LIHUE — During the second round of last year’s state tournament, the Red Raiders lost by 90 feet.
Head coach Hank Ibia said he does not want that to happen again.
“We didn’t execute in that second game. If we made a couple of bunts here and there, it would have been all right,” Ibia said during Friday’s practice at Vidinha Stadium. “We lost in the last inning, and we had a man on third base. … We were 90 feet short. This year, just don’t be 90 feet short.”
Kauai High School’s varsity baseball team, winner of three consecutive Kauai Interscholastic Federation championships, will be on the Big Island next week for the Wally Yonamine Foundation Baseball Championships – Division II state tournament, which begins Thursday.
Tournament seedings and schedules were released by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association on Friday. Kauai High is seeded No. 2 and will play Radford of the Oahu Interscholastic Federation in the opening round.
The game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Francis Wong Stadium in Hilo.
“We’re just trying to get our heads geared up for states,” said Red Raiders senior infielder and pitcher Doug Miyasato. “All the teams that are going to be up there are high-caliber. We have to play our game and do what our plan is — just play the game and not get too ahead of ourselves.”
Ibia said he doesn’t know anything about the team’s upcoming opponent, but isn’t focused on that. Instead, he’s worrying about getting his own guys ready.
“One of the things I tell the coaches is, ‘We got to worry about what we do here.’ If we start worrying too much about the other guys, it becomes a problem,” Ibia said. “If we do what we do here, and we execute what we do, I don’t care who’s across there.”
Miyasato also remembers last year’s loss in the tournament’s second round. The Red Raiders, then seeded No. 4, lost to the eventual Division II champion — Maryknoll School of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. Miyasato was that runner on third base in the last inning.
“It was kind of heartbreaking. We had our really good batters at the plate, but the pitchers got the best of it,” Miyasato said. “It just didn’t fall our way.”
Kauai went on to place third in last year’s tournament, defeating Kamehameha Schools – Hawaii of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation in the third place game, 4-3.
Kauai High was 11-1 in the KIF regular season this year, going 5-1 in the second round, en route to winning its third straight league title.
“I’m pretty excited. I just want to show everybody how Kauai baseball is. I’m just ready to play,” said Red Raiders senior outfielder Gunner Vallatini. “The goal is to win it all, and we’ve been working hard.”
Ibia said while he hasn’t changed the routine in practice preparing for the state tournament, the team has worked on some new things at the same time in hopes of being ready for situations the team could encounter that it didn’t see during the regular season.
“Just going over some things that we didn’t use during the season — some defensive situations. But it’s mainly the same,” Ibia said. “Just working a little harder. Added more running to get them mentally stronger. That’s about it.”
Red Raiders senior outfielder Keala Iwasaki said possibly winning it all gives him incentive to perform better than last year.
“I’m really motivated from the past two years. That loss has bugged me through the whole season until now,” Iwasaki said. “Everyday, I think about that state championship and that trophy. For all of us, it’s about putting it together as a team.”
Miyasato added he remembers when his older brother Dalston won a Division II state baseball championship with Kauai High in 2008. He hopes to win one for himself.
“We just have to play loose. We can’t tense up just because it’s a state game,” he said. “It’s just another game, and we have to play ball.”
Ibia said if the team can stay mentally sharp and take advantage of opportune moments, his squad can make a deep run.
“They’ve been hitting the ball well, and pitching well. If we stay with that, we’ll be OK,” the coach said. “Overall, it’s just about making the right plays at the right time. If we execute our situation, we’ll be OK.”