WAILUKU - Last season, the Mid-Pacific Institute baseball team arrived at the Wally Yonamine Foundation Division I State Championship seeded second, then lost both of its games.
A year later, playing again as the No. 2 seed, the Owls advanced to the state final with a 2-1 win over Campbell on Friday at Maehara Stadium in a battle between the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and Oahu Interscholastic Association champions.
Brent Sakurai needed just 70 pitches to finish a four-hitter, with five strikeouts and no walks, sending MPI into a title-game matchup with Mililani.
Mid Pacific Institute’s Brent Sakurai pitches during the first inning of the Owls’ 2-1 win over Campbell on Friday in a Wally Yonamine Foundation Division I State Championship semifinal at Maehara Stadium.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Mid-Pacific’s Bryce Asao slides under Campbell’s Tryzen Patricio for what proved to be the decisive run in the fourth inning, helping send the Owls to today’s state championship game.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"I didn't feel my best, I'm still kind of a little sick," said Sakurai, one of seven senior starters for the Owls (12-2). "But I trust my team, my team backs me up all the way. It's been that way all season - you can throw anybody on the mound and I can trust my defense. I was pitching to contact."
The Owls have allowed two runs in two tournament games this year, eager to put the 2012 tournament behind them.
"That was probably the worst feeling last year, losing the first game," Sakurai said. "We never wanted to feel that feeling again, so we worked extra hard this year. We wanted it this year."
The Owls took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. Bryce Asao singled home Marcus Doi and later scored on an error during a double-steal attempt.
Asao finished with two hits.
The third-seeded Sabers scored in the sixth. Dewayne Sprinkel and Raymond Pedrina started things with singles, and each advanced on Brannon Okinaka's sacrifice bunt before Jasten Smeigh lofted a sacrifice fly to center field. Sakurai ended the threat by striking out Rayven Kahana.
In the sixth, Pedrina threw out Doi on a laser beam from the outfield to get Tryzen Patricio at home plate to keep Campbell's deficit at one run, but Sakurai finished the game with a perfect seventh.
"We have a veteran team, the only underclassmen are the left fielder and the center fielder," said Owls coach Dunn Muramaru, who has guided four state title teams. "Our entire team that basically plays are seniors, so they know what it feels like from last year when they were all sick and stuff and they lost two straight. So, it's kind of redemption for them."
After a 5-1 win over Waiakea in the quarterfinal round Thursday, Muramaru had a question for his team.
"I asked them: 'Did that feel better than last year?' " Muramaru said. "They all said, 'Yeah.' This is a great bunch of kids, so, what the heck, we will just lay it on the line tomorrow and see what happens."
Sabers sophomore Ian Kahaloa pitched a four-hitter in a game that took just 89 minutes.
"Not too many mistakes, the pitchers threw well," Campbell coach Rory Pico said. "A 2-1 game, good game all-around, 90 minutes, we came up short a little bit."
All three of Kahaloa's walks were to leadoff batters, including to Doi in the fourth.
"He battled all the way, he gave us a chance," Pico said of Kahaloa. "I think they stole that second run that came in. He got into a little bit of trouble with the walks, you know, leadoff walks. Anytime you put guys on base against a team like Mid-Pac, they are going to capitalize eventually."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ian Kahaloa and Tryzen Patricio. Brent Sakurai and Marcus Doi. W-Sakurai. L-Kahaloa.