Regardless of pitch count, Kamehameha right-hander Li’i Pontes was facing his final batter.
With the tying run at second and two outs, Pontes, a University of Hawaii signee, finished off a three-hit complete game victory getting Cole Kashimoto to ground out to third to end a 4-3 win over Saint Louis on Thursday at Les Murakami Stadium.
Pontes struck out nine and threw 108 pitches, impressing first-year head coach Kahi Ka’anoi in the process.
“He’s a smart pitcher who has three pitches he can get over the plate,” Ka’anoi said. “I have a lot of confidence in him out there. His arm looks like he’s ready to go now. He maxed out his pitches today.”
Pontes was a first-team All-State selection as a junior. A minor arm issue kept him from being at full strength to start the season, but he looked the part against the Crusaders.
“Getting into the groove later on in the season,” Pontes said. “This (outing) felt better.”
Kamehameha improved to 7-2-1 and could be tied for the ILH lead in the loss column depending on the outcome of tonight’s second game at Les Murakami Stadium between Punahou and league-leading Mid-Pacific.
Pontes took a shutout into the bottom of the fifth inning when Kamehameha made four errors on two plays.
After back-to-back strikeouts, Pontes gave up a chopper to second base with a runner on second. Second baseman Keaka Barrozo bobbled the ball, allowing the batter to reach first, and then catcher Vince Venenciano couldn’t control the throw to the plate, allowing Kupono Soo to score.
Venenciano then tried to throw Noah Tory out at first, but the ball got away from Jonny Shimabukuro, allowing Tory to take second.
Kashimoto followed with a ball hit to first base that was dropped by Shimabukuro, allowing a second run to score. Another throwing error allowed Kashimoto to reach second, and he scored on Charles Lopez’s game-tying single.
“Had to just focus on the next batter and get the next out so we could get our bats back up and keep swinging,” Pontes said.
Kamehameha did exactly that. Jace Borja and Venenciano led off with singles and Borja scored on a groundout by pinch hitter Hanu Racoma with what turned out to be the winning run.
“I thought playing on a nice field like this, no worries, but we’ve been struggling defensively,” Ka’anoi said. “It seems like at times when we jump on somebody we get complacent and don’t have that killer instinct, but when it comes to crunch time, the boys seem to find a way.”
Saint Louis (3-6) went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
“Too many strikeouts and I’m not sure of the nine, how many we swung at balls in the dirt,” Saint Louis coach George Gusman said. “But (Pontes) is a Division I guy and he’s experienced. You’ve got to give him credit.”
at Les Murakami Stadium
Kamehameha (7-2-1) 010 021 0 — 4 8 5
Saint Louis (3-6) 000 030 0 — 3 3 1
Li’i Pontes and Vincente Vinenciano. Richie Vidal, Kanoa Meredith (7) and Caleb Lomavita. W—Pontes. L—Vidal.
Leading hitters—KSK: Chaesten Chon 2-3, bb, run, RBI; Jonny Shimabukuro 2-3, bb, RBI. StL: Charles Lopez 2-3, RBI.