When the week started, six of the seven Division I baseball teams in the ILH were within a game of first place.
Sure, it’s still somewhat early in the season, but by week’s end, teams will be close to halfway through the regular season.
A slate of three games in five days for most teams this week provides an opportunity for schools to separate themselves from the rest of the league.
No. 6 Punahou seems on the verge of doing exactly that following a 12-1 win over No. 2 ‘Iolani on Tuesday at the Raiders’ field.
Kyle Uemura struck out seven in a complete-game win and all nine spots in the Punahou lineup were responsible for at least one run as the Buffanblu (5-1) took over sole possession of first place with their fourth straight win.
Punahou can really break away from the pack with a win Saturday over Kamehameha, which played ‘Iolani to a 10-10 tie on Tuesday and beat Saint Louis 3-2 on Thursday.
“There’s parity and you can not take anyone for granted,” Punahou coach Keenan Sue said. “We have to come out prepared to win every pitch of every inning of every game and if we have that philosophy, we’ll have a shot.”
Outside of one pitch from Uemura that was deposited over the center-field fence by ‘Iolani’s Cade Yonamine in the fourth inning, Punahou did exactly that against the second-ranked Raiders (2-2-1).
The Buffanblu staked Uemura to a 3-0 lead in the first inning when its first three batters all came around to score.
Uemura, who battled for a win in a 5-1 victory over Saint Louis last week, had full command of his pitches against the Raiders, getting ahead in counts and putting batters away with his off-speed stuff.
The right-hander allowed four hits and allowed only four runners to reach second base.
“Today my changeup was on and I could spot up my fastball,” Uemura said. “We’ve worked a lot on our hitting recently and changed our approach a little bit and something worked.”
Once the dominant force in baseball with seven straight state titles from 2004 to 2010, Punahou has qualified for the state tournament only once since 2012.
(UPDATE: Punahou made the state tournament in 2016).
Sue, who took over as head coach in 2015, has some depth on the mound with Uemura, Kahi Bisho, Duke Clemens and Landon Carter all showing the capability of performing well.
Punahou pounded out 12 hits in five innings against ‘Iolani and has scored 48 runs during its current winning streak. Combine all of that and there’s a sense of confidence growing that this club has what it takes to outlast the rest of the league and perhaps, get even further.
“We try to prepare as well as we can in practice and then just come out here and have fun, and I think they have really taken that to heart,” Sue said of his team. “What I’ve noticed coming out for a game that we haven’t had in years past is just kind of a relaxed confidence, and I think that comes from proper preparation.”