Punahou rises: Big Blue Bombers just believe

Punahou's Eri Mizuguchi finished 3-for-4 with a double, run scored, and two RBIs to help the Buffanblu knock off three-time defending state champion Campbell to reach tonight's state final. Photo by Jerry Campany/Star-Advertiser.

The run is done for Campbell.

Punahou got steady pitching from ace Kennedy Ishii en route to an 11-3 win over three-time defending state champion Campbell on Thursday night at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. The ILH runner-up will face Leilehua for the state crown tonight.

Ishii was consistent and clutch against a great contact-hitting team. She seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. Again.

“I think it’s just focusing on hitting the spots, not trying to do too much on the mound and trust in my defense behind me,” Ishii said. “I was feeling comfortable, I think my curve was pretty good. He (Coach Boy Eldredge) called a lot of those on the outside corner. And my change.”

Eldredge and catcher Janell Sato shared pitch-calling responsibilities and extracted some of Ishii’s best stuff on the big stage.

“I trusted what pitch was called. I’m pretty sure it’s Coach Boy. I had to trust he knew where to pitch and I just had to hit my spot,” Ishii said.

Eldredge had his ace dig into the bag of tricks this time.

“Actually, we added in a pitch today that we haven’t really been using all year. We’ve been keeping it simple and we extended a little bit today knowing it was a good hitting team. She stepped up and threw the extra pitch really well, got some strikes out of it,” Eldredge said. “She kept working on it in the pen throughout the year.”

Not one Punahou player had played in a state tourney until this week, and they’ve now won three games in a row. Punahou overpowered Kapolei 10-2, Lahainaluna 10-4, and now, an eight-run margin of victory over the OIA champs and three-time defending state champions.

“The biggest thing for me is just the tradition, playing this three-time state champion. We told the girls if we just play our best, we give ourselves a chance,” said Eldredge, who has been part of baseball state championships at Punahou.

The Buffanblu have won one state crown, in 2013 under former coach Bobby Makahilahila.

“The secret this year is every one of those girls bought in,” Eldredge said. “If they’re battling against change, but this is a great team of girls. They listen, they take notes and that’s what’s helped us.”

Ishii recalled a talk with her coaches recently about her approach.

“It definitely helped. He made me realize I was trying to do too much with my pitches, putting too much spin on it,” she said. “I just had to pitch to the glove and it’ll work itself out. The defense will make plays.”

The Buffanblu continued their offensive onslaught, piling up 14 hits.

“We’re pumped. Obviously, the biggest difference is that the coaching staff has changed, so we’ve worked on building a new program, going back to the fundamentals, working on the small things and believing we can beat any team out here,” Ishii said. “We know that Leilehua is a very good team. We’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game tomorrow, go hard from the beginning and make the plays when we need to.”

Punahou scored two in the top of the first on a single up the middle by Kawai Mielke, scoring Maya Matsubara and Ishii.

Campbell answered with two runs in the bottom half of the first. Anastasia Iosia’s infield single brought Trinity Favela home. With the bases loaded, Zoie Recolan walked, scoring Alesia Ranches to tie the game.

Punahou scored a run in the third to regain the lead. A Campbell error set up a run-scoring single by D’Asha Saiki. Eri Mizuguchi’s run made it 3-2.

The Buffanblu tacked on two runs in the top of the third. Mielke walked, stole second base, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Bri Alejo‘s grounder was muffed by the second baseman, Favela, then overthrown to first. Alejo later scored on a two-out single to center by Matsubara, extending the lead to 5-2.

Again, Punahou inched further ahead with a run in the top of the fifth. Martinez was hit by pitch with one out, Alejo singled and Mizuguchi doubled to deep center, scoring Martinez for a four-run cushion. Alejo later scores on a sac fly by Matsubara and it’s 7-2.

In the sixth, Saiki led off with a single and Bailey Akimseu launched a towering shot over the center-field wall, her third homer in as many state-tourney games.

They added two more runs in the sixth on RBI singles by Mizuguchi and Matsubara for an 11-2 lead.
Campbell got a bit of momentum going in the bottom of the sixth when Nunes singled, Favela reached base on an infield error and Ranches singled to right, scoring Nunes. But Iosia grounded into a 6-3 double play to end the inning.

Division I

Game #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1May 8Kealakehe vs. Pearl CityPC, 19-4 (5)Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
2May 8Baldwin vs. LeilehuaLei, 12-1 (5)Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
3May 8Roosevelt vs. MililaniMil, 6-1Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
4May 8Punahou vs. KapoleiPun, 10-2Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
5*May 9Baldwin vs. RooseveltRoos, 20-1 (4)Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
6May 9(4) Lahainaluna vs. PunahouPun, 10-4Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
7May 9(3) Waiakea vs. MililaniMil, 4-3Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
8May 9(2) Maryknoll vs. LeilehuaLei, 10-5Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
9May 9(1) Campbell vs. Pearl CityCamp, 10-7Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
10*May 10Kealakehe vs. KapoleiKapo, 7-0Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
11*May 10Pearl City vs. LahainalunaPC, 12-8McKinley
12*May 10Maryknoll vs. WaiakeaMryk, 12-0 (6)McKinley
13May 10Leilehua vs. MililaniLei, 13-0 (5)Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
14May 10Campbell vs. PunahouPun, 11-3Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
15*May 11Roosevelt vs. KapoleiRoos, 4-2McKinley
16*May 11Pearl City vs. MaryknollTie, 1-1 (5)McKinley
17*May 11Campbell vs. MililaniMil, 2-0McKinley
18May 11Punahou vs. LeilehuaLei, 14-4 (6)Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium
* — consolation


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