Jake Kahaulelio’s hitting tear has its emotional roots in Wisconsin.
That’s where the cousin of the Wingnuts’ second baseman recently helped Youngstown State win the Horizon League Tournament after YSU won 12 regular-season games.
A recent chat with his cousin, Brent Gillespie, refocused Kahaulelio and launched him into a two-game stretch in which he has gone 8 for 8. Kahaulelio’s three hits and four RBIs Monday helped the Wingnuts to a 5-3 win over Laredo at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Kahaulelio entered Sunday’s game at Gary on a 1 for 11 stretch but delivered five hits. Three more against the Lemurs vaulted his batting average to .426, second in the league for the 2012 American Association batting champion.
“I think a lot of it is just believing you can do it,” Kahaulelio said. “…(Gillespie) was talking to me, and he said, ‘You just go day-by-day. We all know you can get out of it, you just have to believe you can.’ Some simple words like that make you step back and realize that it’s not so bad. You just stick to your approach and things are going to happen.”
Even the most brief hitting streaks necessitate some good fortune, and Kahaulelio received some Monday. His first-inning fly ball to shallow right field turned into a sacrifice fly – and not an official at-bat — only when Laredo catcher Angel Flores mishandled a throw that beat Kahaulelio to the plate.
Kahaulelio made his own luck after that. He launched a two-run home run in the fourth to put Wichita ahead 3-1, smacked an RBI double off the wall in the fifth, and singled in the seventh to finish a triple short of the cycle.
Kahaulelio’s recent surge has coincided with a switch from No. 2 to No. 3 in the batting order, pulling him away from a spot where his superior bat-handling and small-ball skills serve him well. He said those skills can be just as useful in the middle of the lineup.
“When (manager Kevin Hooper) called me in and said, ‘Do you mind hitting third?’ I said, ‘Hey, I’ll hit ninth,’ ” Kahaulelio said. “This year is not about numbers or anything, it’s about finishing. I don’t care, wherever I can help the team. I’m going to stick to the same approach, still bunting, still moving runners over when I need to.
“(Hooper said), ‘It’s just, you’re hitting third, we don’t want you to change who you are.’ And I’m not going to. I got lucky enough to hit a homer tonight, and 3 and 4 (hitters) are kind of known to hit with power, but I’m not going to worry about this year. I just want to get on base and win ballgames.”
Kahaulelio’s hitting backed starting pitcher Anthony Capra, who followed up losing a no-hitter in the ninth inning with a start not as suspenseful but more efficient.
Capra threw 138 pitches and walked eight last week against Kansas City; on Monday, he walked two, threw 85 pitches in seven innings and wasn’t hurt by a patient lineup that forced an elevated pitch count.
Capra threw 15 pitches or fewer in every inning and recorded 14 of 21 outs in three or fewer pitches.
“That was kind of what I was looking for tonight, especially after the long one last time,” Capra said. “They were ultra-aggressive, which helped me. I had to be aggressive myself. A lot of quick outs, and that’s exactly what I was looking for.
“It caught me a little off-guard in the first inning – a couple hits, a couple hard-hit balls. But I just had to adjust and be effective with off-speed early in the count to keep them off-balance a little bit.”
Laredo came in batting .347 as a team with 14 homers in 10 games. Capra surrendered a first-inning triple and an RBI single, but there were only two more hits against him and he struck out two of the final three batters he faced.
Alex Hinshaw and Matt Nevarez combined to record the final four outs after Daniel Bennett surrendered a two-run home run, a walk and a hit batter in the eighth.
|Van Stratten cf||4||1||2||0||Khoury ss||2||2||0||0|
|Kain rf||5||1||1||0||Testa lf||2||1||1||1|
|Goodwin ss||4||1||2||3||Kahaulelio 2b||3||1||3||4|
|Denker 2b||3||0||0||0||Clevlen cf||4||0||0||0|
|Avila 1b||3||0||1||0||Wise 1b||4||0||1||0|
|Alonso dh||4||0||0||0||Hernandez dh||4||0||0||0|
|Ramirez lf||4||0||0||0||McMurray c||3||0||0||0|
|Flores c||4||0||1||0||Loehrs 3b||3||0||1||0|
|Scheffert 3b||3||0||0||0||Amberson rf||3||1||1||0|
|Laredo||100||000||020||—||3 7 1|
|Wichita||100||220||00x||—||5 7 0|
E— Ramirez (1). LOB — Laredo 8, Wichita 5. 2B – Kahaulelio (8). 3B – Van Stratten (2), Testa (2). HR – Goodwin (4), Kahaulelio (1). HBP – Denker (2) by Bennett. SF — Testa (1), Kahaulelio (2). S – Testa. SB — Khoury 2 (8), Amberson (4). CS – McMurray (1).
|Piazza L, 1-1||6 2/3||7||5||5||3||3|
|Capra W, 3-0||7||4||1||1||2||7|
|Nevarez S (6)||1||1||0||0||0||1|
WP – Piazza (3), Capra (3). HBP – Denker by Bennett (2). Umpires—Home, Darius Ghani; 1B, Harrison Silverman; 3B, Andy Vincent.
T — 2:28. A – 3844.