There was concern on Kahi Kaanoi’s face.
It wasn’t quite worry, but the first-year Kamehameha baseball coach isn’t comfortable with the pattern of late for his title-contending team.
“It seems like our errors and walks come back to bite us. It’s happened a lot in these last three or four games,” he said after Mid-Pacific rallied for a 5-2 win at Damon Field on a sunny Monday afternoon.
The win improved MPI’s mark to 10-2 and set the Warriors back. Kamehameha is now 7-4-1, and with three games left in the regular season, it would take a major slide by the front-running Owls, as well as Punahou and ‘Iolani, for the Warriors to have a shot at first place.
The Warriors led early, 1-0, but three errors derailed their chances. That left Li‘i Pontes with the loss even though he gave up just four hits over six innings. Three of MPI’s five runs were unearned. Pontes didn’t help himself by walking leadoff batters twice — both scored runs — but it wasn’t much different for MPI’s Shion Matsushita.
The right-handed side-armer gave up four hits, just like Pontes, and struck out three, and walked three – just like his counterpart. He also hit three batters. But he gave up just two unearned runs. Timing was the difference.
With the game tied at 2, Pontes faced Wyatt Young with Cale Yoshino at second base. Two fastballs, two strikes on the inside edge. Pontes seemed to make some of his best pitches against the Owls’ best hitter. The count was 2-2.
“I was looking for a fastball inside,” Young recalled. “But he threw a slider.”
That pitch hung just a bit.
“I kept my hands back,” said Young, who met the pitch and sent it into the right-center gap.
Yoshino scored the go-ahead run on the play.
“Li‘i did a great job mixing his pitches,” Kaanoi said. “He had (Young) set up inside. It’s a learning experience for him.”
Now Kamehameha is behind the 8-ball, so to speak. Mid-Pacific is in the driver’s seat. There are three state-tournament berths available to the ILH in baseball, so it won’t be the end of the world for the teams that don’t finish first. There’s enough time to keep sharpening those tools, to make just one more play at the plate, on the mound, on the diamond — and eke out the wins it takes to get to the big dance.
Owls coach Dunn Muramaru wasn’t thrilled about his team’s three errors, but marveled at the range and arm of Young at shortstop.
“Eighty percent of shortstops would have an error on that play,” he said of a key play deep in the hole.
Of course, it took some help. Cameron Ching, the first baseman, had three major digs on great stops — and tough throws — by his infielders.
“That was a tough play, that’s what you call a trouble-ground ball,” Young said. “Cameron saved some errors.”
As for the standings, the Owls aren’t looking far ahead.
“Every win feels good, but we’re just paying attention to our next game. That’s what happened against St. Francis. We took them lightly,” Young said. “It’s not like us to have three errors, but like coach says, a good team wins even when it doesn’t play well.”
Not long after the game, Muramaru was a busy bee on his phone, checking some fresh news. He was grinning ear to ear.
“Isiah’s going to the big leagues,” he said, referring to former MPI All-State shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Kiner-Falefa, who has switched to catcher after a career playing middle infield, is on the roster at Triple-A Round Rock. The Dallas News reported that Kiner-Falefa was pulled from his game after an injury to Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor.
“All around, this has been a good day,” Muramaru said.
But within a blink, bad news. The coach refreshed his screen. Son Cal Muramaru’s Puget Sound team saw its 6-1 lead dissipate. Willamette defeated Puget Sound 8-6. Muramaru is batting .409, but hasn’t played since early March. No matter. Dad was cheering them on.
“That knocks them out,” the father said.
Mid-Pacific’s busy week resumes on Wednesday against Hanalani at Patsy Mink Central Oahu Regional Park. The Owls then play Maryknoll on Thursday and Saint Louis on Friday.
Kamehameha will meet Damien on Friday at Ala Wai, then St. Francis on Saturday at CORP.