HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Punahou sophomore Jeremy Fujimoto held Mid-Pacific scoreless for four innings at Ala Wai Field yesterday.
Buffanblu oust Owls
After suffering its first Interscholastic League of Honolulu baseball loss to Iolani on Thursday, top-ranked Punahou bounced back with a crucial 7-2 victory over No. 4 Mid-Pacific in the league's double-elimination postseason tournament yesterday morning at Ala Wai Field.
Jeremy Fujimoto picked up the win after stifling the Owls offense, scattering two hits through four shutout innings. The Buffanblu relied on a well-balanced offensive attack in which eight players got at least one of the squad's 10 hits and six batters drove in at least one run.
Catcher Zachary Kometani led the way for Punahou with an RBI single and triple. He also scored two runs.
"In this league, you've got to hit," said Punahou coach Eric Kadooka, who acknowledged that the loss to Iolani gave the Buffanblu a much-needed wake-up call. "As far as (being in the) driver's seat and all that, we've got to win every game.
"It's fun because it's a young team, it allows everybody to focus because they have something to draw on. Every game's a playoff, and that's the way this ILH schedule is."
Fujimoto, a sophomore, overcame three errors committed behind him and stranded six Mid-Pacific runners, four of which were left in scoring position. Arguably, his most important pitch came against Derek Tan in the third inning with one out and the bases loaded. With the comfort of a 2-0 lead, Fujimoto established a pitcher-friendly 1-2 count on Tan, and got the speedy center fielder to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the scoring threat.
"We were in the game, but just didn't come through with the hits," said Mid-Pacific coach Dunn Muramaru. "Bases loaded, we hit into a double play.
"You can never be satisfied coming in third place."
After the Buffanblu (14-1) established a 4-0 advantage through five innings, Mid-Pacific showed some life as Aaron Fujiki and Easton Torigoe each drove in a run in the bottom of the fifth. But, that was all the scoring the Owls could muster, and Punahou added an insurance run in the sixth and two more in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
"My job was just to put the ball over the plate, throw strikes and let them (try to) hit the ball," Fujimoto said. "It's great when you're on the mound to know that you have your offense behind you, and that after every inning you go out there, you have a chance to get some run (support)."
For Mid-Pacific (11-6), yesterday's game was its fourth in as many days, and fifth in the last six days. But Muramaru insisted that there were no excuses to be made, and that Punahou flat out beat his squad.
Not only did the Buffanblu eliminate the Owls from the tournament and end their season, but they also set up another key matchup with No. 2 Iolani tomorrow at 3:45 p.m. for the ILH tournament championship at Ala Wai Field.
Because Iolani is undefeated in the tourney, Punahou must defeat the Raiders twice -- in tomorrow's game and on Wednesday if necessary -- to claim the tournament title.
The Buffanblu still have the upper hand, however, because as ILH regular-season champs, even if Iolani does win the tournament, the Raiders must defeat Punahou on Friday and again on Saturday to claim the overall league crown and the coveted state tournament berth that goes with it.
At Ala Wai Field
Jeremy Fujimoto, Evan Yamamoto (5), Evan Lim (5) and Zachary Kometani. Jeffrey Khan, Matthew McDaniel (5), Michael Nagamine (7) and Aaron Fujiki. W--Fujimoto. L--Khan.
Leading hitters--Pun: Joshua Bninski 2-3, 2b, 3 runs; Kometani 2-2, 3b, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Kimo Makaula 2b, RBI.