HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
Punahou’s latest title doesn’t come easy
Eric Kadooka calls them the least talented of his three state championship teams.
Bucky Aona calls it the best prepared. Either way, Punahou's third state crown in a row may have been the sweetest.
"It was the toughest one on paper, but I think for the returnees, we've been there. We knew how to handle the anxiety before the game," said Aona, a hulking designated hitter. "We weren't too nervous."
Punahou's nine-inning, 4-3 win over arch rival Kamehameha in the final at Iron Maehara Stadium capped a long grind of a tourney that included several rain delays, postponements and early-rise games.
"We worked extremely hard to make it happen," said Kadooka, whose teams were scrutinized in his first three years for not winning state championships. Since then, the Buffanblu have been golden.
"We had a team that was not as talented as the first two championship teams. I thought Iolani was clearly the best team in the ILH, with lots of seniors playing well," he added. "We knew we wanted to keep up with them."
Several Buffanblu came through in the clutch, including Paul Snieder, who pitched 10 scoreless innings at the state tourney. They did it despite a rough week of three losses to Kamehameha, which won the ILH championship.
"Kamehameha was real hot and we couldn't stop them. The biggest thing was they learned to put it behind them," Kadooka said.
Aona, a superb talent in football, as well, believes the losses made Punahou a better team.
"Toward the end, we weren't playing Punahou baseball and getting distracted. But it's good that we got it out of the way early in the ILH, because at states we were a much more focused team," said Aona, who will play baseball at Southern Utah next season. "We grew as a team."
Castle update: Longtime Knights assistant coach Brent Taniguchi is recovering nicely from surgery following a heart attack prior to Castle's state-tournament opener against Maui on Thursday.
Athletic director Richard Haru credited an extremely fast response by medical personnel at the game, which was moved to Maui High School due to rainouts.
"They did a tremendous job responding to the emergency. I saw Brent this afternoon, and everybody's so thankful," Haru said yesterday, thanking those who were on the spot -- Chris Pagdilao, Maui trainer; Leonard Barcoma Jr., Maui assistant coach, fireman; Eric Otani, fireman; and Ted Morikawa, Kailua trainer.
Otani happened to be there to help prep the field for the game.
"Everybody was so professional and efficient, but also caring. Their main concern was Brent. You couldn't have asked for more," Haru said. "You appreciate the aloha they have on Maui for everyone. Myself and everyone at Castle is so appreciative of them for saving Brent's life. He and his family are so grateful."
Taniguchi was in front of the dugout when he collapsed while talking with assistant coach Joe Tom Sr.
"Thank God the trainers were there," head coach Joe Tom Jr. said.
Trainers applied an updated version of CPR, and a UAD (defibrillator) brought Taniguchi back to life. "His heart stopped there," Tom said. "They saved Brent's life."
The Knights were shaken up, of course, as were the Sabers. Maui coach Lee Yonamine, a cousin of Taniguchi, kept the Knights updated with reports he received by phone from the hospital.