WAILUKU >> Keenan Sue likes execution.
Fundamentals. The Punahou coach got plenty from his Buffanblu on Friday night in a 10-2 semifinal win over BIIF champion Hilo at Iron Maehara Stadium.
“Everybody has a similar game. In Hawaii, we don’t have a lot of really big, strong guys. We’ve got to put the ball in play, hard line drives, ground balls, make the defense work. I think the teams that have been doing that in this tournament have been advancing,” Sue said. “Tomorrow, the story is going to be like any other game this week, it’s going to be pitching, defense and timely hitting.”
The Buffanblu (24-5-1 overall) played error-free defense. Landon Carter went six strong innings with eight strikeouts and three walks. And with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, Makana Murashige jacked a grand slam off Hilo’s Logan Wilson, opening the lead to 7-0.
“He threw me the same pitch he threw me (before), a high-in fastball. My dad (Randy) always told me you can’t be late on the fastball,” Murashige said.
The senior third baseman credited this teammates, and especially pitchers Carter and Matt McConnell, who was the winner in Thursday’s quarterfinal against Kaiser.
“Landon Carter, he threw a hell of a game. Got to appreciate that guy. Matt McConnell, too, yesterday, oh my God. That’s what’s keeping us in the game. Those guys are lights out. When we have performances like that, it’s easier for us hitters to have some confidence because they shut it down,” he said.
Carter had a two-hitter through four innings, and when his team opened the margin to seven runs, he kept things basic — even after Hilo chipped away for two runs in the fifth.
“I knew I didn’t have to be perfect. I needed to let my defense work. I’m not a super high-energy guy. I’m more calm and try to stay poised out there. It’s so intense in the moment, it brings everything out of you. You’ve got to leave everything on the field,” he said.
Sue trusted his gut, stuck with his normal pitching rotation, and Punahou is now in the final.
“Landon and Matt, the seniors, we want to give those guys the ball because it means the most to them. This is the end of the line for them. They’ve had a career here with the guys they love, their brothers that they’ve shared blood, sweat and tears with,” Sue said. “For them to be able to come through like that when all their guys are counting on them, I’m very happy for them.”
Punahou last won a state baseball crown in 2010, at the end of the seven-year title run under then-coach Eric Kadooka. The Buffanblu will face defending state champion Baldwin or Mililani on Saturday.
“Two good teams. They’re both bulldogs,” Murashige said. “They both have talent, they both want to be there. You can’t take anyone lightly. You never know what can happen. We’ll give them our best. They’ll give us their best. That’s all we can do, see how it turns out.”