Asa Kurasaki kept Punahou in the game with his offense and then helped the Buffanblu put away the Chargers at the plate.
The senior third baseman finished a home run shy of the cycle and belted one of two RBI triples in a four-run seventh inning to rally the Buffanblu past Pearl City 6-2 to cap the first day of the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA State Baseball Championships at Les Murakami Stadium.
Kurasaki, who doubled in the third inning to set up Punahou’s first run on a wild pitch, added an RBI single with one out in the fifth inning to tie the game at 2-2.
Sophomore Kalae Harrison gave the Buffanblu their first lead in the seventh inning with an RBI triple and Kurasaki followed with one of his own for a 4-2 advantage. Puanhou scored twice more in the inning as Kurasaki finished 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored.
“He’s been a gamer his entire life,” Punahou coach Keenan Sue said. “He ain’t the biggest kid. He isn’t the strongest kid, but when the chips are down, he tends to rise. He’s always very even-keeled — sometimes we get on him for that because we want him to go harder — but sometimes it works to his advantage in a game like this because the pressure doesn’t get to him.”
Punahou felt some pressure all night against Pearl City starter Cade Halemanu, who pounded the strike zone and kept Punahou in check until the seventh inning.
The Buffanblu won their first game in the state tournament since the 2010 state final that ended a run of seven straight state titles.
Harrison, who finished with a walk, a sacrifice and scored twice, followed Kirk Terada-Herzer‘s leadoff single in the seventh inning with a triple on a hit-and-run call where he was supposed to try to keep the ball on the ground.
“They just kind of rallied up and we got lucky,” Sue said. “The hit-and-run that Kalae hit — I say the best type of hit-and-run is a home run — and that one was a triple. So he didn’t do his job but it was a good mistake to hit it over the right fielder’s head.”
Matt McConnell worked two scoreless innings in relief of Kahi Bisho to pick up the win and exited in the seventh inning at 34 pitches to remain eligible to pitch today.
Bisho kept Punahou in the game despite throwing 83 pitches over the first three innings. He issued five walks and hit a batter but struck out five and allowed just the two runs.
Pearl City’s Christian Pacrem, who had to come in and catch in the third inning when starter Joey Casarez left the game with an injury, walked and scored in the second inning and drove in the Chargers’ other run with an RBI single in the third inning.
Punahou’s win put three ILH teams into the quarterfinals. This is the first time since 2012 three teams from the private-school league qualified for the tournament.
The Buffanblu, who finished third in the ILH, will play No. 1 seed Baldwin in today’s 4 p.m. quarterfinal. ‘Iolani, the ILH runner-up, will play No. 4 seed Mililani at 1 p.m. and ILH champion Mid-Pacific will take on Kailua at 7 p.m.