Buffanblu beat Raiders for trip to states
All Iolani baseball coach Dean Yonamine could do after his squad fell 6-3 to Punahou in yesterday's Interscholastic League of Honolulu postseason tournament championship game was shrug and smile in bewilderment.
The three-time defending state champion and current No. 1 Buffanblu capped a nearly perfect 16-1 ILH campaign with yesterday afternoon's victory at Ala Wai Field. And since it won the league's regular-season title with a 12-0 mark, winning the tournament title also allowed Punahou to clinch the ILH overall title and the league's lone state-tournament berth.
"That's why they're the three-time defending state champs," Yonamine said as his players cleaned the field after what proved to be their season finale. "(They'll continue to dominate) until somebody can figure out a way to beat them, because we sure as heck haven't been very successful these last few years. But they're tough and are definitely the odds-on favorite to win another one, for the next couple years even."
The Buffanblu got an excellent performance on the hill from starter Paul Snieder, who held the potent Raider lineup to three runs on eight hits and struck out four in six innings en route to the victory.
Punahou ace Jeeter Ishida came in to earn the save in the seventh frame, and had enough energy left despite earning the win as a starter just two days earlier. Ishida also pitched in at the plate with a clutch two-out double in the fifth inning that plated Shane Yoshiyama and Reece Kiriu, and put his squad up 4-0 at that point.
"I was just working in the cage yesterday with Coach Scott (Murray) on just sitting back on the ball," Ishida said. "I was just looking for a fastball, sat back, and drove it."
Punahou got on the board early when catcher Zachary Kometani spanked a line drive into deep center field for an inside-the-park solo home run with two outs in the first inning. The Buffanblu extended the lead to 2-0 when, after Snieder doubled, second baseman Brennan Nacario let Reece Kiriu's ground ball trickle through his legs, allowing Snieder to come home.
While No. 2 Iolani (12-5) battled back to pull within one run, 4-3, after scoring a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth, the Buffanblu countered with two runs of their own in the top of the seventh inning to establish more than enough breathing room for Ishida to come in and nail down the win.
"You've just got to keep battling every time (at bat) because you never know how many runs you need," said Punahou coach Eric Kadooka of the insurance runs. "You just have to keep going, and the main thing is to put the ball in play, and anything can happen. Those were key hits and runs at the end because a one-run lead is different than a three-run lead."
The Raiders had the makings of a big rally going in the third inning as Kela Marciel walked and Darren Sonobe singled with no outs. Rylan Morihara then appeared to get hit in the leg by Snieder's inside fastball when attempting to bunt the runners over with two strikes. He limped to first base, assuming he would be awarded the free pass for being struck. But, after the umpires held multiple conferences and both coaching staffs pleaded their cases, it was determined that Morihara had made an attempt to hit the ball, and thus, was called out on the third strike.
"That was a big call, a real big call," Kadooka said of the rule interpretation. "The rule is that if (the batter) makes an attempt with two strikes, he's out regardless (of where the ball ends up), and that's what he did. One umpire saw it hit the batter, but the chief ump saw the swing, and that makes it an out."
The Iolani coaches continued to argue and ask for an explanation, but the call stood. Snieder got Case Miyahira to fly out and struck out Grant Iwamoto to hold the Raiders scoreless.
"I don't even know what the call was, to tell you the honest truth," Yonamine sad. "I didn't even want to go there because I know I'd get tossed. I don't know why it took so long to figure it out."
With a grueling tournament schedule behind them, the Buffanblu have a week off before the upcoming state tournament in which it is likely to receive the No. 1 seed.
"We were undefeated in the regular season and then we came into the tournament and this Iolani team beat us (3-1 last week)," Ishida said. "It was a real wake-up call for us because we kind of thought we were invincible at that point. It's nice to get a weekend off from games, so we should be well-rested for states."
At Ala Wai Field
Paul Snieder, Jeeter Ishida (7) and Zachary Kometani. J.R. Bunda, Jon Okada (5), Sheldon Lee (6), Jarrett Arakawa (7) and Grant Iwamoto. W
Leading hitters--Pun: Kometani 2-3, solo HR; Snieder 2b; Ishida 2-3, 2b, 2 RBIs. Iol: Arakawa 2-4, 2b; Brennan Nacario 2b, run; Lionel Fujioka 2-3, run.