We are now officially just over five hours into the Interscholastic League of Honolulu baseball regular season.
‘Iolani, ranked No. 1 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10, came through with a tough 8-5 win over No. 4 Saint Louis on a cloudy, cool afternoon at the Raiders’ field. Cloudy? Cool? In Lower Moiliili?
There were other interesting elements at play. ‘Iolani rolled out their new uniforms, what might be described as power red jerseys with ice pewter numbers and pants. Really fantastic uniforms. The Raiders then played like they were red-hot, super aggressive at the plate. They reminded me a bit of the way Punahou attacked at the plate in the first season of then-coach Kenny Harrison.
From 1 to 9, the Raiders’ lineup was and is efficient. The lead was 6-0 after two innings and the dugout was festive. But the young Crusaders — just five seniors on the roster — never lost confidence. Saint Louis finished the game outhitting ‘Iolani 11-8.
The Raiders had just one batter who paired hits, Cade Yonamine, who had a clutch two-run single in the bottom of the fifth to help his team regain momentum. But the bulk of their offensive success came from teamwork. Sac bunts. Smart baserunning. Matt Inaba scored three runs in a skilled performance at the plate. He was 1-for-1 with two walks and was hit by a pitch. In other words, he didn’t use a single out. Classic.
The Crusaders, like the Raiders, didn’t commit an error. They issued six walks, however, and that was a key factor. But there’s also this: the three Crusaders who each hit 3-for-4 today are underclassmen. Catcher Caleb Lomavita, who homered in the seventh inning, is just a freshman. Stanley McKenzie is just a sophomore, and leadoff man Cole Kashimoto is a junior.
Three underclassmen with a combined 9-for-12. No nerves. When is the last time three hitters on one team each hit 3-for-4 against a No. 1 team? That’s a trivia question for the baseball historians.
It’s all part of another gauntlet ahead for ILH teams. At least there will be three state-tournament berths instead of two, but the sense of urgency and competition will be no less intense. Good for fans, stressful for coaches.
“Nobody’s going unbeaten,” Crusaders coach George Gusman promised. “We were one or two hits away. They clutched up and we couldn’t.”
Experience, Gusman added, makes quite a difference. It’s why Logan Yee, ‘Iolani’s senior reliever, was undaunted when he entered the game in the fifth inning, his team clinging precariously to a 6-4 lead. Saint Louis had the bases loaded and all momentum in their hands.
Yee went slow and then slower.
“I went slower than even I usually would go,” he said.
His 66-mph change-ups were enough to get the final two outs of the ending. Then, by the end of the sixth and through the seventh, Yee went the opposite route and brought tight fastballs on the corners, which led to two strikeouts. Lomavita pounded a solo homer in the seventh, but it wasn’t enough.
“The last inning, they were taking pitches. Coach Gus is old school,” Yee said. “One guy took my change out, but that was OK.”