-game set did not disappoint an overflow crowd at Maehara Stadium on Thursday night as the Bears (10-0) built a six-run lead through four innings and then rode the gutsy complete-game performance of junior left-hander Noah Apolo to an 8-7 victory.
After Baldwin scored five runs in the fourth for an 8-2 lead, Maui High (8-2) closed with two runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings and one more in the seventh. Jacob Tiu grounded out on a fielder's choice to end the game and was the eighth runner the Sabers stranded in the near-three-hour game.
Baldwin High School’s Anoai Moe-Keahi hits an RBI double in the second inning against Maui High on Thursday at Maehara Stadium. The Bears won 8-7 to improve to 10-0.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Maui High outhit Baldwin 13-6 as Apolo (5-0) was an escape artist all night with help from a sometimes spectacular defense. The win puts Baldwin, ranked third in the state by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, one win away from clinching the MIL Division I regular-season title and the state berth that goes with it.
"What we strive to our kids is to take care of the ball and good things are going to happen," Baldwin coach Jon Viela said. "Our kids took care of the ball. They took care of the ball well. Hat's off to Maui High for coming back that way.
"We told our boys, 'If we take care of what we can control, everything else should be OK.' "
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King Kekaulike 5, Lahainaluna 1
Baldwin 8, Maui High 7
King Kekaulike vs. Lahainaluna at Maehara Stadium, 3:30 p.m.
Molokai vs. Kamehameha Maui at Eddie Tam Field, 3:30 p.m.
Baldwin vs. Maui High at Maehara Stadium, 6 p.m.
In the seventh, Viela said he was close to relieving Apolo, who had surrendered only two runs in 18 innings in four previous MIL starts.
"We were on the verge of putting in a reliever, his pitch count was getting up," Viela said. "But I just saw his demeanor and something told me, 'We will leave him in.' "
The Bears boosted a 3-2 lead to 8-2 in the fourth when Isaiah Maddela and Makana Victorine each had two-run singles - their only hits in the frame - wrapped around a bases-loaded hit by pitch by Patrick Burrows. They took advantage of four walks and the hit batsman in the inning.
That is all they would get as Maui High came roaring back.
Micah Isagawa had a sacrifice fly and Callen Beeson doubled home a run in the fifth to make it 8-4 and T.J. Molina tripled home a run in the sixth and scored on Mark Karaviotis' ground out.
Chazz Ishikawa led off the seventh with a single and scored on Sammy Sutton's ground out, but that is all the Sabers would produce.
The Bears turned double plays in the second and third innings to thwart Maui High rallies. The Sabers must win the next two games of the series or seek a state berth in the league tournament next week.
"It's a good sign, fighting back," Maui High coach Chase Corniel said. "Just giving up too much walks, the batters getting on for free was tough. You're playing with fire every time you do that. Baldwin is a great team - they can make us hurt when we make errors."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Micah Isagawa, T.J. Molina (4) and Jaylen Suda; Noah Apolo and Makana Victorine. W-Apolo. L-Isagawa. 2B-Maui High: Callen Beeson, Sammy Sutton; Baldwin: Anoai Moe-Keahi. 3B-Maui High: Molina.
Leading hitters-Maui High: Molina 3-4, 2 runs, RBI; Isagawa 2-3, RBI; Chazz Ishikawa 2-4, run; Suda 3-4, 2 RBIs. Baldwin: Isaiah Maddela 2-2, 2 runs, 2 RBIs.
* King Kekaulike 5, Lahainaluna 1: At Wailuku, Adam Howden pitched a four-hitter and Ryley Widell had a two-run triple in the fifth for Na Alii (4-6).
Howden walked none and struck out none.
The Lunas dropped to (1-9).
Akoni Hamilton-Golis and Jacob Mahon; Adam Howden and Reid Yonamine. 2B-Lahainaluna: Ken Brito. 3B-King Kekaulike: Ryley Widell.
Leading hitters-King Kekaulike: Brandon Haupu 2-3; Ryder Souza 2-3; Widell 2 RBIs.