Grit is not even half the story when it comes to the way St. Francis and Damien battle in just about every sport.
One school (St. Francis) recently converted from an all-girls enrollment to a co-ed student body. The other (Damien) also made recent changes, from an all-boys campus to co-ed. In the past year alone, Damien has stymied St. Francis’ ILH Division II football championship hopes. In fact, that goes back to the 2016 season. In boys basketball, St. Francis beat Damien for the ILH D-II title. The St. Francis girls also dominated in ILH D-II basketball.
Baseball is another story. A year ago, Damien fell short in the regular season to St. Francis, then won the second round (playoff tournament), and then did the unthinkable. The Monarchs needed to beat the Saints twice for the league crown while St. Francis just needed to win one game against their nemesis.
Damien came through, earned the title and the lone D-II state berth allotted to the ILH. St. Francis was in disbelief. Understandable shock.
Fast-forward to the 2018 season, and it’s playing out much the same on the diamond. St. Francis’ 10-8 win on Wednesday at Ala Wai Field was a stew of chippy words, clutch hitting, untimely fielding and throwing errors, and some caution from the home plate umpire early and late in the game to both teams. The Saints seemed to thrive on the tension, feeding off their crowd, which included a good number of the St. Francis softball team that recently posted the best record in the ILH, D-I or D-II.
But the way this game finished was underwhelming, to say the least. With two outs in the top of the seventh and Damien clinging to hope, the game ended. Because of a soccer league that has a permit on the field that covers some of the outfield, the game was halted at 6:15 p.m., a good 2 hours and 45 minutes after it began.
Damien coach Timo Donahue said he will file a protest for the first time in his life.
“We didn’t know about it until pre-game. Why schedule a game here when it could be at CORP or Goeas Field? I find it mind-boggling that a championship game is scheduled at a site with a time limit,” he said.
St. Francis coach Kip Akana agreed, but isn’t very interested in resuming the game. It’s final in his book.
“Quite honestly, it shouldn’t come down to a time limit,” he said. “But both teams knew about it in pre-game. Both teams had to play under the same circumstances.”
As he was interviewed after the game, Akana and his staff heard that some players were running to the pavilion area where many of Damien’s players had congregated. The chirpy attitudes during the game had already led to some unnecessary barbs after the game — Donahue was upset with a St. Francis player and the coaching staff during the post-game handshakes. Nothing happened at the pavilion as administrators and coaches kept the peace.
There were no beanballs or threats. This wasn’t a violent game. But the tension? The arch rivalry? It’s real and it’s on every time these teams meet. Damien has been through this before, overcoming extreme adversity on the diamond, but Donahue doesn’t want to test that route again.
“That’s why I wanted today so bad,” he said.
For Kiyo Perry, it was the kind of win that only a mother — and his coaches and teammates — can really love. He was clutch enough to keep his team ahead, striking out five Monarchs while surrendering seven earned runs, seven hits, three walks and one hit batter. His change-up saved the day.
“My coaches told me to battle and throw strikes,” said Perry, a lanky 6-foot-1 southpaw who threw 106 pitches.
“He got out of jams when he needed to,” Donahue said of Perry.
Over the course of those 4 2/3 innings, Damien went through four pitchers. ERA be darned, Perry was valuable. So was first baseman Zach Alcos, who scored a run and then pitched two scoreless innings in relief for a save.
Alcos saw the tension between the teams start to ignite after a St. Francis batter ran way inside the base path to first after striking out, then seeing the ball fall out of the catcher’s mitt. His attempt to get in the way of the Damien catcher’s throw to first led to words being exchanged, nothing unusual, but that got the home plate umpire to call both coaches for a conversation.
“I know some of them,” Alcos said of his off-season teammates who happen to attend Damien. “We’re just out there trying to get respect.”
St. Francis did plenty of that with an upset win over then-No. 1 Mid-Pacific two weeks ago.
“Our level of baseball is better this year,” said Alcos, who brought a steady diet of fastballs that contrasted with the array of off-speed pitches that Perry works with.
It was a busy day at the plate for Pomai Kim, who went 3-for-4 with a solo homer, and Jordan Donahue, who was also 3-for-4 with triple and RBI. But the rest of their Damien teammates were a collective 3-for-20 at the plate. They also, as a team, committed three errors.
“St. Francis played great defense, and we had great at-bats in the first inning, but it’s same as our ‘Iolani game. We went into cruise control,” Coach Donahue said.
Down 3-0 in the first inning, the Monarchs responded with six runs in the bottom of the frame. Ahead 7-6 in the bottom of the fourth, they brought three runs home, two of them on a single by Makana Poole.
Now, all that remains is to see whether history repeats itself.
At Ala Wai Field
Two outs in the top of the seventh inning when play is halted due to time limit.
Damien (7-7) 302 120 0 — 8 9 3
St. Francis (8-6) 601 300 x — 10 9 2
Braeden Joines, Kaycee Natividad (1), Bryce Uyeno (1), Kaimana Cameron (4) and Shiloh Kaeo. Kiyo Perry, Zach Alcos (5) and Makana Poole. W—Perry. L—Joines. Sv—Alcos.
Leading hitters—DMS: Jordan Donahue 3-4, triple, RBI, 2 runs; Pomai Kim 3-4, HR, RBI, run; Cameron 2 RBIs. STF: J.P. Tilley 2-3, walk, 2 runs; Poole 1-3, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Greison Visoria 1-4, 2 RBIs; James Yamasaki 2-3, walk, run; Alek Miyasato 1-3, triple, RBI.