Pearl City seeking first title
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Wally Yonamine Foundation Baseball Division I State Championships return today to the home island of its namesake — a legendary 1940s-era athlete from Olowalu, Maui.
The 12-team, four-day tournament begins with a quartet of first-round games starting at 11:30 a.m. at Iron Maehara Stadium in Wailuku.
Six-time defending champ Punahou is back to attempt another improbable run as the Interscholastic League of Honolulu's third-place team, as Saint Louis won its first league title since 1989. Four-time O'ahu Interscholastic Association champion Pearl City, the No. 1 seed, is still seeking its first state crown.
Maui Interscholastic League champ Baldwin will try to utilize all of its home-field advantage (the Bears practice at Maehara Stadium).
And Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Hilo is all alone this time in representing the BIIF.
Here is a capsule look at all 12 teams (records are for regular and postseason):
Coach: Jon Viela
Record: 13-1 (MIL champion)
Notable: The Bears have more than just home-field advantage on their side. Junior starter Brysen Dafun is a hard-throwing pitcher as was his father, Kekoa, in the early 1990s and leads a staff that had an earned run average of under 2.00. Junior catcher Dane Kinoshita is a consistent hitter.
Coach: Rory Pico
Record: 10-5 (OIA runner-up)
Notable: The Sabers came close to winning their first OIA championship since 1995, losing a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning of the title game vs. Pearl City. They have three solid right-handed starting pitchers in Kale Ka'alekahi — who has signed to play for the University of Hawai'i — Robert Kahana and Po'o Ka'alekahi. Senior left-fielder Michael Memea, who had the game-winning homer in the 2005 Little League World Series, still is a clutch hitter.
Coach: Warren Arakaki
Record: 12-0 (BIIF champion)
Notable: Dustin Tagawa, a 5-foot-5 junior right-hander, pitched a six-hitter in the Vikings' 5-2 BIIF championship game victory over arch rival Waiākea. Junior third baseman Ridge Ho'opi'i-Haslim was impressive in last year's state tournament as the starting catcher.
Coach: Corey Ishigo
Record: 12-3 (OIA third place)
Notable: The Surfriders have several returnees from last year's state runner-up team and usually peak around this time of year. They have talent and experience on the mound in sophomore right-hander Alika Ramseyer-Ho, junior right-hander Ryan McMonigle and senior left-hander Jared Matsumoto, and all three also are strong hitters. Freshman right-hander Kahaku Iaea could play a big role if pitching depth becomes a factor. Junior outfielder Kory Sasaoka bats leadoff and is dangerous on the bases.
Coach: Mark Rasmussen
Record: 8-9 (OIA sixth place)
Notable: The Cougars earned their berth by rallying for an 8-7 victory over Waiākea last Friday in a state tournament play-in game, when Dennis Duro blooped an RBI single into right field with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Starting pitcher Kekoa Torres, a senior right-hander, finished the OIA season strong before allowing 10 hits vs. Waiākea.
Coach: Lee Yonamine
Record: 9-5 (MIL runner-up)
Notable: The Sabers fought through an up-and-down season to return to the state tournament. Senior pitcher Alika Aheong anchors the pitching staff, and catcher Isaiah Diaz is a threat on offense. First baseman Dane Oshiro has caught fire recently at the plate.
Coach: Dunn Muramaru
Record: 14-4 (ILH runner-up)
Notable: The Owls earned their berth through trademark solid, steady if not spectacular all-around play. Junior left-hander Lawrence Chew is a gritty starting pitcher, and freshman Marcus Doi has been a major contributor on the mound and at the plate. Junior shortstop Justin Protacio anchors the defense and bats leadoff.
Coach: Mark Hirayama
Record: 9-7 (OIA fourth place)
Notable: The Trojans went 7-5 in the OIA regular season but showed improvement in the league tournament, upsetting East runner-up Roosevelt in the quarterfinals and then losing to West champ Pearl City by one run in the semifinals. Infielder Chad Bolibol and Chad Tanaka have been productive hitters.
Coach: Scott Yamada
Record: 10-6 (OIA fifth place)
Notable: Nā Menehune might be considered a sleeper, with several returning starters from last year's team that reached the state semifinals. Junior shortstop Tim Arakawa is a dangerous leadoff batter with power and speed. Kamalu Kamoku, Bronson Shim and Jacob Fukuyama picked up some of the pitching load after injuries to Zach Manago and Dae Yang Kim. Junior outfielders Miles Higa and Michael Egami are solid defensively and at the plate.
Coach: Gary Nakamura
Record: 15-0 (OIA champion)
Notable: The Chargers have a very deep pitching staff, veteran defense and solid batting lineup. Shortstop/closer Chace Numata's fastball has been clocked as high as 93 mph. His brother, junior third baseman Chevas Numata, is a steady starting pitcher who bats cleanup. Senior right-hander Kahana Neal almost pitched a perfect game vs. Campbell in the regular season. Senior catcher Royce Murai also pitches and is a dangerous No. 9 hitter, and senior center fielder Brandon Oshiro is a consistent leadoff hitter.
Coach: Eric Kadooka
Record: 10-5 (ILH third place)
Notable: The Buffanblu qualified for their seventh straight state tournament by rallying for four runs in the top of the seventh inning vs. Kamehameha in the ILH third-place game. Senior pitcher/DH Alaka'i Aglipay anchored the staff early in the season but sophomore Zachery Muenster — who won last year's state title game — has since returned from injury. Senior catcher Kaiana Eldredge is a solid hitter with good feet. Junior center fielder Michael Suitor is a dangerous leadoff batter with speed and power.
Coach: George Gusman
Record: 16-2 (ILH champion)
Notable: The Crusaders won their first ILH championship since 1989 with consistent pitching, defense, hitting and base running. The pitching staff has four solid arms in seniors Chris Chung, Noah Siegfried and Jordan Nakamura, and junior Kalei Contrades, who also plays third base. Senior second baseman Jordan Fukumoto bats leadoff, and catcher Moses Samia is a feared slugger.
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