The light drizzle has returned to Les Murakami Stadium for the nightcap, a matchup of powerhouses No. 2 Mid-Pacific (4-1) and No. 7 Saint Louis (2-4). Aces Chase Wago (MPI) and Pono Anderson (STL) on the mound.
Alex Oley reaches base on an error (shortstop), but Anderson retires the next two batters to end the threat.
Wago sets the Crusaders down in order.
Three up, three down for both pitchers in a quiet second.
Evan Suemori led off with a single to left, but got thrown out on a steal attempt while Matthew Kimura got a third strike on a bunt attempt. Jacob Maekawa singled on a hard grounder off the right hand of Anderson, but he stayed in the game and retired Oley on a groundout.
D.J. Stephens — a No. 8 hitter in the lineup like Suemori — singles to center, but Wago strands him. For a second time, Wago cleanly fields a very hard ground ball back to the mound. I don’t know if he’s a pure ace or a guy who is a very good position player who happens to be a No. 1 starter, but he’s outstanding in so many ways. Might be one of the best fielders on the mound in the state.
Tyler Yamaguchi singles to left with one out, but Wago grounds into a 6-3 double play to end the inning for MPI. Anderson’s hand, the one that was hit by the hard grounder in the third inning, seems perfectly fine.
The Crusaders break the tie with a single run. Taylor Meilleur leads off with a walk, the first issued by Wago, advances to second base on a sac bunt, then scores on a two-out opposite-field single by Brendan Uchima. Impressive, lefty versus lefty and Uchima, who struck out earlier, battled through a two-strike count for the hit. STL 1, MPI 0.
Anderson seemed to be sailing along, retiring the first two batters on ground balls. Then designated hitter Evan Suemori socked a 3-1 pitch to left for a double, and Anderson walked pinch hitter Davin Takanishi. On the first pitch to Jacob Maekawa, Maekawa crushed it to the gap in left center for a triple, scoring Suemori and Takanishi, and just like that, the Owls are ahead. MPI 2, STL 1.
Three up, three down for the lower third of Saint Louis’ lineup against Wago. MPI’s hurler is working on a two-hitter so far.
Anderson retires the side 1-2-3, including a strikeout of Wago on a big bending curve.
Then Saint Louis rallies to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. Travis Tanaka doubled to left with two outs, and Ryder Kuhns battled back from an 0-2 count for a double just inside the left-field line, scoring Tanaka. MPI 2, STL 2.
The Owls had runners at the corners with two outs when the inning ended in bizarre fashion. Matthew Kimura, the runner at first, headed to second base on the first pitch to Maekawa to draw the throw, a classic MPI baserunning ploy. The shortstop, Keith Torres, alertly ran right at the MPI runner off third base, courtesy runner Hunter Hill.
Hill beat the rundown, though, and got back to third base with a slide. Problem was that Kimura was already standing on the bag, and the Crusaders applied the tag for the third out. Baserunning boo-boo. A rare one by the Owls. It was a calculated gamble; Maekawa was 2-for-3.
Bottom of the seventh, Maekawa replaces Wago and sets the bottom of the order down 1-2-3. We’re going to extra innings. Wago went six innings, allowing two runs on four hits, five strikeouts and one walk.
Maekawa leads off with a single to left and gets to third base after a sac bunt and a groundout. However, Yamaguchi’s hard grounder is snagged by 1B Tanner Atiburcio for an unassisted putout.
Saint Louis loaded the bases in the bottom of the eight against Maekawa, but he induced Uchima into an inning-ending fielder’s choice grounder. Maekawa struck out the first batter, but his pitch hit the dirt for a passed ball, and two walks later, the sacks were filled. That was a gritty effort by Maekawa.
ILH baseball coordinator Carl Schroerers tells me that there is no time limit, no restriction for this game. It’s beautiful to have baseball in Les Murakami.
Uchima is now on the mound in relief of Anderson, who went eight innings, allowing just two runs on eight hits, four strikeouts with two walks.
The Owls loaded the bases with one out, but a suicide squeeze attempt with Kimura in the plate backfired. Uchima’s first pitch curved off the plate, Kimura’s bunt try missed, and Sean Kinel, who had been on third base, was eventually tagged out in a rundown for the second out. Kimura then popped out to end the inning.
Maekawa is stunning in the bottom of the ninth, setting STL down 1-2-3, including a called third strike on Stephens for the third out. I’m pretty sure neither Dunn Muramaru (MPI) or George Gusman (STL) really wants to go deep into his bullpen for more innings. Not with big games coming up Friday in the ILH gauntlet.
Uchima starts out with a strikeout of Maekawa, then gives up a single to left by Oley. Then he balks on a misfire throw to first — not a wild throw, but the ball got stuck in his hand and landed less than 10 feet from the mound toward home plate. Funny, there was no call for about 10 seconds, and when the catcher (Meilleur) went to help Uchima retrieve the ball, the balk was finally called by the first-base umpire.
Then the Crusaders issued an intentional walk to Shackles, but after Uchima walked Yamaguchi on four pitches, the bases are now loaded with Trevin Tengan coming up to the plate and just one out.
Tengan goes after a 2-0 pitch and sends a fly ball to left. Oley scores on the play as the throw from left is a split-second too late. Kinel grounds into a fielder’s choice for the third out. MPI 3, STL 2.
Maekawa, who began the game at first base, closes out the Crusaders in order in the bottom of the 10th. He went four innings in relief and hit 3-for-5. Clutch and versatile.