(Here’s the extended version of the Mid-Pacific/Punahou baseball game story.)
Dunn Muramaru rarely uses nicknames or superlatives when it comes to his Mid-Pacific baseball players.
But in the longtime coach’s eyes, Travis Garcia-Perreira is simply “the bulldog.”
The senior went the distance, throwing 114 pitches while striking out six as No. 1 Mid-Pacific rallied past No. 2 Punahou 6-4 at Hans L’Orange Field.
“He’s a bulldog. He makes great pitches and he battles back. You don’t usually see that from high school pitchers,” MPI coach Dunn Muramaru said. “He struggled because Punahou has such good hitters, but he battled and battled.”
A near capacity crowd saw MPI improve to 7-0 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, gaining a valuable half-step ahead of Punahou (7-1).
“It’s a big win. In this ILH season, anything can happen, so this puts us in the driver’s seat right now and we have to get better each and every day,” Garcia-Perreira said.
With a revamped schedule due to recent rainouts, there will be no postseason playoff tourney, meaning the two automatic state-tourney berths will be determined by regular-season records.
Garcia-Perreira, a southpaw, helped his cause with an RBI and overcame Punahou’s relentless threats. His wild pitch gave the Buffanblu runners at third and second with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, but he induced Nikolas Takayesu into a groundout to end the inning.
Punahou’s K.J. Harrison socked a one-out double in the bottom of the seventh, but Garcia-Perreira retired Zach Muenster and Nate Higa to end the game.
“I feel good. It’s a great team win today,” Garcia-Perreira said. “It’s trying to get game chemistry with my catcher (Marcus Doi). The fastball was working for me, so I kept going with it. I was being crafty with the breaking pitch. Coach Dunn always preaches, ‘Make sure you always get outs.’ ”
Isaiah Kiner-Falefa smacked two singles and scored two runs to spark the Owls’ attack.
“He backed up last year and stepped right in this year. He works really hard,” Muramaru said. “Whatever he does is because of his work habits.”
The Owls jumped on Muenster in the top of the first for two runs on just one base hit. Nikolas Alarcio was hit by the second pitch — after seeing the first pitch sail behind him — and later came in to score on Garcia-Perreira’s sacrifice fly to left. Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, who reached base on an infield single, scored from third on a delayed steal moments before Daniel Fentriss was tagged out off first base.
Muenster found his control, retiring the side in order in the second and third innings, but ran into another jam in the fourth. MPI put runners on third and second with the help of a throwing error by Punahou third baseman Nate Higa, but Muenster struck out Daniel Fentriss, Dylan Oda and Skyler Tengan to end the threat.
Punahou rallied in the bottom of the fourth on pinch hitter Brad Chan’s single to center, scoring Higa (double) for the Buffanblu’s first run.
With the count at 1-2, Coach Harrison had a face-to-face talk with Branton during his ensuing at-bat.
“Coach told me to relax out there, to go the other way with it, wait on the ball,” the sophomore said.
Branton, a .542 hitter, was 0-for-2 at that point. He responded with a shot to the left-field corner for a double, bringing home Yamamoto and Rosen to give Punahou a 3-2 lead.
MPI answered in the top of the fifth thanks to two Punahou errors, including another one on a sacrifice bunt. Brent Sakurai (single) came home on Muenster’s errant throw to first on Alarcio’s bunt to tie it at 3. Asao came home on Kiner-Falefa’s infield single to give the lead back to MPI.
Marcus Doi’s slow roller for an infield single brought Alarcio home, and Kiner-Falefa scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Fentriss, and the Owls led 6-3.
Punahou pushed a run across in the fifth when K.J. Harrison tripled and Muenster’s fly ball to right was muffed by Cal Muramaru.
“We can improve on taking care of the ball, not make mental errors. When the time comes, make the simple play, the routine play,” said Muenster, who allowed four earned runs, struck out five and walked two in four-plus innings.
Buffanblu coach Kenny Harrison was upbeat despite his team’s first loss after five nonconference games and five ILH games.
“I feel all right. It was a great game, we came back and we battled. The kids are young, but it’s one of those things, we have to make the routine plays.,” he said.
At Hans L’Orange Field
Mid-Pacific (7-0) 200 040 0 — 6 5 1
Punahou (7-1) 000 310 0 — 4 8 3
Travis Garcia-Perreira and Marcus Doi. Zach Muenster, David Torigoe (5) and K.J. Harrison. W—Garcia-Perreira. L—Muenster.
Leading hitters—MPI: Isaiah Kiner-Falefa 2-4, two runs, RBI. Punahou: K.J. Harrison 2-4, triple, double, run; Tyler Loui 2-3.
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser