HONOLULU — Kamehameha-Hawaii’s blueprint to capture its first state championship was to rely on its pitching ace — on one day’s rest — then play flawless defense, and get a bunch of timely hits. However, Maryknoll had the same game plan and fed the Warriors a taste of their own medicine.
Josh Muneno fired a one-hitter, and the Spartans capitalized in clutch at-bats to beat the Warriors 4-0 in the championship of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state baseball tournament Friday at Les Murakami Stadium.
The Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Warriors (14-2-1) have made it a good habit of challenging for the state title, reaching the championship three times in the last five years. But they fell short to Waimea 11-10 in 2010, to Maryknoll 14-0 last year and once again in the rematch.
Besides last season, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Spartans (18-3) also won the state title in 2009, and beat the Warriors for third place in 2012, making the two programs familiar foes.
To reach the state championship, Maryknoll threw its top two pitchers in the first two days. Muneno, a junior left-hander, went six innings in a 14-1 first-round quarterfinal victory against Radford. Chase Uyema threw five innings in a 12-3 semifinal win against Kauai; he got the win against the Warriors last year, but wasn’t needed.
The Warriors blew out Nanakuli 28-5 in the quarterfinals, and senior ace Chay Toson, who was bothered by a headache, left after one inning. Kobi Candaroma’s four-hitter in a 12-2 semifinal win against Waianae preserved the bullpen’s arms. But Kamehameha couldn’t figure out Muneno, who relied less on heat and more on movement, and a solid defense.
Muneno, who walked two, didn’t strike out anyone. The Warriors hit the ball hard, but right at people. Every single time, except for one harmless error, the defense made clean plays.
After 40 runs and 27 hits over the first two rounds, the Warriors were held scoreless and only managed a lonely single.
“It’s tough to generate any offense when you get only one hit,” Kamehameha coach Andy Correa said. “We couldn’t get runners into scoring position, and their infield defense made a difference. Everything we threw they put the ball in play.
“But we were competitive and didn’t give up the big inning. That’s something they’re known for. I knew it was going to be a different game than our previous ones after watching them. They’re well-coached and disciplined.”
The Spartans returned the majority of their starting lineup from a year ago, losing only one position player. State experience provides an intangible all coaches chase — a level of comfort and familiarity, which usually leads to consistency and steady play, especially with pitching, defense and timely hitting in a pressure-packed game.
Toson, on one day’s rest like Muneno, didn’t have fastball command, walked six and left after his last two free passes in the fourth. Then the old adage that walks eventually lead to runs came true after reliever Jordan Hirae gave up a two-run single to Mike Nishiki.
In 3 1/3 innings, Toson allowed three runs on three hits, and struck out none, unable to get himself quick outs. That gave the contact-hitting Spartans more scoring opportunities, and forced Toson’s early exit. In 3 2/3 innings, Hirae pitched one-run relief, and surrendered three hits and one walk. Like his senior pitching mate, Hirae didn’t record any punchouts.
“They came to play and outplayed us,” Toson said. “We worked hard, but sometimes people out there work hard, too. This is a tough one to swallow, especially because of last year. But I’m proud of our guys.”
Meanwhile, Kamehameha’s small-ball execution was a little off, especially its bunting game. Twice, the Warriors couldn’t bunt a runner into scoring position, and both failed attempts came back to bite them.
In the second, Candaroma bunted back to Muneno, who pegged the runner at second, and one pitch later Candaroma lined into a double play. An inning later, Paka Davis couldn’t get a bunt down on the first pitch. On the next pitch, he grounded into a double play.
Toson walked to kick off the fourth, Matt Chun put down a perfect bunt, and Toson advanced to third on a wild pitch. Perfect scoring scenario to get a run, but Makoa Rosario undercut a ball a bit too much and hit a shallow flyout to right field. Hirae hit a ball into the shortstop’s hole, but Trevor Hirano made a defensive gem when he dug the ball and gunned the out at first.
The little things added up, too.
Toson couldn’t put away No. 9 hitter Brent Hironaga, who singled on an 0-2 pitch, and later scored on Justin Ushio’s RBI single right out of shortstop Daylen Calicdan’s reach.
In the seventh, Hirae hit a batter, walked another and yielded a single to load the bases with one out. He got the grounder that he wanted, and Calicdan handed a perfect shovel pass to second baseman Alika Young, who pivoted and threw to first. ButDavis dropped a potential inning-ending double-play ball, and Jason Nakamura was credited with an RBI fielder’s choice for a 4-0 lead.
Carter had Kamehameha’s only hit with a single in the third.
To throw in a dash of suspense, Hirae reached on a two-base error, and Candaroma fouled off four pitches on a 2-2 count. Then on the ninth pitch, the Kamehameha junior outfielder flied out to deep center field to end the game.
Nishi batted 2 for 3 with two RBIs to spark the Spartans, who did enough of everything, stealing Kamehameha’s blueprint.
Despite the loss, Correa is confident in one thing. He has a gut feeling that his Warriors, especially the seven senior starters, will appreciate their tenure: three straight BIIF titles, and two state runner-up finishes.
“They’ll bounce back, and they’ll enjoy it later,” he said.
Young, one of the seniors, also saw the big-picture perspective.
“We have seven seniors and have such a strong bond,” he said. “We were down four runs, and kept coming up with zero each inning, but we didn’t quit. We were cheering the loudest that we could until the last out.”
Maryknoll 001 200 1 — 4 7 1
Kamehameha 000 000 0 — 0 1 0
Molokai 9, HPA 2: On one day’s rest, junior right-hander Koa Ellis pitched three innings of one-run relief to highlight the day for the BIIF runner-up Ka Makani (11-7).
Ellis, also a shortstop and the football team’s quarterback, replaced senior Ryan Jarvill, who gave up eight runs (three unearned) on eight hits and no walks.
Hana Dudoit-Enos threw a four-hitter in a time-limited six inning game for the Farmers (12-1), the Maui Interscholastic League champion.
Molokai led 8-0 after three innings. HPA scored two unearned runs in the fourth.
Molokai 314 010 — 9 9 3
HPA 000 200 — 2 4 1
Hilo 9, Roosevelt 5: The Vikings (11-5-1) concluded their season on a positive note with several seniors contributing to the victory in their farewell state game.
Two senior Vikings shined on the mound. Conrad Kauffman threw five innings for the win. He allowed five runs, only one earned. Jodd Carter finished with two scoreless innings.
Carter also starred at the plate. He went 2 for 3 with three RBIs. Others senior highlights were Isaiah Banasan, triple, three RBIs; Micah Kaaukai, two hits; and Jalen Carvalho, two hits. Junior outfielder Noah Serrao also paired hits.