HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
Punahou picks up another league title
This time, the difference between a champion and a runner-up was defense.
For a second game in a row, Punahou was stellar, while Saint Louis gave runs away with untimely errors, and the Buffanblu captured the Interscholastic League of Honolulu baseball crown with an 11-7 win yesterday at Ala Wai Community Park.
Jeremy Fujimoto picked the right time to have his best performance, silencing Saint Louis' bats with a four-inning, one-hit effort in relief. The junior right-hander struck out six and walked two, effectively mixing a curveball, splitter, fastball and two-seam fastball that tailed away from left-handed batters.
"What a performance," coach Eric Kadooka said.
Top-ranked Saint Louis (24-8 overall, 15-4 ILH) got a gritty effort in relief from Kyle Gonzaga, who allowed two earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. "It went to our advantage because they hadn't seen Kyle all year," Crusaders coach Duane Fraticelli said.
However, No. 2 Punahou (26-9-2, 13-5-1 ILH) broke a 7-all tie with four runs in the top of the seventh against Tamatoa DeMello. Fujimoto then struck out the side in the bottom of the frame.
"I've been working on staying composed on the mound. My coaches said to take deep breaths," he said. "Also, just the fact that I can trust my defense helps a lot."
Four Saint Louis errors led to four unearned runs -- three in the first inning -- for Punahou, amounting to the difference in the game.
In the top of the seventh, Harrison "Jeeter" Ishida singled, and Reece Kiriu smacked a one-out single to left, scoring pinch runner Jordan Honjiyo to give Punahou an 8-7 lead.
After a bunt single by Hanzawa, pinch hitter Landen Taga singled to center, scoring pinch runner Travis Tanaka for a 9-7 Punahou lead. A moment later, Geoff Kunita scored from third on a wild pitch. The Buffanblu added their final run on a sacrifice fly to right by Joshua Bninski, bringing Hanzawa home for a four-run margin.
The title capped an amazing run by Punahou, which finished third in the regular season, but won eight of its last 10 games. Those wins included Thursday's tournament final and yesterday's overall championship battle, both against the Crusaders. Saint Louis committed 11 errors in those two losses.
Punahou earned the league's seeded berth in the upcoming state baseball tournament and will have a first-round bye. The Buffanblu have won five state titles in a row, but took the ILH in only three of those years, including the last two.
"The road was a little bit harder, coming back from third or fourth place," senior leadoff hitter Matt Suiter said. "To win (the) ILH is a big deal. It took a lot of focus and trusting each other, believing that the next guy will come through.
Since an 11-4 loss to arch rival Iolani on April 4 at Ala Wai, Punahou has won all six of its games at the same field.
At Ala Wai Community Park
|Saint Louis (15-4)
Paul Snieder, Jere7my Fujimoto (4) and Zach Kometani. Kamakani Usui, Kyle Gonzaga (3), Tamatoa DeMello (6) and Keoni Haina, Moses Samia (3). W--Fujimoto. L--DeMello.
Leading hitters--Punahou: Zach Kometani 2-4, 2b, RBI, run; Tyler Young 2-4, 2b, 2 RBIs, run; Tyler Hanzawa 3-4, 2 runs. Saint Louis: Samia 2-2, RBI; Lucas Gonsalves 2-3, run.