Punahou coach Keenan Sue felt fortunate to be on the correct end of a 5-3 ILH baseball victory over Saint Louis on Tuesday at Goeas Field.
It’s an awfully tough gig to be in the ILH, where talent and competition abounds each and every year.
The Buffanblu (3-0) got it done with a four-run fifth inning to snatch the victory away from the Crusaders (2-2), who had taken a 3-1 lead. It allowed Punahou to remain one of only two undefeated teams in the league along with ‘Iolani (4-0).
“Typically, a lot of ILH games boil down to that one big inning,” Sue said. “All games we’ve played and seen, it happens. The importance of playing clean baseball can not be stressed enough. And that goes for both sides.
Clean baseball. That’s what it’s all about. Play as hard as you can and don’t give the other team anything they don’t earn.
Sue continued on about the typical ILH game when he added: “Misplays here and there, some walks and errors and a couple of timely hits.”
But that is also exactly how Punahou won and, more accurately, how Saint Louis lost.
Punahou’s first run of the game came home on an error of what Crusaders coach George Gusman called a double-play ball that they make “99 times out of 100.”
The Buffanblu’s second run (and first in a four-run fifth) was on a play at the plate in which runner Cody Hirano looked to be out by three steps. In the ensuing collision, Saint Louis catcher Jonah Zembik dropped the ball.
Those two runs for Punahou are two runs that Gusman knows the Crusaders could have avoided had they been on top of things.
With three more runs during that fifth-inning rally, the Buffanblu went ahead for good. Jake Tsukada‘s RBI groundout tied it 3-all, and Aaron Tom followed with a bloop hit to center that resulted in the final two runs.
But a Crusaders’ fourth error of the game — when center fielder Makana Ontai did not cleanly field Tom’s single — was responsible for the second of those two runs.
“I can’t imagine that we gave up an earned run,” Gusman said.
Actually, two of the five runs were earned and that basically put a crimp in pitcher Austin Teixeira‘s otherwise strong five-inning performance.
The Crusaders met with coaches after the contest for about 20 minutes.
One assistant tried to explain the difference between playing good baseball and determined baseball. He said the team temperature is about 211 degrees, just shy of 212, the point where hot water boils and, analogously speaking, where good baseball teams become great.
Did they listen?
“We’ll see,” Gusman said. “At this point, there’s been enough talking. We need a whole bunch of guys to step up. Some have had a long leash and are struggling offensively. We’re going to make some changes going forward and give some other guys the leash. And if they’re not successful, we’ll look for other guys.
“They’re trying hard, but this (loss) puts us behind now. The road doesn’t get any easier.”
Tom, who had the winning hit, had been swinging a bit too hard earlier in the game. Sue, at one point during that key at-bat, said, “Come on now, let’s get in the game.”
“Aaron had a really good game offensively in our last game,” Sue said. “Sometimes when you start doing well, you start believing in yourself the wrong way. He was trying to hit it too hard. We want him to hit it to the center of the field, the gap, take what the pitcher gives you. And he did a good job. It was a two-strike hit and that’s always a bonus when you can put the ball in play with two strikes.”
Said Tom: “He wanted me to focus up. In my previous at-bat I struck out swinging late on a fastball.”
Two scoreless relief innings by Buffanblu winning pitcher Michael Robichaux and one by Matt McConnell, who earned the save, closed it out.
On Thursday, Punahou puts its undefeated record on the line against Pac-Five (1-3) at Ala Wai Community Park, and Saint Louis will try to get above .500 against Mid-Pacific (2-2) at Goeas Field.