Posted: May 8, 2012 - 5:27pm
Hilo stuns Punahou, 5-3, in D1 tourney opener
The Vikings broke a 3-all game with runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to stun Punahou, 5-3, in the opening round of the Wally Yonamine Foundation Division I state baseball tournament Tuesday night at Les Murakami Stadium.
Hilo (14-5) will play top-seeded Kailua (14-1) in a quarterfinal 7:30 p.m,. Wednesday.
The Buffanblu (13-5) will play in a consolation semifinal 2 p.m. Thursday at Hans L'Orange Park. It was Punahou's first loss in a state tournament since the 1997 championship, when it lost to Iolani, 7-5. Punahou did not appear in the state tournament until 2004, when it started a 25-game win streak that ignited a record seven consecutive state titles. The Buffanblu did not qualify for the tournament last season.
The Vikings were the last qualifiers of the 12-team tournament when they scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Campbell, 6-5, in a play-in game, May 2, at Wong Stadium.
"it was definitely a spark plug to ignite us," Hilo coach Tony Desa said. "Coming into this game, we felt we could play with anybody. Hearing the scouting reports, everyone is even this year. No one is really ahead of anybody else. It gives us little more confidence booster.
After a year hiatus from the tournament and under new coach Kenny Harrison, the Buffanblu were looking to recapture the glorious seven-year title stretch. But it wasn't to be.
"We just didn't execute at the right time," Harrison said. "We had bases loaded, one out, and the players we wanted up there and we just didn't come through."
With the game knotted at 3 in the bottom of the sixth, junior shortstop Chayce Ka'aua tripled to the left-center alley with one out off Cole Kanazawa, who was then lifted for the left-handed Dylan Combs to face the left-handed hitting Keenan Nishioka.
"I just tried to get on and give our team a chance to bring in the run," said Ka'aua, who has verbally committed to play at UH-Manoa. "All I wanted to do was get on. I didn't care how. I just wanted to get on."
But with the infield playing in, Nishioka walked. Cleanup hitter Koa Matson was intentionally walked -- the third time in the game -- to load the bases to create force plays all around. And it nearly worked. Jodd Carter hit a grounder up the middle that was fielded by shortstop Beau Branton, who forced the runner out at second unassisted, but his rushed throw skipped by first baseman Tyler Loui, as Ka'aua and Nishioka scored to make it 5-3. Micah Ka'aukai lined out to second to end the inning.
"He got that ground ball that we needed," Harrison said of reliever Combs. "We just didn't make that play. We make that play, it's (still) 3-3."
Kian Kurokawa pitched the distance for the Vikings, scattering seven hits, allowing four walks and striking out four. He gave up back-to-back doubles to start the game, but Branton, who led off, was caught leaning the wrong way and tagged out at second on a steal attempt. He would've certainly scored when Rick Nomura followed with his double. Punahou failed to score.
Instead, Hilo took a 1-0 lead in the second when Tyler Higa-Gosalves tripled to right and an out later, scored on Isaiah Banasan-Vincent's squeeze.
The Buffanblu had a golden opportunity in the third to get at Kurokawa, who was nursing a 1-0 lead. Aaron Fong led off with a walk and took second on Bradford Chan's single to right. After the runners advanced on Branton's sacrifice to third, Nomura, a senior was intentionally walked, bringing up the sophomore Kainoa Harrison. But Kurokawa struck out Harrison and Zak Muenster to kill the threat.
"My change up is my go-to pitch," Kurokawa said of the pitch he used to fan Harrison. "I trusted my pitches."
But Hilo added to its lead in the third on three successive singles, the last by Carter that drove in the run to make it 2-0.
Punahou took the lead in the top of the fourth when Jason Rosen led off with a single, took second on Loui's sacrifice and went to third on a single by Higa, who took second on the throw home. Fong grounded out to shortstop against a draw-in infield, freezing the runners. But Chan tripled to right-center to tie the game at 2. Chan scored on a wild pitch to give Punahou a 3-2 lead before Branton fouled out to first.
Hilo tied it at 3 in the bottom of the fourth. Punahou pulled started David Torigoe for Kanagawa. Banasan-Vincent led off with a single, took second on Randall Iha's sacrifice and an out later, moved to third on Nishioka's single. Banasan-Vincent scored on a wild pitch with Matson at the plate. Matson was intentionally walked before Carter popped out to second.
But Kurokawa settled down, retiring 10 of the last 13 batters. He made an adjustment to his mechanics, he said.
"I saw my dad in the stands and he (signaled) to me what I was doing wrong," Kurokawa said. "He just caught my eyes somehow and pointed to the front shoulder."
Desa pleased with Kurokawa's outing.
"I think he really learned how to pitch tonight," Desa said. "He was mixing his curveball."
May 8, 2012
Hilo's Chayce Kaaua leaps over Punahou's Jason Rosen en route to a double play. Greg Yamamoto | SL
Hilo's Kian Kurokawa throws a pitch to the plate against Punahou. Greg Yamamoto | SL
Hilo's Conrad Kaufmann attempts to score at home against Punahou. Greg Yamamoto | SL