No, the Damien Monarchs aren’t a clone of Mid-Pacific.
But there’s just a faint resemblance, and it goes beyond the light gray uniforms each team wore in the second-ranked Owls’ 13-3, five-inning win on Tuesday afternoon. Like MPI, the Monarchs have stressed defensive fundamentals in their rise to prominence in Division II.
Damien won the ILH D-II crown last season, outlasting St. Francis in a marathon playoff run and series, before losing to Kauai in the state final. The Monarchs were solid defensively against MPI with just one error, but in a sense, they may be just a pitcher or two away from becoming competitive with the longtime powerhouses in ILH D-I.
That day isn’t here, and it will take time if that ever comes to fruition. But MPI coach Dunn Muramaru knows a thing or two about building a program into prominence. Damien, which is 4-1 against ILH D-II opponents, began its D-I menu on Tuesday.
“If they only play against Division II, they don’t get better. They need to be challenged,” Muramaru said. “They swing the bat well. Some of those were rockets. They’re scary and they’re a good ball club.”
Damien coach Timo Donahue thought he was hearing a description of another team.
“That sounds like them,” the Monarchs coach said. “For us, it’s good that we play (Mid-Pacific) right off the bat. They play baseball how it should be played.”
The Monarchs did get some wood, or composite material, on the ball against MPI starting pitcher Michael China, who also walked five in three innings. But they didn’t get a run across until the fourth inning, down 9-0. China did enough to keep Damien’s bats off-target.
“That pitcher did a number on us. He mixes it up really well,” Donahue said of the left-hander.
With the win, Mid-Pacific improved to 6-1 and a showdown with co-leader Kamehameha looms next.
“It’s great. We tied last year’s win total,” said China, whose last name is pronounced CHEE-na. “Every game is significant toward our main goals.”
Muramaru emphasized the importance of getting the job done, each and every one.
“He’s right. I have to get outs,” China said. “I don’t really care about strikeouts. I just want to my team back in the dugout.”
At Damon Field
Damien (4-2) 000 12 — 3 7 1
MPI (6-1) 432 4x — 13 9 1
Kaysen Kajiwara, Bryce Uyeno (1), Kaycee Natividad (4) and Shiloh Kaeo. Michael China, Matthew Valencia (4) and MacKenzie Higuchi. W—China. L—Kajiwara.
Leading hitters—DMS: Akila Arecchi 1-3, RBI; Kaeo 1-2, walk; Pomai Kim 2-3, run. MPI: Micah Pi 1-2, RBI, 2 walks, SB; Jacob Yoshino 2-3, triple, double, 4 RBIs, run, HBP; Kyle Layugan 1-2, HR, 2 RBIs, run, walk; Jett Uechi 2-2, 2 runs, HBP.