By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Kamehameha senior Bronson Pulgados was a defensive anchor, making only one error in 43 chances. He also swung a productive bat, but his four-year tenure was better marked by his durability and toughness.
It’s those two character traits that led to a perfect attendance record for making practices and workouts. On top of that, he played with a back injury and still put up impressive numbers to spark the Warriors to a second straight Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II baseball title.
Pulgados can’t remember his only error, which dropped his fielding percentage from perfect to .977, still a nice number, somewhat comparable to a .300 batting average. At the plate, he swung a hammer and hit .441 with two homers and 12 RBIs.
He was on base more than half the time with a .548 percentage, and often stood in scoring position with a .661 slugging percentage.
Kamehameha’s iScore stats also track pitches taken for each hitter, a measure of working counts. Pulgados shined there, too, seeing an average of 3.6 pitches per at-bat, the best way to drain an ace and get into a weaker bullpen.
Add up all the numbers and intangibles and Pulgados was named the BIIF Division II Player of the Year, in a vote by the league’s coaches, catching the sure-handed defender off-balance.
“I’m shocked. It’s good that it shows that I worked hard,” he said. “My role as a senior was to keep the team going, keep us together through the whole game, no matter what was going on.”
That includes a back injury, suffered during the second round against Hilo when he was pitching. He tweaked something and estimated he was at 75 percent strength the rest of the season.
“I couldn’t run hard, bend down as much and couldn’t make a full swing,” he said “I just tried to put the ball in play and do my job at third base.”
He went 0-1 with a 1.27 ERA and three saves in 22 innings on the mound. He also had help and a handful of teammates were recognized, too.
Pulgados is joined on the first team by four teammates: senior pitcher Kupono Decker (6-1, 3.13 ERA), junior outfielders Chay Toson (.283, .368 on-base, 10 runs) and Jordan Hirae (.321, .435 on-base, 14 RBIs), and junior designated hitter Micah Carter (.324, .419 on-base, seven RBIs).
BIIF runner-up Konawaena placed eight players on the first team: junior first baseman Zane Gray, senior second baseman Jarett Kitaoka, senior shortstop Ryan Torres-Torioka, junior pitcher Jordan Miyahira-Young, junior catcher Evyn Yamaguchi, senior outfielders Domonic Morris and Ona Manzano, and sophomore utility Shelton Grace.
The only other first-team member is Hawaii Prep sophomore Koa Ellis, who played shortstop and also pitched.
“Bronson had a terrific year offensively and defensively,” Kamehameha coach Andy Correa said. “He dealt with a back injury during the second half of the season. It limited him and he couldn’t pitch. It didn’t affect his defense, but affected his swing a little. He battled through it and carried us a lot this year, offensively and defensively. He made a ton of plays. He had a great year all the way around.
“He was an excellent teammate. He served as team captain and was well-liked by his teammates. The three seniors (Pulgados, Decker and Chad Teshima) never missed a workout in their four years. They all showed up as ninth graders and were always there. They never missed a practice or workout. They were really dedicated.”
Teshima (.308, .418 on-base, 14 RBIs) received honorable mention at second base. The three seniors had a successful four-year run at Kamehameha, winning three BIIF championships and twice placing runner-up at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament.
Though Maryknoll thumped the Warriors 14-0 for the state championship May 11, Pulgados heads to Luna College on a full-ride scholarship with only fond memories. He graduated with a 3.0 grade-point average and plans to major in draft technology to one day design houses.
“I like that our team really bonded and gave it our all,” he said. “The season was good because if we won that game it would have been a bonus. Getting to states was my main goal for my senior year.”
Last summer, he played for his dad, Gadi Pulgados, on a Hilo Senior League team. He credited his dad for improving his footwork, hitting coach Kaha Wong for leveling his swing, and Correa for emphasizing contact to compensate because of his back injury.
All the work toward self-improvement helped the Warriors. They earned a BIIF title repeat and got close to another state championship. The first was in 2010 when the three seniors were freshmen. It was an all-around good year for everyone.
The Kamehameha coach pointed out that room for improvement isn’t limited to getting bigger, stronger and faster. Even a shift in thinking is just as valuable as an extra set of push-ups.
“The last half of his junior year, he really started to put everything together, getting deep into counts, understanding that when he saw a breaking ball to drive it the other way,” Correa said. “He matured as a hitter at the end of last year and carried it over. Defensively, his ability to throw got us out of several situations, picking up the ball on the run, his diving stops, and his throwing was very accurate.
“He consistently improved during his time on the varsity. That’s a tribute to his hard work. He works on his own, does a lot on his own, running and lifting. He works hard.”
All-BIIF baseball Division II
Pos. Name Gr. School
1B: Zane Gray Jr. Kona
2B: Jarett Kitaoka Sr. Kona
3B: Bronson Pulgados Sr. Kamehameha
SS: Ryan Torres-Tokioka Sr. Kona
P: Kupono Decker Sr. Kamehameha
P: Jordan Miyahira-Young Jr. Kona
C: Evyn Yamaguchi Jr. Kona
OF: Domonic Morris Sr. Kona
OF: Kileona Manzano Sr. Kona
OF: Chay Toson Jr. Kamehameha
OF: Jordan Hirae Jr. Kamehameha
U (tie): Shelton Grace So. Kona
U (tie): Koa Ellis So. HPA
DH: Micah Carter Jr. Kamehameha
Player of the Year
Bronson Pulgados, Kamehameha
Coach of the Year
Andy Correa, Kamehameha
• Honokaa: Matt Charbonneau, Sione Epenesa, Ty Kauai, Kazu Tolentino
• HPA: Kama DeSilva, Cyrus Inglis, Li’iPurdy, Ian Rice, DJ Sekiya
• Kamehameha: Daylen Calicdan, Matt Chun, Kevin Davis, Makoa Rosario, Chad Teshima
• Kohala: Jeremiah Kanehailua, Casy Stevens
Note: Pahoa athletic director Ron Tomosada, the BIIF’s baseball coordinator, handled the all-league voting.