(Makaeo Ball Fields – Kailua Kona, Hawaii) The heat was blistering, the air thick with poisonous sulfur dioxide laden vog, and the games were played on a turf-covered lava field at the old Kona Airport community park’s Makaeo Ball Fields. Those were the conditions that welcomed teams participating in the 40th Annual Hawaii State Senior Softball Championships. A total of 67 teams participated in 8 divisions based on each team’s finish in their respective leagues.
The Ohana Motors Rebels represented Kauai in B Division, which was comprised of two brackets of four teams each. Over the course of two days, the teams within each bracket played one anther in a round-robin format, with the winners of the two brackets facing off to determine the State Champion on Thursday.
The Rebels first opponent was Oahu’s Fat Cats, who reached B Division after being edged by one run in the Oahu Championship Game. The Rebels stunned the Cats by a score of 16 to 4 in a “mercy-rule” shortened six innings to open the tournament.
The Fat Cats sent their number one pitcher, Bronco Woodlyn, to the hill to thwart the challenge by the lightly regarded visitors from Kauai. The Rebels countered with the Gary Yates, the legendary Master of the Mound, to shut down the potent Honolulu attack. When the red Kona dust settled, the Rebels had pounded out 19 hits in a rout of the first game of a grueling opening day double-header. Behind some great defense, Yates stifled the Cats allowing just 4 runs in six innings.
The Cats manufactured one run in the top of the first behind two singles and three ground outs. Much to their surprise ,the solid Rebel defense stymied the experienced bats that formed the heart of the Fat Cat batting order.
Sporting their new tournament jerseys, the Rebels got right down to business in the bottom of the first inning by posting 5 runs – ending the inning with only two outs. With one out, Russ McCluskey drilled a bullet into center field to get the first runner on base. Lambert Alapai rapped a single into the same gap to put the Fat Cats on their heels. Tom Christy, hitting clean up, shot a missile back towards the pitcher, who mishandled the rocket for a run-scoring error. Mark Koehler chased in a second run on a blistering wrong-way drive to right center. J Robertson got aboard on an RBI fielder’s choice making the second out. Yates came up and smacked the first pitch he saw into left field wide of the third base bag to put runners at the corners. Catcher, Larry Rego drove a 2-2 knuckle curve over the left fielder’s head for a two-run double halting play with the Rebels holding a 5 to 1 lead.
The Rebels added four more in the second to build a commanding 9 to 1 lead. The bottom of the order got it started with a walk to Joe Sablan. Leadoff hitter Dave Stevens followed with a hard hopper to second reaching on an error. A fly to left for the second out did not advance the runners. As Woodlyn bore down to try to close out the inning, the Rebel offense got hot. Lambert Alapai stroked his second of three hits into left field. Tom Christy ignited a rocket up the middle for another run. With Alapai and pinch runner Myles Yoshida on base Mark Koehler unloaded a towering double to the right field wall sending the last two runs of the inning home.
The Fat Cats scored their second run in the top half of the inning on three straight singles, but got no more in that frame as Yates came back and shut them out. Yates clamped down the rest of the way, holding them to a measly 4 hits in the third, fifth and sixth innings.
The Rebels stretched the lead with a third inning with a two-run homerun into center by Dave Stevens giving Ohana Motors an 11 to 2 advantage and approaching a possible early end due to the mercy rule if they reached a lead of 12 runs.
The Fat Cats made their last desperate attempt in the top of the fourth with a lead-off double in the gap in center. Another double to right brought home one run and kept the inning going. Fat Cat hitter Bronco – still trying to make a game of it – moved the runner to third as he grounded out to the pitcher. The Rebels gave up one more run, ignoring the runner on base to record the final two outs on ground balls to third and shortstop.
The Rebels put the game out of reach in the final two frames putting 3 then 2 on the scoreboard and going up by twelve. In the bottom of the fifth Tommy Kuhlman got on first courtesy of an error by the shortstop. With two outs Dave Stevens destroyed a perfectly fine tournament ball, reaching the gardens of deep center field for an RBI double. Russ McCluskey continued the barrage with a behemoth blast double to left sending Stevens around to score. Lambert Alapai delivered his third hit of the game – picking up his second RBI – with a line drive into left scoring McCluskey for the frame’s third run.
The final two runs came in the top of the sixth on a lead-off double by Koehler, the second of his day. Robertson sent him home with a line drive hit up the middle. A screaming rocket back to the box resulted in an easy double play and emptied the bases. Larry Rego registered his second safety on a liner in the gap between third and short. Tom Kuhlman sent one into the same hole and reached on his second hit of the game as well. Joe Sablan kept the hitting machine in gear with a rope up the middle giving pinch runner Russ McCluskey a clear path to the plate for the 12-run advantage and a 16 to 4 win.
A Field B capacity crowd of 37,852 witnessed in impressive 19 hits from the Rebels. Russ McCluskey, Lambert Alapai, and Mark Koehler were unstoppable accounting for 9 of the hits, each going 3 for 4. Dave Stevens, Larry Rego and Tom Kuhlman added two hits apiece as everyone in the Rebel line-up got a hit.
Dave Stevens’ two hits were a homer and a double, Koehler cracked two doubles, and Larry Rego and Russ McCluskey collected doubles.
Yates, who did not walk a batter, took great advantage of 15 infield outs by keeping the ball down and playable. The Rebel defense was stellar, turning one nifty double play and ruthlessly cutting down one runner at the plate to stop several Fat Cat scoring opportunities in their tracks.
Game One was in the books and the Rebels were anxious to complete a double header sweep later in the day.
With a second game of a double header still ahead, the team had light refreshments along with frozen towels and gallons of chilled water. Some ice cold Gatorade and Power drinks were available as well. Players relaxed in the shade of the team tents and nearby trees to enjoy oranges, fruit trays, and manapua.
Hitting: Russ McCluskey 3-4, Lambert Alapai 3-4, Mark Koehler 3-4, Dave Stevens 2-4,Larry Rego 2-4,
Tom Kuhlman 2-4, 1 Hit) Tom Christy, J Robertson, Gary Yates, Joe Sablan
Extra Base Hits: HR) Dave Stevens, 2B) Mark Koehler (2), Dave Stevens, Larry Rego