Punahou, Kamehameha make most of a season cut short

Punahou's Ethan Nagamine, second from right, celebrated with teammates after scoring a run in the seventh inning against Kamehameha in this 2020 matchup. The spring season was cancelled shortly after. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

There was day one of the 2020 baseball season.

Defending state champion Punahou was ready for another tough, unpredictable ride in the ILH. Less than a week into the regular season, it came to an end — possibly — on Saturday afternoon on the diamond of Patsy Mink Central Oahu Regional Park. For days, the future of the spring sports season had become unsettled as the coronavirus, COVID-19, became a pandemic.

Punahou and Kamehameha played spectacular baseball at times on Saturday.

No. 1 Punahou bounced back from a 1-0 loss to No. 5 Saint Louis on Tuesday with a thrilling 13-9 comeback win over No. 7 Kamehameha. Each of Punahou’s starters got at least one hit or one RBI. Senior ace Tyler Shimabukuro, who pitched five innings in the loss to Saint Louis, started this contest and pitched one inning.

Coach Keenan Sue used five more senior hurlers before returning to Shimabukuro in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kamehameha had rallied for a 9-8 lead in the fourth, and now had runners in scoring position.

“We were bridging with Tyler because he takes good care of his arm,” Sue said.

Shimabukuro struck out hot-hitting Tui Ickes and Jameson Hussey, and after retiring the first batter in the sixth, yielded to Koa Eldredge.

“I didn’t expect to come back in at all,” Shimabukuro said. “Coach asked if I could go again. I just said, last game, might as well leave it all out there. That was all adrenaline.”

Eldredge, who signed with BYU to play football and baseball, was sharp right away. Well, maybe not during warmups, where he sent one toss to the backstop after jogging in from center field. The left-hander went the final 1 2/3 innings, striking out four, as Punahou rallied for five runs in the top of the seventh.

“If the season gets resumed, we’re just grateful for every game we have and we get, potentially,” said Eldredge, who had a spectacular, diving catch in right center on a ball hit by Kade Yasui in the first inning.

Kamehameha coach Daryl Kitagawa made a pitching change during the fourth inning. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

The ILH and the rest of the member leagues of the HHSAA announced the suspension of spring sports effective Monday. The ILH is the only league that has a target date — April 13 — for a possible return if circumstances are safe.

“We told them from day one, you control the things you can control, and this is completely out of their control,” Sue said. “They handled it well. It doesn’t mean they weren’t upset about it, but like they have done their whole careers at Punahou, they always bounce back. This particular group of guys are easily the most competitive players I’ve ever coached or been on a team with my entire career. I love these guys. They were seventh graders when we came into the program, so we’ve all kind of grown up together. We’ve made mistakes together. We’ve grown and really had a lot of memories together. I’m super happy for them.”

The feeling of finality isn’t familiar for high school seniors. Eldredge took the mound in that sixth inning and promptly rifled a warm-up pitch to the backstop. Shimabukuro and Kamehameha ace Javyn Pimental admitted to having extra adrenaline on Saturday. Eldredge was no different.

“Every time I go up to the mound, I have to have the confidence that I’m the best player on the field. My warmups, I was trying to throw the ball as hard as I can, settling down so I can throw strikes in the game,” he said.

Senior catcher Matt Nishimura put his knowledge of Punahou’s senior pitchers to work. Seven Buffanblu in seven innings.

“It’s fun. You’ve always got to be on your toes because there’s always a new person, so you’ve got to know how to adjust to the pitcher,” Nishimura said. “I’ve been catching these guys since I was in seventh grade. I know what they have and what they bring to the table, so I was just ready for the opportunity. Each pitcher is different. I have different cues for each guy.”

Punahou will continue to work out, though it won’t be on campus. The same goes for Kamehameha. Pimental, the Arizona signee, struck out seven in four innings, allowing two earned runs. Spring break and the real possibility of doing school remotely from home would be new, but the carryover is no baseball. At least, none on campus.

“Everyone who’s not playing sports, (they’re) stoked. Stoked. Everyone who is playing sports, we’re all pretty low on life right now,” Pimental said. “Yesterday, coach told us we can’t work out on campus.”

Pimental and his teammates expect to find fields to practice on. Organizing a workout might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but one Warrior is willing to cobble it together.

“I’ll run practice,” catcher Vince Venenciano said. “Nothing is going to change. Just because there’s a virus and you can’t go to school, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to work out every day, all 27 of us.”

Punahou’s Koa Eldredge made a diving catch to get Kamehameha’s Kade Yasui out during the first inning. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Makana Murashige, Punahou’s senior third baseman, had a magical state tourney with a key home run. He was 3-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored on Saturday. His final hit, possibly, was a bunt single that helped fuel the five-run seventh-inning rally. Eldredge followed him with another perfectly-placed bunt, the result of the Buffanblu spending 20 minutes each day working on bunting.

Power and precision. A season far too short.

“It is what it is, but the thing I appreciate is we took the circumstances and we made the most of it,” Murashige said. “We all bonded together. It was crazy.”

Punahou (1-1) 221 030 5 — 13 15 1
Kamehameha (1-1) 020 700 0 — 9 10 2
Tyler Shimabukuro, Ben McConnell (2), Dane Neves (3), Reyn Kawasaki (4), Royce Katsura (4), Shiya Matsushita (5), Shimabukuro (5), Koa Eldredge (6) and Matt Nishimura. Javyn Pimental, Casey Kitagawa (5) and Vince Venenciano. W—Eldredge. L—Kitagawa.
Leading hitters—Punahou: Kalae Harrison 3-4, double, RBI, run, walk; Aaron Tom 2-4, double, 2 runs; Makana Murashige 3-3, 3 runs, 2 RBIs, walk; Eldredge 3-4, double, 2 runs, RBI, SB; Ethan Nagamine 3-4, double, 2 RBIs, run; Nishimura 2-4, double, 3 RBIs, 2 runs. Kamehameha: Beau Sylvester 2-4, triple, RBI, run, walk; Tui Ickes 3-4, double, 2 RBIs, run; Jameson Hussey 2-3, 2 runs, walk; Paa Elarionoff 1-3, 2 runs, RBI, walk; Kobe Iwai 2-3, 3 RBIs.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiprepworld@staradvertiser.com.