1 game at a time

LIHU‘E — The opposing team is different. So is the location. It’s the approach that will be the same. That’s what Waimea baseball head coach Michael Rita said the Menehune’s strategy will be heading into today’s opening round game of the Wally Yonomine Foundation Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association Baseball State tournament.

Editor’s note: Follow the Menehune live at www.thegardenisland.com during Wednesday’s game to join a live-chat with Sports Editor Tyson Alger.

LIHU‘E — The opposing team is different. So is the location. It’s the approach that will be the same. That’s what Waimea baseball head coach Michael Rita said the Menehune’s strategy will be heading into today’s opening round game of the Wally Yonomine Foundation Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association Baseball State tournament.

With the No. 1 seeded Menehune (8-5) hitting the field against Waialua (7-6) at Hans L’Orange Field on O‘ahu, Rita said the Menehune have been practicing under the same mantra of what got them to the tournament.

“We’ve been doing the same things we’ve done, which is working hard on defense and pitching,” Rita said.

The Menehune used that same strategy to beat the Kaua‘i Red Raiders 3-1 in the KIF championship game. In that game, Mikeo Rita — aided by stellar defense — pitched a complete game two-hitter to garner the Menehune a trip to the state tournament.

Teams from the KIF have won the Division II state tournament three out of the last four seasons, and in a nod to the strength of the KIF, the HHSAA awarded the Menehune the tournament’s top-seed over schools with more impressive records — such as the No. 2 seeded Waipahu Marauders and its 12-0 record. Rita said the Menehune are comfortable with being the favorites, although he said the team can’t look past its first-round matchup against eighth-ranked Waialua.

“It feels good to be number one but we got to play each game and take it one at a time,” he said. “They’re number eight but we can’t take them lightly.”

Waimea, the 2010 Division II state champions, return several players from that title team, Rita said, and those players have shared leadership and their experiences with some of the younger players. The state tournament can be hectic with traveling, hotels and playing in unfamiliar stadiums and Rita said he’s leaning on his veterans to keep the team focused.

“We have good leadership and they’re talking to the young ones and bonding together,” he said. “We have to be mentally and physically ready the moment we get on the plane. We have to be ready to play.”

The Menehune have the added pressure of trying to match their female counterparts. The Waimea softball team completed its undefeated season with a 12-4 win over Nanakuli in the Division II softball championship game.

“We’re excited for them and congratulate them,” Rita said. “Of course we want to be state champions. We have to win Game 1 first.”

Waimea takes on Waialua today at 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on the radio on 98.1 FM.

• Tyson Alger, sports writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or by emailing talger@ thegardenisland.com. Follow him on twitter.com/tysonalger.

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