WAILUKU - Sammy Sutton and Beanie Howden put on a stellar pitching duel when Maui High School and King Kekaulike met to open the Maui Interscholastic League baseball season.
They were back at it on Friday in the semifinals of the MIL Division I tournament at Maehara Stadium, but the focus came down to Sabers second baseman Jacob Tiu.
Tiu's first error of the season allowed King Kekaulike to take an early lead, but his two-run single in the bottom of the sixth secured Maui High's 4-1 win.
JACOB TIU, Sabers second baseman
SAMMY SUTTON, Sabers pitcher
The Sabers (10-3) clinched a berth in the state tournament, scheduled for May 8-11 at Maehara. Maui High will play Baldwin today in the MIL tournament final.
"After the error I felt kind of bad letting the first run score - two outs, could have made the play," Tiu said. "But right after that I knew I had to clutch up and I knew I had to produce runs, make plays. I had to get everything done in order for us to get back."
Na Alii's season ended at 5-8.
At Maehara Stadium
Maui High 4, King Kekaulike 1
Maui High vs. Baldwin, 1 p.m.
Molokai 10, Seabury Hall 9
While not quite as eye-popping as the eight-inning no-hitter tossed by Howden on March 14, when Sutton pitched a complete game in a 1-0 loss, this was another double gem.
With the score 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth, King Kekaulike coach Mark Makimoto pulled Howden following Callen Beeson's leadoff single. After Beeson stole second, T.J. Molina bunted and reliever Ryley Widell's throw to third base was late.
Mark Karaviotis walked to load the bases and Micah Isagawa lofted a sacrifice fly for a 2-1 lead. Chazz Ishikawa then grounded out to move runners to second and third.
Tiu stepped to the plate with a chance at redemption and smoked a line drive to right to bring in the game's final runs.
"I was very grateful, knowing that we have a very good senior pitcher out here throwing his heart out in what could have been his last MIL game," Tiu said. "I just felt real happy I had the chance to bring him back in."
Tiu was playing with a heavy heart - his great aunt Sepa Vidal died March 30 and another "auntie," Elvena Cordero, died Friday morning. Tiu wore "RIP" on tape on each of his wrists.
"It was hard, but it kind of inspired me to play for them," he said.
Makimoto said it was a "gut" feeling to lift Howden.
"Everybody is going to say, 'You took him out too early,' " Makimoto said. "In the situation we were in, I just felt like we needed a change. He was coming up to their order for the third time."
Sutton (5-1) allowed eight base-runners in the first three innings, but settled in to retire 12 of the next 14 batters he faced before cramps forced him off the mound with two outs in the seventh. Karaviotis finished for the save.
"He came up big-time in a situation like that," Sutton said of Tiu. "He took a good approach to the ball and he hit it good."
Maui High tied the score at 1-1 on Molina's RBI single in the third inning.
Na Alii had gone in front in the second - Reid Yonamine was hit by a pitch to lead off, moved to third on two groundouts and scored on Tiu's error.
Tiu started making amends with a spectacular spinning stop to end the third with two runners on base.
Maui High must win today to force a playoff game with Baldwin for the MIL pennant.
"The state tournament is a big relief, they want to be there and now we still have a chance to win the MIL title," said Sabers coach Chase Corniel.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Beanie Howden, Ryley Widell (6) and Reid Yonamine; Sammy Sutton, Mark Karaviotis (7) and Jaylen Suda. W-Sutton. L-Howden. Sv-Karaviotis. 2B-King Kekaulike: Widell.