Just about everyone watching at Les Murakami Stadium thought Ola Aina had put Punahou in the lead.
With two outs in the top of the seventh inning and the tying run on second and the go-ahead run at first, Aina barreled up a deep drive to left-center, far from where Baldwin center fielder Anthony Hoopii was standing.
Hoopii took off on a dead sprint and somehow managed to secure the ball in the palm of his glove to end a dramatic 8-7 win over Punahou in the quarterfinals of the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA State Baseball Championships at Les Murakami Stadium this evening.
The catch made Baldwin just the second No. 1 overall seed in the last 10 years to advance to the semifinals, where the Bears will face ‘Iolani at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“I thought it was a hit, but we’ve got our best and fastest player in center field with the strongest arm,” Baldwin coach Shane Dudoit said. “He did what he had to do and clutched up on it.”
Hoopii, who doubled home two runs in the first inning, said he also thought it was a hit when he saw the ball off the bat.
“I lost the ball at first and then I saw it carrying and thought, ‘oh man, I’m not going to make it,’ ” Hoopii said. “Sure enough, I stayed with it and it ended up in my glove. I felt relieved.”
It saved the Bears (14-1) from the same disappointment that tortured eight of the last nine No. 1 overall seeds.
Baldwin, which has been ranked in the USA Today Super 25 for most of the season and outscored its MIL opponents 107-11 in the regular season and league playoffs, looked the part in building a 6-0 lead after two innings.
“We came out real hungry,” said reliever Roy Meinen, who recorded the final two outs for the save.
It didn’t look like starter Kaipo Haole would need a reliever after setting down the first six Punahou hitters in only 13 pitches.
The Buffanblu left the bases loaded in the third inning but strung together six hits in the fourth — highlighted by Jake Tsukada’s three-run triple — to tie the game.
Meinen replaced Haole with the bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth inning and gave up an infield single off his glove to Tsukada to cut the Baldwin lead to 8-7.
Meinen then got a strikeout for the first out and two fielder’s choices to get out of the inning.
“For Roy to come in and make the pitches that he made was beyond more than what we could ask for,” Dudoit said. “He has struggled during the season so to come in with the game on the line and make those pitches is a helluva job.”
He had to do it again in the seventh inning. Down to its final out, Punahou got a double from Kirk Terada-Herzer, who went 4-for-4 with two runs scored.
Asa Kurasaki, who hasn’t recorded an out in six trips to the plate this tournament, drew a walk to set up Aina’s final at-bat.
“I thought it was going over (the center fielder’s) head. I thought he hit it as well as he could hit it,” Punahou coach Keenan Sue said. “Most parks that’s gone, but not at UH.”
Terada-Herzer was the second player to record a four-hit game today after ‘Iolani’s Shane Sasaki went 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs in a 12-8 win over Mililani.
The last player to record four hits in a state tournament game was Mid-Pacific’s Tyler Yamaguchi in 2015.
at Les Murakami Stadium
Punahou (13-7) 000 601 0 — 7 13 3
Baldwin (14-1) 510 200 x — 8 10 0
Kyle Uemura, Matt McConnell (4) and Ryan Nishi. Kaipo Haole, Roy Meinen (6) and Cade Kalehuawehe. W—Haole. L—Uemura. S—Meinen.
Leading hitters—Pun: Jake Tsukada 2-4, 3b, 2 RBIs, run; Kirk Terada-Herzer 4-4, 2b, 2 runs; Asa Kurasaki 2-2, 2 bb’s, run, RBI; Ola Aina 2-3, run, RBI. Bald: Chayce Akaka 2-3, bb, 2 runs, 2 sb’s; Haku Dudoit 2 runs; Kalehuawehe 2-3, 3b, 2 RBIs; Dawson Tokishi 2 runs; Anthony Hoopii 2b, 2 RBIs; Nainoa Keahi 2 RBIs.