Just when it seemed that No. 2 Mid-Pacific could gain a little separation from the rest of the ILH, No. 5 Saint Louis showed the Owls what life in the league is about in a 6-5 victory at Goeas Field on Friday afternoon.
It took the Crusaders (2-2) eight innings to hand the Owls (3-1) their first loss, but after committing six errors against a team that feeds off of them, coach George Gusman will gladly take it.
“(Mid-Pacific) is experienced, we’re young. Our kids have been playing baseball forever, but at this level it’s different,” he said. “It’s varsity, all the people are watching and all the pitches are big. The pressure that these guys feel to want to succeed, it’s not easy for them. Just glad we got a little lucky today.”
Kanoa Meredith and Kaipo Panui took the mound for the Crusaders and both were effective but saw a defense miss some routine plays behind them.
Meredith lasted five innings after throwing 94 pitches. The senior allowed five hits, walked three and struck out four. Panui earned the win with three innings of relief for the Crusaders, allowing four hits to go along with two strikeouts in 50 pitches.
Michael China got the start for the Owls, six days after tossing a shutout against Punahou. Friday afternoon was far more of a grind for the left-handed senior, who gave up eight hits and four runs in 87 pitches while striking out three and walking one. China fell one out shy of another complete game victory and yielded to Kyle Layugan after surrendering the game-tying hit to Cole Kashimoto. Layugan only recorded two outs before Matthew Saelua’s game-winning single and was tagged with the loss.
Both teams played on Tuesday. The Owls were 1-0 winners of a road showdown against No. 1 ‘Iolani on Tuesday, while Saint Louis fell 5-1 to No. 7 Punahou.
“Tuesday, same thing, we hurt ourselves. We had a bunch of baserunning errors, just miscues. We’re our own worst enemies at this point,” Gusman said. “We can’t cut that stuff down. These guys can play, but they’re trying hard, but sometimes it’s too hard. But I think we’ll be OK, it’s a big win for us.”
Both teams were heading into different directions heading into Friday’s matchup, but the Owls relinquished leads in both the seventh and eighth innings due to the clutch hitting of the Crusaders.
Hashimoto, the team’s leadoff hitter, was a true catalyst for Saint Louis, going 4-for-4 at the plate, including a game-tying double in the bottom of the seventh with two outs.
“We know that they’re a tough team. We’re the underdogs,” Hashimoto said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit but at practice, our coaches told us to just be aggressive, have a plan.”
The Owls re-took the lead in the top of the eighth when second baseman Patrick Coronas overthrew first baseman Kupono Soo, which allowed Jacob Yoshino to score from second.
Saint Louis responded when freshman catcher Caleb Lomavita crushed a home run that cleared the left-field wall some 390 feet away to tie things up at 5. With men on first and second and one out, Saeula fought through an 11-pitch at bat, fouling off eight straight pitches before roping the game winner.
“I had two strikes and my plan was to just put the ball in play as best as I can and to not strike out. I just battled and battled and I finally got contact,” Saelua said. “Every game so far we’ve been down. We always find a way to come back and I think that helps us be strong and not be complacent.”