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Monday, May 17, 2004



[ HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL ]


State baseball is
wide open

Aiea of the OIA is the top seed,
but don't count out any of the
12 teams in the field


Aiea is the No. 1 seed for this week's Wally Yonamine Foundation State Baseball Championship, but Na Alii coach Ryan Kato thinks any team could go on a roll and take it all.

"This year is probably the most-balanced year I've ever seen," said Kato, whose Na Alii (12-1) finished second in the Oahu Interscholastic Association West Division before cruising to the overall OIA title. "It's a tossup for the championship and it's there for the taking. It's all about who's hot come Tuesday. And by hot, I don't mean just one aspect. The winner will need to combine offense, pitching and defense."

Kato could have been describing his own team, because Na Alii have shown the ability to succeed in all phases of the game all year. Earlier in the season, Kato called it a "luxury" to have three capable pitchers --Blake Lamug, Blaze Moleta and Shawn Hao -- and have plenty of pop at the plate from Kepa Wong and Dylan Libadisos.

There are other experienced teams gunning for the title, including three league champions --No. 2 Waiakea (14-0) of the Big Isle, No. 3 Mid-Pacific (16-5) of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and No. 4 Baldwin (13-1) of Maui.

Unseeded Garden Isle champion Kauai (9-3) and ILH runner-up Punahou (16-6) are far from also-rans in the tournament that runs tomorrow through Friday at Les Murakami Stadium.

Waiakea comes to Honolulu with two top-notch pitchers in Myles Ioane, who has had a microscopic ERA for two straight years, and Ronnie Loeffler.

"My standard answer is you've got to be good and lucky," said Warriors coach Tommy Correa, whose team beat three of the OIA's five states-bound teams -- Aiea, Pearl City (10-4) and Kaiser (10-3) -- in early-season nonleague games. "It's going to be a dogfight."

The two ILH teams -- MPI and Punahou -- are battle-tested after that league's long championship race. Both feature outstanding pitchers (the Owls' Harrison Kuroda and the Buffanblu's Shaun Kiriu and Jared Pate) and hitters (MPI's Ryan Asato and Kip Masuda and Punahou's Mark Veneri and Kasey Ko).

"It's always real tough at the state tournament and that first-round bye is real important because it gives you a head start," Kuroda said.

Baldwin is no slouch, either.

"We don't have overpowering pitchers or guys who can hit the ball out of the park," Bears coach Kahai Shishido said. "But we play good defense and have good team speed."

Second baseman Shevis Shima and left fielder J.J. Eno are two of the make-it-happen type of players for Baldwin, while first baseman Marcus Makia is one of the few Bears who can hit for power.

Kauai coach Hank Ibia feels his Red Raiders have the potential to succeed. The veteran group is led by pitchers Kirby Yates and Alec Reichle, a Star-Bulletin first-team selection last year who is just getting back from a serious auto accident that occurred before the season.

"We've got a good feeling about this whole thing," Ibia said. "We've got a bunch of winners on this team and the chemistry is the best I've seen as a coach.

"When Alec's car banged a tree, he could have died. He broke an ankle. This team could have folded without him, but didn't. We get to see him every day and on Thursday we introduced him back onto the field."

The OIA's four other representatives -- Roosevelt (10-4), Pearl City, Kaiser and Leilehua (11-2) --were all good enough to go far in the league's playoffs. The Rough Riders made it to the final against Na Alii, while the Mules are the only league team to have beaten Aiea.

In tomorrow's first-round games, Honokaa (10-5) meets Leilehua, Roosevelt takes on Hilo (12-2), Kauai plays Pearl City, and Punahou battles Kaiser.

The title game is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday.


HHSAA Baseball

At Les Murakami Stadium.
Seeds: 1. Aiea. 2. Waiakea. 3. Mid-Pacific. 4. Baldwin.

Tuesday
Game 1: Honokaa vs. Leilehua, 11:30 a.m.
2: Roosevelt vs. Hilo, 2 p.m.
3: Kauai vs. Pearl City, 4:30 p.m.
4: Punahou vs. Kaiser, 7 p.m.

Wednesday
5: Losers 1 & 4, 9 a.m.
6: Winner 3 vs. Waiakea, 11:30 a.m.
7: Winner 4 vs. Baldwin, 2 p.m.
8: Winner 1 vs. Aiea, 4:30 p.m.
9: Winner 2 vs. Mid-Pacific, 7 p.m.

Thursday
10: Losers 3 & 2, 9 a.m.
11: Losers 8 & 7, 11:30 a.m.
12: Losers 6 & 9, 2 p.m.
13: Winners 6 & 9, 4:30 p.m.
14: Winners 8 & 7, 7 p.m.

Friday
15: Winners 5 & 10 (seventh place), Noon
16: Winners 11 & 12 (fifth place), 2:30 p.m.
17: Losers 13 & 14 (third place), 5 p.m.
18: Winners 13 & 14 (championship), 8 p.m.

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