The Billings Mustangs opened up the playoffs on the road on Friday night in Great Falls. 18-year-old Ian Kahaloa took the mound as the starting pitcher and despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the entire league, Kahaloa pitched well beyond his years.
Entering the game the teenager had made 12 appearances on the season, mostly with the Mustangs, and had a 2.39 ERA in 52.2 innings with just 14 walks and 52 strikeouts. He last pitched on September 3rd, but only threw three innings in the start, likely just keeping him active as they set up their playoff rotation.
Ian Kahaloa struck out the first three batters that he faced and set the tone for his entire start. In the second inning he would strike out another batter, but the Voyagers would get their first hit of the night – a single to right field. In the third inning Kahaloa kept things going with another 1-2-3 inning that included a strikeout. The fourth inning included a walk, just the second base runner allowed of the game, but it came with two more strikeouts as the strikeouts began to pile up.
The fifth inning saw another strikeout in a 1-2-3 inning, but the sixth inning was a bit tougher. After a bunted out, two singles threatened the shutout start for the Hawaiian native. Kahaloa responded with a fly ball out and a strikeout looking to end the inning and keep his shutout intact. He returned for the 7th inning and after allowing a leadoff single he got a ground out, a strikeout and a pop out that ended the inning. He left with a 7-0 lead, handing the game over to the bullpen who held on for the win.
Including his start last night, the 18-year-old has now posted an ERA of 2.11 on the season with 15 walks and 62 strikeouts in 59.2 innings between the Arizona League Reds (2 starts) and the Billings Mustangs (11 starts). That’s not too bad for a teenager.