The Saint Louis Crusaders won’t be expecting any thank-you cards from the Kamehameha Warriors anytime soon.
The Crusaders ended Mid-Pacific’s Cinderella run in the ILH playoffs on Thursday with a 9-6 win at Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park. Until Thursday, the double-elimination format meant MPI’s state-tournament hopes were healthy and alive. The Owls had proven again to be ‘Iolani’s kryptonite, beating them twice during the regular season, then against on Wednesday to eliminate the Raiders from the playoffs.
The Owls gave it a run against No. 3 Saint Louis, going ahead with a five-run second inning against JT Navyac in his first ILH start. Then Navyac cooled MPI’s bats, allowing just one run on two hits over the final five innings. His curveball had plenty of bite, and his location on fastballs and changeups was plenty enough.
“Coming out of the bullpen (in warmups), I felt really good. I was spotting everything. The new mound felt different from the bullpen mound,” the junior said.
Navyac’s first start came a week ago against Bishop Gorman at the All-Catholic Classic in Las Vegas. That three-inning stint — he allowed one unearned run — added to his repertoire as an infielder and outfielder. He orally committed to Cal State Fullerton, which was on hand to watch him play in Las Vegas.
He finished with two strikeouts and just two walks, scattering eight hits. The stats alone aren’t eye-popping, but his ability to refocus and keep the ball down against a hot-hitting team was impressive.
“Coach (George Gusman) came to me before practice (on Thursday) and told me I was going to start,” Navyac said. “I wanted the ball.”
While the Crusaders have 13 seniors, most of them are position players. The pitching staff is largely underclassmen like Navyac. And they haven’t had an actual practice as a team in forever.
“It’s been over three weeks since we’ve had practice,” Gusman said.
The hidden benefits of the mainland trip are becoming visible now.
“The trip got us lots of reps, seeing pitchers we don’t see,” said senior leadoff hitter Cole Kashimoto, who finished 4-for-4 with two runs scored against Mid-Pacific.
“It feels great to just prolong our journey, knowing we’ve made it to Maui,” he added.
The loss not only knocked Mid-Pacific out of contention for the state tournament, but also clinched a berth for Kamehameha. The Crusaders and Warriors will play Friday for the ILH tournament title. A Saint Louis win would force another game at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Central Oahu Regional Park.
The winner will play Punahou for the overall ILH title and seeded berth in the state tournament on Tuesday.
The Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships will be May 8-11 at Iron Maehara Stadium on Maui