Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, May 17, 2001


7 games, 48 hours:
‘Anything can happen’

By Jason Kaneshiro

The most tumultuous high school baseball season in recent memory comes down to seven games in a 48-hour span this weekend.

The Wally Yonamine Foundation State Baseball Championship gets under way tomorrow with just eight teams in the field for the first time since 1985, the year before the field was expanded to 12 teams.

The tournament was reduced and compressed to meet time restrictions caused by the three-week teachers strike. This year's state champion must win three games in two days. And there will be no consolation games for the losers.

"It's a three-game season," said Waiakea coach Tommy Correa. "You focus on winning one game at a time, and hopefully you get quality pitching and timely hitting. And if your defense holds up you'll be in the mix."

The single-elimination tournament begins with doubleheaders at Aloha Stadium and Hans L'Orange Park.

Top-seeded Mid-Pacific will face Pearl City in the 6 p.m. opener at Aloha Stadium. Big Island champ Waiakea, seeded No. 4, will face OIA runner-up Moanalua, making its state tournament debut, at 8:30. OIA champion Kailua (No. 3) takes on Kauai at 6 p.m. at Hans L'Orange. Maui champion Baldwin (No. 2) will face Big Island runner-up St. Joseph's, making its first tournament appearance since 1965, at 8:30.

The winners advance to Saturday's semifinals, set for 1 and 3:30 p.m. at Aloha Stadium. First pitch for the championship game is set for 7 that night.

Mid-Pacific earned the top seed by winning the Interscholastic League of Honolulu title and will be the most rested team in the field. The Owls last played May 5, when they beat Iolani for the ILH title, and Owls coach Dunn Muramaru hopes his team can scrape off the rust in time to avoid an upset.

"Because it's two days, anything can happen," Muramaru said. "State tournaments are always so unpredictable. A team could get hot and you have a few upsets. It's really a crapshoot."

For the neighbor-island teams, tomorrow's quarterfinals pose another concern. Because the players are not allowed to miss any class time for tournament play, they'll have to board a plane afterschool and head directly to the field upon landing.

"It could be a real logistical nightmare for us, " said Kauai coach Kenneth Mizuo. "We're in school until two o'clock, and we play at six. And we'll be getting in right at traffic time. So if the airlines are not on time and things don't work out just right, we'll be really scrambling."

Following is a brief look at each of the tournament teams:

1. Mid-Pacific Owls

Record: 15-3, Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion
Head coach: Dunn Muramaru
State titles: 1990, '91, '92
State tournament appearances (last): 9 (1999)
The Owls won their last nine games to win the ILH regular season and tournament titles. Ricky Bauer heads a deep corps of pitchers, while the middle infield of Dane Marcouiller and Isaac Omura lead the team defensively and offensively.

2. Baldwin Bears

Record: 10-1, Maui Interscholastic League champion
Head coach: Kahai Shishido
State titles: 1959, '60, '84, '95
State tournament appearances (last): 28 (2000)
Baldwin dethroned two-time defending state champion Molokai to win the MIL title. Catcher Kurt Suzuki heads an experienced lineup led by eight seniors. Lance Fujii, Jason Miyahira and Tyson Higa form a solid pitching rotation.

Kailua Surfriders

Record: 11-2, Oahu Interscholastic Association champion
Head coach: Corey Ishigo
State titles: 1965, '67, '69
State tournament appearances (last): 11 (2000)
The Surfriders may be the hottest-hitting team in the tournament, as they pounded 41 hits in three OIA playoff games last week. Kawika Kekaula is one of the team's top hitters and pitchers.

4. Waiakea Warriors

Record: 9-0, Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion
Head coach: Tommy Correa
State titles: None
State tournament appearances (last): 18 (2000)
The Warriors went undefeated in the BIIF thanks to Ryan Hanohano's clutch hitting and the pitching of Eric Tao. Waiakea has appeared in 15 of the last 16 state tournaments.

Kauai Red Raiders

Record: 6-1, Kauai Interscholastic Federation champion
Head coach: Kenneth Mizuo
State titles: None
State tournament appearances (last): 11 (1999)
Pro scouts are drooling over the left-handed delivery of senior pitcher Mark Rodrigues, who struck out eight against Waimea on Tuesday in the KIF championship game. Rodrigues is also one of the team's best hitters.

Moanalua Menehunes

Record: 9-4, OIA runner-up
Head coach: Scott Yamada
State titles: None
State tournament appearances: First year
The Menehunes enjoyed a breakout season despite having just four seniors on their roster. Abe Manutai and James Strombach provide power at the plate, while Geoffrey Say can dazzle at shortstop.

Pearl City Chargers

Record: 8-4, OIA third-place
Head coach: Mel Seki
State titles: None
State tournament appearances (last): 11 (1999)
The roller-coaster the Chargers rode this season took them to a third-place finish in the OIA. When their bats are ringing, the Chargers can score runs in bunches. Gavin Concepcion and Erik Mizoshiri are among the team's hottest hitters entering the tournament.

St. Joseph's Cardinals

Record: 7-2, BIIF runner-up
Head coach: Gary Ahu
State titles: None
State tournament appearances (last): 2 (1965)
The Cardinals return to the state tournament for the first time in 36 years on the strength of a deep pitching staff led by James Onaga and Tyson Usui. During one stretch, Onaga pitched three consecutive shutouts.

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