Even in the aftermath of a close loss, Kamehameha coach Kahi Kaanoi enjoyed the chance to see his team play in one of college baseball’s jewels when it comes to home fields.
There’s nothing quite like Les Murakami Stadium, where No. 4 Punahou pulled out a 4-3 win over No. 3 Kamehameha on Tuesday night.
“I love playing here. It’s a lot of fun,” said Kaanoi, the former Warrior ace and MLB pitcher. “It’s a great atmosphere. You could tell by how hard they were throwing that our guys love it.”
On a night when big hits were rare and every pitcher had plenty to offer, Punahou wound up closing the gap. The Buffanblu, scoring on a passed ball in the bottom of the seventh, are now 6-2 in ILH play, while Kamehameha dropped to 6-2-1.
Punahou rode the fire-balling Kahi Bisho for 4 1/3 innings. The tall right-hander mixed his fastball and curve to pile up six strikeouts and five walks, allowing one run on two hits. Then Kyle Uemura took the mound and got the win, throwing 2 2/3 innings with one run allowed on two hits. He struck out two and walked none, consistently challenging the Warriors and sometimes jamming them inside.
“Kahi tends to work deeper in the count. That happens when you’ve got a big fastball and a tough curve,” Buffanblu coach Keenan Sue said. “Kyle has great conviction in his pitches and himself. His best pitch is the pitch he’s committed to.”
It was enough to outlast the efforts of Kamehameha’s Javyn Pimental (one earned run, three hits, five strikeouts, one walk in 4 1/3 innings) and Kamahao Arita (one run, three hits, one walk in 1 2/3 innings). Shortstop Li‘i Pontes took the mound in the bottom of the seventh with the game tied at 3, but after issuing a walk and single, the passed ball with Jake Tsukada at the plate turned out to be the game-ending play.
It was a thriller fitting for the state’s premier baseball facility — though Maui’s Iron Maehara Stadium is as homey and satisfying in many ways — and the ILH will return to Les Murakami Stadium in just two days. Keith Amemiya, the former HHSAA executive director who organized the effort to play ILH games in the stadium again, is hoping for a robust turnout. The hope is that they can break even, which would require a few hundred in attendance.
“Roughly 200 or 300 (fans) would do it. For Thursday’s doubleheader, it would be good to have several hundred,” Amemiya said. “Hopefully, the fans will come out.”