Maehara to test
Kamehameha baseball coach Vern Ramie remembers all too well the last time the state tournament was held on Maui.
The Warriors advanced to the 2000 state championship game and took an early lead in the final only to see Molokai, spurred by a boisterous crowd at Iron Maehara Stadium, rally to claim the title.
"It was a sea of green up there," Ramie recalled. "But that's what high school baseball is all about. You get the community out there backing their team. It was a hostile atmosphere, but it was still fun to play in."
The fans' support for the Valley Isle teams will be just part of the home-island advantage Baldwin and Maui will enjoy at this week's Wally Yonamine Foundation State Baseball Championship at Maehara Stadium.
The tournament opens tomorrow with four opening-round games starting at 11:30 a.m. The four seeded teams -- Kamehameha, Kailua, Baldwin and Waiakea -- have byes into Thursday's quarterfinals.
Maui plays Oahu Interscholastic Association runner-up Aiea in tomorrow's feature game at 7 p.m. Baldwin faces either defending state champion Mid-Pacific or Waianae at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
"Hopefully, we'll have the support of the community and just being comfortable going to a familiar site will help us," said Baldwin coach Kahai Shishido, whose Bears are seeded third.
"A lot of times neighbor-island kids walk into Rainbow Stadium and are in awe. Maybe (playing on Maui) will keep their adrenaline down a little bit and help them just relax and play ball."
Baldwin (17-3) and Maui (17-4) played seven times over the last three weeks and are looking forward to simply facing someone different. The Bears beat the Sabers twice in two days last week and claimed the MIL title with an 8-5 win last Friday.
Maui coach Lee Yonamine said playing on their home field and experiencing the big-game conditions of the MIL tournament should help his young squad handle state tournament pressure. The Sabers have just three seniors on the roster and start four sophomores.
"The last three games against Baldwin there were big crowds and some of the kids got nervous," Yonamine said. "But after playing a couple more games with that atmosphere they settled down."
In addition to being used to the crowds, Baldwin and Maui are also familiar with the fluctuating winds at Maehara Stadium as well as its other peculiarities.
"It's huge," Ramie said of the home-field advantage. "They know all the idiosyncrasies about that field. Every field has them and I think it's a big advantage just to know which way the winds are blowing and all the little things that can make a difference in a ballgame."
Kamehameha (16-3) was awarded the tournament's top seed for the second year in a row after claiming the Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship. The Warriors were the tournament favorite last year, but lost to Mid-Pacific in the championship game.
"To lose in the championship game, although you had a great season it still leaves a bitter taste in your mouth," Ramie said. "That's one of the things we talked about at the end of last season and the beginning of this season, just remembering what that feeling was like and the kids are saying they don't want to feel that again."
MPI (12-8-1) struggled through the ILH season, but battled through the losers bracket in the league tournament to give the Owls a shot at a second straight title.
"I don't know about defending, we'll just try to do the best we can," MPI coach Dunn Muramaru said after the Owls defeated Iolani for the ILH's second state tournament berth last Thursday. "There's no such thing as defending, that was last year. We're just going to try our best, that's all."
Second-seeded Kailua (12-1), the 2001 state champion, won three games in its final at-bat in the OIA tournament to win its fourth consecutive league title.
Aiea (12-1) gave up just two runs in three OIA tournament games last week and Roosevelt (9-4) rides into the tournament led by the strong left arm of pitcher Kaimi Mead. Scrappy Waianae (9-4) and Kalaheo (8-6) squads round out the OIA contingent.
Fourth-seeded Waiakea (12-0) swept through the Big Island Interscholastic Federation season to clinch a berth. The Warriors start just one senior and were led by junior Myles Ioane. The left-hander went 7-0 in the BIIF and gave up just two earned runs in 33 innings. Hilo finished second in the BIIF at 9-3.
Kauai (9-4) captured the Kauai Interscholastic Federation's berth by holding off Waimea 8-7 in the league championship game on Saturday. The Red Raiders open against Kalaheo tomorrow.
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Wally Yonamine Foundation State Baseball Championship
At Iron Maehara Stadium
Game 1: Hilo (9-3) vs. Roosevelt (9-4), 11:30 a.m.
Game 2: Kauai (9-4) vs. Kalaheo (8-6), 2 p.m.
Game 3: Mid-Pacific (12-8-1) vs. Waianae (9-4), 4:30 p.m.
Game 4: Aiea (12-1) vs. Maui (17-4), 7 p.m.
Game 5: Game 2 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 9 a.m.
Game 6: Kailua (12-1) vs. Game 1 winner, 11:30 a.m.
Game 7: Waiakea (12-0) vs. Game 4 winner, 2 p.m.
Game 8: Kamehameha (16-3) vs. Game 2 winner, 4:30 p.m.
Game 9: Baldwin (17-3) vs. Game 3 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 10: Game 1 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 9:30 a.m.
Game 11: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, noon
Game 12: Game 6 loser vs. Game 9 loser, 2:30 p.m.
Game 13: Game 6 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 5 p.m.
Game 14: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 7:30 p.m.
Consolation: Game 5 winner vs. Game 10 winner, noon
Fifth place: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Third place: Game 13 loser vs. Game 14 loser, 5 p.m.
Championship: Game 13 winner vs. Game 14 winner, 8 p.m.