HIGH SCHOOL REPORT
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kamehameha coach Vern Ramie said every team in the state tournament is capable of winning the title; all he wants is to get into the championship game.
Warriors march on
Perseverance and hard work pay off as Kamehameha returns to Maui for the state baseball tournament
WHILE the view started out hazy, the ultimate goal always remained vivid in the eyes of the Kamehameha baseball team.
Make it back to Maui.
Despite enduring a rough regular season, the Warriors persevered and earned the second seed in the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships that begin today at Maui's Iron Maehara Stadium.
Kamehameha began the 2006 campaign with a stellar nonconference performance in which they compiled a 14-1-1 record, with a handful of wins coming during a trip to Maui. But the team could not carry its momentum into the Interscholastic League of Honolulu regular season.
The Warriors, usually considered one of the teams to beat in the ILH from year to year, went into an uncharacteristic funk and lost three of their first 10 league games.
However, the squad never gave up, and won the final two games of the regular season, which brought the Warriors' record to 5-7, good enough for fourth place in the seven-team league.
"There was a lot of frustration during the beginning and middle of the season," said Warriors coach Vern Ramie. "When you're struggling, it appears like you don't catch any breaks along the way."
FORTUNATELY for Kamehameha, there was still a glimmer of hope in the form of the ILH tournament.
The league has two berths in the state tournament: One is given to the winner of the ILH regular season, in this case two-time defending state champion Punahou, and the other is awarded to the champion of the league's double-elimination postseason tournament. The regular season and tournament champions meet at the end of the season to determine the ILH overall champion.
So the tournament became a must-win for the Warriors to make it back to Maui, where the school fared very well recently in state baseball tournaments. In 2000, Kamehameha lost to Molokai 8-7 in the championship game, and in 2003, the Warriors defeated Kailua 4-2 to claim the state crown.
After dismissing Pac-Five 6-2 in the first ILH tournament matchup, Kamehameha was pushed to the brink of elimination after losing 3-2 to the Buffanblu. But the Warriors fought on, defeating Saint Louis, Mid Pacific and Iolani in consecutive days, all by a margin of one run.
The win streak set up a do-or-die situation in which Kamehameha needed to defeat Punahou twice to win the tournament.
The Warriors rose to the occasion, picking up victories of 11-5 and 1-0 to clinch the tournament title.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Warriors head coach Vern Ramie spoke to his team after a recent practice about the upcoming trip to Maui for the state baseball tournament.
"WE NEEDED TO get some momentum, and the kids responded," Ramie said.
"It was great to watch the kids regain their confidence and see the look in their eyes when they stepped on the field, so determined and ready to get it done. We got a lot of breaks along the way, and somebody always made the big play or got a big hit, and that's what it takes to be successful."
Senior shortstop Aaron Nichols echoed his coach's sentiments.
"We knew we were a better team than our record showed during the regular season," he said.
"The tournament gave us a second chance, and we took advantage of it. We wanted to prove that we belonged as one of the best, along with Punahou," Nichols added.
Kamehameha continued to burst the Buffanblu's bubble, defeating the league rivals for the third time in five days, 13-9, on Friday for the overall league championship.
More importantly, the Warriors earned the No. 2 seed and automatic bye in the first round of the state tournament.
"EVERYONE COUNTED us out, so to be going back (to the state tournament) is a welcomed surprise," senior catcher Stuart Kam said. "We kind of had it out for (Punahou), so we beat them three times and showed everyone who's boss in the ILH."
The late-season surge has rejuvenated the Warriors' drive toward success this week on Maui.
"We've had a few more roadblocks than expected, but I knew we'd bounce back," said senior center fielder Makana Kitamura. "It's going to be good to go back to Maui. Our team has been pretty dominant, so it feels like we belong there."
Kamehameha will play its first game of the tournament in the quarterfinal round tomorrow against the winner of today's first-round matchup between Waimea and Kaiser.
If Kamehameha and Punahou both win all of their games through the semifinal round, the two teams will meet yet again, this time in the championship game, which is set for Saturday at 8 p.m.
"Everybody (in the tournament) is capable of winning," Ramie said.
"We really don't care who we have to play, we just want to get to the championship game."