Jobs were won, jobs were lost.
Jobs were won back. The internal competition for starting roles, contributing roles, any kind of role has been part of the machinery that makes this year’s Punahou baseball team intriguing. And even at 12-9, they are probably, as Mid-Pacific coach Dunn Muramaru says, the most dangerous team in the state.
With a 5-2 win over Saint Louis on Thursday, the Buffanblu booked their tickets to fly off-island to the state tourney on Maui. The win was about defense (just one error), pitching (5 1/3 combined scoreless innings by Noah Goss and Riley Guieb) and hitting depth.
It’s not often that the top four batters in a lineup fail to score while their team wins, especially in a make-or-break showdown. It’s probably just as rare for three pinch hitters to rack up consecutive singles in as many at-bats. That’s what Mason Asato, Codey Kitagawa and Jerick Nomura did during a pivotal four-run fourth inning that gave the Buffanblu the lead.
From top to bottom, there’s simply no complacency for this team. Then again, it’s what Coach Keenan Sue expects. His game plan means Punahou’s best defensive players are on the field while some potent bats bide their time in the dugout, awaiting opportunity.
“We’re a lot closer now, trusting in each other. We’re trusting the process,” said Goss, who struck out five, walked three and just two hits — both infield singles in 4 1/3 innings.
“My fastball was working and my curve was working, too. I didn’t really throw my change-up,” added Goss, who throws two different fastballs.
Catcher Logan Williams and center fielder Cole Cabrera each went 3-for-4 to spark a 12-hit attack.
“It’s all on who wants it more,” said Williams, who had a triple, double and single. “I was zoning in on the fastball. They made mistakes and left it down the middle.”
Second-year head coach Keenan Sue and his staff have preached about the merits of a focused mental approach all season.
“The hard part about the ILH is it’s really hard to rise in the moment,” Sue said. “It’s really exceptional for guys to be trained for that, guys like Goss and (Mid-Pacific’s Alex) Oley. You can only perform according to how you train.”
That would include Williams, who had his biggest performance on the biggest night of the season.
“Logan was big today,” Sue added.
Now the Buffanblu are in position as an unseeded team in the state tourney to make a big splash at Iron Maehara Stadium.
“That’s what Dook (former head coach Eric Kadooka) did. I think four of the seven straight (state) titles they won through the back door,” Sue said of Punahou’s amazing state title run from 2004-10. “Eric always said to keep improving every day. There’s still a little of that mojo left that Pal (Eldredge), Eric and Kenny (Harrison) established.”
The Buffanblu don’t plan on leveling off.
“We’ve just got to practice and get ready for states. Anything’s possible,” Goss said. “We believe.”