WAILUKU — The Baldwin High School baseball team is the standard bearer for the Maui Interscholastic League, lining up roster after roster loaded with talent, year after year.
The Bears showed once again that they are the class of the MIL with their 12th straight pennant, clinched after a 10-0, six-inning, walk-off mercy-rule win over Kamehameha Maui in the league Division I tournament finale on Tuesday at Maehara Stadium.
Baldwin head coach Craig Okita told Kade Fujioka’s grandfather Richard that the junior right-hander would become a force for the Bears this season, and Kade Fujioka is now the unquestioned No. 1 starter on the mound after his two-hitter stifled the Warriors on Tuesday night.
“Very blessed to have this opportunity and I’m very grateful,” Fujioka said. “I worked hard for this and our three starters — me, Kadon Antolin and Bryson Nakamoto — are all capable, but I’m just grateful to be able to be in the position I’m in.”
Fujioka admitted “it feels good” to be the No. 1 starter.
“It doesn’t just happen,” he said. “Obviously a lot of hard work and preparation has gone into it. It just feels good.”
The Bears broke on top with four runs in the bottom of the second inning. Isaac Imamura, the No. 8 hitter, had an RBI single and Nakamoto was hit by a pitch to drive in another run.
The Bears pushed the lead to 5-0 in the fourth when Nakamoto stole home.
Caleb Miyake-Matsubayashi drove in Baldwin’s sixth run with an RBI single to right field in the fifth. A two-run single by Imamura pushed the lead to 8-0.
Fujioka walked with the bases loaded to make it 9-0 before Levi Maddela grounded out to end the uprising.
Kuhio Aloy led off the Bears’ sixth with a single to right field, Douglas Mortensen walked and pinch hitter Santana Sebastian grounded into a fielder’s choice, leaving runners at first and third with one out.
Christian Dominno flew out to right for the second out and Branson Cajudoy stepped to the plate before the walk-off mercy-rule run scored on a wild pitch.
The Bears have overcome a 1-6-1 preseason to wrap up a 12-2 run to the MIL crown and are ranked No. 1 in the state by both scoringlive.com and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
They have some unfinished business next week at the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA state tournament on Oahu. They lost a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to Waiakea in last season’s state championship game at Maehara Stadium.
“I’m very excited, I mean we owe it to the seniors last year who took us under their wing and mentored us, so we owe to them as well as the seniors this year,” Fujioka said. “So, I’m excited.”
Okita gave credit to his impressive list of assistant coaches.
“At the beginning of the season, man, we had some bumps along the road,” Okita said. “So, this is very satisfying. This is very, very satisfying. The coaches, I’ve got to give credit to all the coaches. I always said we’ve got the best coaches and all of them deserve credit.”
The Baldwin assistant coaches include Dean Yamashita, Eddie Espiritu, Kimo Higa, Leo Tomita, Edison Sakata, Jamie Aloy and Isaiah Maddela.
“We’ve put in a lot, a lot of work from last year and it’s so satisfying to win this, especially when a lot of guys counted us out early in the season,” Okita said. “So, we’re going to celebrate this one tonight and try to prepare and do the best we can for the state tournament next week.”
“They are a great program, but we cannot give up free outs, we cannot give up free bases, not against a team like that,” Kamehameha Maui coach Shane Dudoit said of Baldwin.
The Warriors (8-6) now face Maui High in a second-place playoff game today for the MIL’s final spot to the state tournament. Kamehameha Maui beat Maui High 8-1 in the MIL semifinals on Saturday.
“Every game is a tough game, it’s not just one game, you know, everything is tough in this league,” Dudoit said. “That’s what you practice for, you know? Bring it on, let’s go.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KS Maui 000 000– 0 2 0
Baldwin 040 141–10 9 0
Micah Torres, Kaimi Kahalekai (2), Kainoa Arakawa (6) and Duke Aloy; Kade Fujioka and Anu Chaves. W–Fujioka. L–Torres.
Leading hitters–Baldwin, Kuhio Aloy 2-3, 2 runs.