Billy Blanchette ’88 is no stranger to stress. He has welcomed it his entire life as an all-star Little Leaguer, an all-state and Player of the Year selection at Punahou, and an All-American at the University of Hawai‘i.
Blanchette moved to Hawai‘i as a ninth grader, enrolling at Punahou and playing JV. As a sophomore, Blanchette broke into a loaded buff ’n blue lineup as a Designated Hitter.
He hit an impressive .375 that season, a glimpse of what was to come. By the time he was a senior, it ballooned to .515 and “he was the most feared hitter in the ILH,” according to retired Punahou baseball coach Pal Eldredge ’64. “He never got a ‘take’ sign from me. He was such a strong hitter that I always wanted to keep the game within grand-slam reach if we were behind, because I knew he could get us tied or get ahead with one swing.”
That happened against Hawai‘i Baptist Academy, Eldredge said, with the buff ’n blue trailing late to the Eagles by four runs. “Billy hits one out of the park at Mid-Pac, a grand slam that ties it, and we went on to win,” Eldredge said. “When he became an air traffic controller, I thought, ‘his temperament is perfect for that job.’”
Although Punahou did not win the state title, Blanchette was named both ILH and State Player of the Year in 1988. He hit a record-tying eight home runs and was 6 – 1 as a pitcher with a 2.88 earned run average.
As a transfer to UH, he won his first 14 games his junior season, including three shutouts, finishing 14 – 2, and was awarded UH Pitcher of the Year, Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, WAC MVP, and first team All-American honors. His senior season, he went 8 – 3 and led the Rainbows with a .389 batting average en route to being named the team’s Most Valuable Player – the first and only Rainbow to win the team’s MVP and Pitcher of the Year awards.
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