Na Koa hold on to clinch first-half title

July 12, 2010, 6:48 AM HST · Updated July 12, 6:48 AM
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By Fred Guzman

MauiNow.com

Na Koa Ikaika Maui clinched a berth in the Golden Baseball League playoffs. But the decisive victory last night did not come without some very anxious moments at Iron Maehara Stadium.

Na Koa jumped out to a seemingly comfortable 7-0 lead after just three innings as Keoni Ruth and Tim Battle each hit two-run homers.

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But the Victoria Seals were not about to go down easy. They rallied for five in the top of the fourth and pulled within one with a single run in the top of the eighth. Battle contributed an insurance run in the bottom of the frame and closer Jaime Virmilyea sealed the deal for Maui.

The victory enabled Na Koa to secure the GBL South first-half title with a 26-17 record. Yuma finished just behind at 27-18.

Because Maui had two games snowed out in Calgary, the league opted to decide things based on winning percentage. And Na Koa’s was slightly better — .604 to .600. That means Maui will be assured of playing for the league title at the end of the regular season.

The GBL takes a three-day break starting today, although two members of Na Koa will travel to Tucson for the league’s All-Star Game on Wednesday. Infielder Gered Mochizuki, the local boy, and pitcher Wes Ethridge will represent Maui.

Na Koa opens the second half with a six-game series against the visiting Tucson Toros on Thursday.

WORLD CUP: Viva Espana! For the first time ever, Spain joined the exclusive fraternity of World Cup champions by defeating The Netherlands 1-0 in yesterday’s championship game, bringing to an end a month-long tournament in South Africa.

It was not a pretty final. Holland took care of that. Quickly coming to the realization that they couldn’t match Spain’s skill, the Dutch reverted to physical tactics, touching off a hack-fest that resulted in a record 14 yellow cards – including nine against Holland. But after initially responding in cynical kind, Spain settled down and regained its rhythm, knocking the ball around and possessing the ball for extended periods.

Although Holland created a pair of great scoring chances through the speedy midfielder Robben, Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas came up with the huge save each time.

And, after 90 minutes of regulation and another 26 of overtime, Spain’s patience and superior technique paid off when midfielder Andres Inieska ripped a host into the lower left corner of the net for the winning goal, touching off a national celebration that probably is still going strong.

As an advertisement for the beautiful game, the final left a lot to be desired. But Holland didn’t have any alternative but to try to win ugly. And, in the end, justice was served. The clearly better team won.

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