No. 3 Mid-Pacific was powered by its battery in a 5-0 win over a No. 5 Punahou at Ala Wai field on Saturday, a game in which the Owls (2-0) benefited from both experience and youth.
Michael China was masterful against the Buffanblu (1-1), tossing a four-hit shutout in just 73 pitches while striking out two and walking none. The senior pitched behind a stout defense that had no errors and made each play look routine.
“Just throwing strikes, trusting my defense, trusting myself in throwing those pitches and trusting the location I throw it in,” said China, who stifled the Buffanblu with his mix of speeds and locations, all from the same arm slot. “I can’t do anything once I release the pitch.”
At the plate, MPI touched Punahou for 13 hits, including nine off of starter Kahi Bisho, who was done after four innings. Bisho, a Kansas signee, finished with one strikeout and two walks after 74 pitches.
Four of the Owls’ hits came from catcher Mackenzee Higuchi, who has already earned cleanup hitting duties as a freshman. Higuchi was a perfect 4-for-4 for the day with a double and an RBI.
“I had to work hard during the offseason and to get here feels like a really big accomplishment to me,” he said. “It’s been pretty surprising. I was expecting something a little different. It feels different but at least (Higuchi’s teammates) are happy and include me.”
Despite the age difference between the two, the connection is strong between China and Higuchi. The two have known each other for years, and it showed on Saturday. Higuchi was entrusted to call the game behind the plate and China rarely shook him off.
“I’m pretty close with him,” Higuchi said. “I knew him for a while now so I know what he can do.”
“I knew this guy since 10, 11 years old,” China said of his catcher. “I trusted him and he trusted me and we completed a game with no runs.”
MPI coach Dunn Muramaru was pleased with China’s performance, while Punahou coach Keenan Sue thinks his team can take something away from the loss.
“Any time you’re gonna throw multiple pitches for strikes in this league, you’re gonna keep guys off balance. He did a really good job,” Sue said. “What I really appreciated about his approach was he’s an absolute competitor.
“He’s out there throwing strikes, he getting his team riled up, he’s at the plate swinging the bat hard. That’s how you want to play the game. I think they should be proud of that and our team has something to learn from that.”
Last year’s Owls missed out on a state tournament berth for the first time since 2009. This year’s team is striving to end its season as differently as possible.
“We have a statement to make,” China said. “Last season was one of the worst seasons ever and we just have to prove that it was just that season.”