HONOLULU — Before he became Waiakea’s athletic director, Tom Correa was the school’s baseball coach, and had a favorite proverb, especially when it came to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament, “You have to be lucky enough to catch the breaks, and good enough to take advantage of them.”
That slice of perspective was passed down his younger brother, Kamehameha coach Andy Correa, whose ballclub could have searched under every rock and base for a break at Les Murakami Stadium, and still returned to the dugout empty-handed.
Maryknoll blanked the Warriors 4-0 to win the Division II state championship on Friday in a rematch from a year ago, showing that breaks are nice, but having a few horses on the pitching staff, a solid defense, and timely hitting are better.
But maybe more than that, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Spartans were in a groove, playing their best ball at the right time, particularly pitcher Josh Muneno, who turned in a pair of workhorse performances.
The junior left-hander, who doesn’t throw all that hard, tossed six innings in a 14-1 quarterfinal victory against Radford on Wednesday, didn’t pitch Thursday, then came back on one day’s rest against Kamehameha and went seven innings in the victory, taxing himself to the limit.
That’s 39 outs over three consecutive days of the three-day, eight-team Division II field. It’s within the HHSAA’s pitching limit rules. For the 12-team Division I field, it’s 48 outs over four consecutive days, a lot of leeway to run out the same pitcher in an age where Major League Baseball is putting a heavy emphasis on pitch counts — not pitching outs.
It’s worth noting that Waiakea senior left-hander Kodi Medeiros pitched a complete game, all seven innings, in a 2-0 quarterfinal loss to Saint Louis on Wednesday, and that was it. It was the same thing for Crusader senior right-hander Jordan Yamamoto, who got the win and didn’t take the hill again. Both are considered top prospects in the MLB first-year player draft in June.
However, Pono Anderson pitched a five-inning shutout as Saint Louis defeated Mililani 10-0 for the Division I state championship on Friday on two days rest. He threw five innings in a 13-0 first-round win over Roosevelt. He’s a 6-foot-2 junior with a slender frame; Medeiros is 6-1 and 180 pounds while Yamamoto is listed at 6-1.
The Big Island Interscholastic Federation, like the other leagues, doesn’t have a pitching limit, and instituted a best-of-three series for the semifinals and championship. Correa, Hilo coach Tony De Sa and Waiakea coach Jensen Sato — whose teams reached states — liked the format, which provides as much high stakes games as possible.
They just weren’t too fond of a doubleheader on the same day. Correa worried about the toll on his position players, especially at catcher. His backstop, Makoa Rosario, another potential MLB draft prospect, has a routine to ice his knees after games, like most catchers.
Hawaii Prep coach Jordan Hayslip couldn’t be reached for comment.
Asked what it will take to win a state crown, Correa sounded like his older brother.
“It’ll take a little more breaks,” he said. “We didn’t catch one. I know we’re getting closer. I know we’ll work to get there.”
The Warriors actually caught a huge break in their 12-2 semifinal victory against Waianae on Thursday because Searider senior ace Kekoa Kaluhiokalani Jr. dislocated his finger a day earlier. He slid into second base in a 7-0 first-round quarterfinal win against HPA on Wednesday when he hurt his pitching hand.
Kaluhiokalani couldn’t spin his curveball, and had no feel for his changeup, especially when pitching out of the stretch with runners on base. He gave up six runs in 1 1/3 innings. Last year, he pitched seven innings of one earned-run relief in a 7-5 semifinal loss to Kamehameha.
The Spartans will likely be back at states, even though they return just three starters, including Muneno and first baseman Jason Nakamura, who went 0 for 4 with an RBI. He’s the grandson of the late Richard Nakamura, a longtime member of the Waiakea Pirates Club. Maryknoll has a deep roster, and no location enrollment restrictions as a private school.
Kamehameha, the three-time BIIF champion, will have a different-looking lineup next year. The only returning starters are junior pitcher/outfielder Kobi Candaroma and sophomore shortstop Daylen Calicdan. But Correa and his staff have a background of developing rough diamonds.
“We have a lot of underclassmen who have been on the junior varsity for two years,” Correa said. “We should be fine. But we’ll miss the seniors big-time. What I’m most proud of is that they’re all self-made players. They didn’t come in with the most talent, but worked hard to become quality high school players. They worked hard to get better, and they showcased that in front of the state.”
Rosario and outfielder Chay Toson have scholarships to Luna College in New Mexico while outfielder Matt Chun and infielder Jordan Hirae will play college ball at Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., where Correa’s nephew, Kainoa Correa, is an assistant and the recruiting chief.
In order, Toson, Chun, Rosario and Hirae were the first four hitters in the lineup. Toson was also the pitching ace, Rosario a source of power at the plate, and Chun and Hirae the best at working deep counts to drain opposing pitchers. Their departure will open the door for others.
“The league is always competitive,” Correa said. “Everybody has one class leave and another come in. That’s something that always takes place. We have a lot of hungry kids in Hilo.”