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StarBulletin.com

Freshman Muenster keeps streak alive


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POSTED: Sunday, May 10, 2009

Of the six straight state championships in baseball, this one seemed the most unlikely.

At one point this season, Punahou was 4-6 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.

It's not the record you'd expect from the then-five-time defending state champions, but bear in mind what the Buffanblu had to replace.

Jeeter Ishida (Arizona State), Paul Snieder (Northwestern), Reid Okita (New Jersey Institute of Technology), Zachary Kometani (San Diego), and Josh Bninski and Reece Kiriu (Santa Clara) all played key roles in last year's championship before moving on to college.

This year's team had four seniors who got extensive playing time in the state tournament mixed with a bunch of underclassmen faced with the pressure of living up to Punahou's lofty standards.

Without a large number of seniors to lean on, it forced Punahou coach Eric Kadooka to be creative and throw inexperienced kids in tough situations.

Enter Zach Muenster.

Though the freshman was on the junior varsity team all year, Kadooka saw the look in his eyes during a bullpen session in Thursday's quarterfinal game against Pearl City and went against his initial instincts.

“;We brought him up just to get him used to the environment, but we looked into the pen tonight and he was ready to go,”; Kadooka said after Thursday's game.

Muenster responded with nearly four perfect innings of relief in a 3-1 win over the top seed and Oahu Interscholastic Association champions.

Then, 48 hours later, he was back on the mound in his biggest game yet, pitching in one of the most impressive high school state championship runs of any sport by any school ever in Hawaii.

His response? A workman-like 5 2/3 innings allowing two runs (one earned) with four strikeouts and no walks en route to helping Punahou to a 3-2 victory over scrappy Kailua.

He had zero walks in a state title game in his second varsity appearance before the Surfriders finally got to him with two bloop hits over the first baseman's head to end his night after 94 pitches. But he did more than enough to get to ace Jeremy Fujimoto, who ended the game retiring the final four batters.

And with a freshman like Muenster, who knows when that streak will end?