Defense took center stage in this ILH skirmish

Mid-Pacific shortstop Jacob Maekawa made a running over-the-shoulder catch of a fourth inning popup to left field during the Owls' 4-1 win over Saint Louis at Goeas Field. Jamm Aquinoi / Honolulu Star-Adertiser.
Mid-Pacific shortstop Jacob Maekawa made a running over-the-shoulder catch of a fourth inning popup to left field during the Owls’ 4-1 win over Saint Louis at Goeas Field. Jamm Aquinoi / Honolulu Star-Adertiser.

Defense can be underrated, especially in this fantasy sports fueled world where a home run means a lot but a run-saving defensive play means nothing.

I say give 100 points (or whatever else it should be worth) to the field gem.

Mid-Pacific’s 4-1, nine-inning Interscholastic League of Honolulu baseball victory over Saint Louis on Wednesday at Goeas Field had more than its share of tremendous defensive plays. The Crusaders (7-4) tied it at 1-all in the bottom of the seventh before the Owls (8-3) rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth to win it.

Below, Hawaii Prep World recaps the big defensive plays chronologically, for the record, since they don’t show up in the box score and only get a small mention in the game story.

>> With Mid-Pacific’s Trevin Tengan on third base, Saint Louis right fielder DJ Stephens makes a fantastic shoestring and diving catch of Hunter Hill‘s hard shot. A fan behind the plate is heard saying, “Da na-na … na-na-na,” part of the ESPN SportsCenter jingle. Highlight reel, for sure.

>> With the bases loaded and two outs, Owls third baseman Trevin Tengan dives to his left to snare a sharp grounder destined for the hole. He gets up and throws out Hunter Guarco to keep the game scoreless.

Stephens is at it again, running in to make a less dramatic shoestring catch of a Hill looper in shallow right.

>> With a runner on second base and two outs, Mid-Pacific shortstop Jacob Maekawa sprints way out into left field to make an over-the-shoulder catch of Guarco’s popup. Afterwards, Maekawa says he knew he had to get out there fast because left fielder Cameron Wong was playing deep. Another highlight reel catch. The runner, Aaron Renaud, is well past third when Maekawa makes the catch.

>> Enter Stephens again. This time, he runs in to get a shallow fly by Ryne Yamashiro. The catch is easier than the first two and his glove is at his knees, but it looks dramatic because a white bird is in the air about 15 yards in front of him, and from, behind the plate, it appears to fans for a confusing second that there were two balls in play.

>> Stephens is not done his busy day, although this time, it was a near miss. He runs at full speed nearly to the foul line in an effort to catch an Alex Oley flare. During a full-on dive, the ball hits his glove and pops out for a hit. After the game, Stephens says he and his fellow outfielders call the outfield a “no fly zone” in which they don’t want any balls going over their heads.

>> The Owls, who had gone errorless through six, make two errors in the seventh, allowing the Crusaders to tie the game. But, Mid-Pacific pitcher Chase Wago saves the game by whizzing off the mound to field a bases-loaded bunt by Kai Alquiza. The ball is about five feet from the plate when he scoops it with his glove in one motion to catcher Kyle Layugan for the force out. One batter later, he gets Stephens looking for the third strike and third out to send the game to extra innings.

>> The Crusaders pick two runners off the basepaths here, but part of that is because Mid-Pacific head coach Dunn Muramaru is trying to get his team back out on the field to finish it before the game is called due to darkness. After scoring three runs, Muramaru gives his runners the green light in situations he normally wouldn’t. As a result, the Crusaders nab pinch runner Jacob Yoshino on a play that is scored 2-6-3-4-6 for the second out. Later, Jarrod Infante becomes the third out on a 1-5 pickoff in which he pretty much runs right into the tag of third baseman Brendan Uchima.

So, there you have it. If any one of those defensive plays were not made, the complexion of the game would have changed drastically.

The idea for this story came after the first few great defensive plays. They just kept on coming and it seemed the story would be about how flawless the two teams were playing. That storyline changed due to the two Owls errors that led to Saint Louis’ run in the seventh and a Crusaders error during Mid-Pacific’s three-run ninth.

Still, it was an amazingly well-played game, another of many in the ILH this and every year. Baseball fans who haven’t been able to see the beautiful baseball display by high school ballplayers all across the state this spring, you have a little more than a month left to check it out.


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