Damien Diamond Dynasty: Monarchs Go Back-to-Back, win HHSAA Division 2 Baseball State Championship
BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAY 6, 2023
HONOLULU — Funny how stretches in life can mirror each other when least expected.
The Damien Monarchs, the lone team in Division 2 for ILH schools and defending D2 state champions, came back to beat the Kauai Red Raiders, 6-5, to win the 2023 Wally Yonamine Foundation / HHSAA Division 2 Baseball state championship Friday night.
Much like the season for the Monarchs that saw the ILH squad lose 11 in a row after winning its season opener, the D2 state championship game did not start exactly as planned for Damien.
The Monarchs scratched an early run across in the first inning, as Jamieson Pabalan worked a leadoff walk and came around to score three batters later on a Dyson Yasuda RBI single to left.
Damien starter Cade Lurito found success in the first inning, sitting down Kauai in order to maintain the 1-0 lead. It was with one out in the bottom of the second inning that things unraveled for the southpaw, giving up a single and a walk before tossing a wild pitch to move the runners to 2nd and 3rd with two out.
It looked like the lefty would be able to escape the jam without damage when Lurito was called for a balk by home plate umpire Delson Kaluhiokalani, bringing home the tying run and completely throwing off the rhythm of the soft-throwing Monarchs’ pitcher.
The balk was only the beginning of a nightmare inning for Damien, as an E6 followed the balk and kept the bottom half of the second going for Kauai. The Red Raiders capitalized on the free outs they were given, seeing three pitchers in the inning while scoring four more runs to take a commanding 5-1 lead into the top of the third.
The Monarchs showed off their championship mettle in their next ups, leading the inning off with two straight singles and using heads-up baserunning to advance to 2nd and 3rd with nobody out as they looked primed to answer the Red Raiders’ offensive explosion.
Damien centerfielder Francis O’Connor laced a two-run double inside the first base bag to cut the Kauai lead in half before being brought home to score on OJ Yoshida’s RBI triple to left, making it 5-4 with one out for the Monarchs.
The game would be tied two batters later, as Aaron Rapoza dropped down a beautiful RBI sac bunt to score Yoshida and move Makana Freitas to second with two out. Kauai starter Joshua Rego finally escaped the inning after Tryten Vicari grounded out to short.
Damien pitcher Jamieson Pabalan, who came on in relief in the bottom of the second and calmed things down for the Monarchs, continued settling in as he got a much-needed shutdown inning.
Pabalan helped himself and the Monarchs out to the lead in the top of the fourth, working a one-out walk to put the go-ahead run on. After Nainoa Begonia fouled out to the catcher, Pabalan decided to make the action happen.
The speedy leadoff hitter swiped second with two down to put himself in scoring position, proving to be a huge decision as he was brought home on an RBI single to right from O’Connor to put the Monarchs ahead for good, 6-5.
Pabalan turned his attention back to the bump, as he started dealing darts against the Kauai lineup that had been held to less than six runs just three times during the regular season. The senior right-hander allowed just two more hits over four innings, including a perfect 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh.
“We didn’t want the game to get out of hand, so we just brought him in to right the ship,” Damien head coach Skylar Tengan said of the decision to bring Pabalan in during the second inning. “He was able to do it the rest of the game, credits to him.”
Pabalan earned the win for his efforts, going 5.1 scoreless innings while allowing just three hits, walking three Red Raiders and striking out two. He also scored three of the six runs for the Monarchs, including the eventual game-winner back in the fourth.
“Playing in front of my home crowd, something special about that,” Pabalan said on what the title meant after his clutch championship performance. “Playing my senior season, this being my last game, this is also special [for that reason], too.”
Kauai’s Joshua Rego was charged with the loss after going 3.2 innings and giving up all six runs on six hits and three walks. The lefty also went 1-for-4 at the plate with an RBI for the Red Raiders, who were denied their fourth state championship in baseball by the defending champions.
Damien, after a 3-11 regular season that included an 11-game losing streak with two close games against KS-Kapālama (who won the 2023 D1 state title later Friday night), closed the season on a three-game win streak to win their third D2 baseball state championship in the program’s fourth appearance in the title game.
It was a gauntlet of teams to win it, similar to the caliber of opponents that Damien plays in regular season ILH play. The Monarchs took down #4 Molokai in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, 4-1, before upsetting top-seeded Waipahu on Thursday, 5-4.
The Monarchs have now won three of the last four HHSAA Division 2 baseball championships under two separate coaches, winning in 2018 under the direction of Timo Donahue before winning back-to-back titles in ’22 and now ’23 with Tengan at the helm.
“Honestly, I thought it was going to be like 12-11 the way this one was going,” Tengan joked after the game. “Fortunately, they were just able to right the ship and get some big outs. That double play was huge, and they just battled at the end. That’s what we did all season was just battle, so credit goes to the boys.”
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