Not long ago — March 23, to be exact — Dylan Lum pitched perhaps his finest game of the season.
The Saint Louis senior went the distance against Kamehameha, allowing no earned runs and just four hits, but it wasn’t enough. The Warriors won 1-0 and went on to secure first place in the ILH baseball regular-season standings, along with an automatic state-tournament berth.
Turn the page to April 12, and Lum showed no signs of decline. In fact, the senior hurler went one step further with a three-hit shutout of Punahou, leading the Crusaders to a 4-0 victory to secure the league’s only remaining state-tourney berth.
“The Kamehameha game taught me about humility. We just worked harder,” Lum said.
His breaking pitches, especially a slider that baffled Punahou batters, felt no differently during warmups.
“To be honest, I feel I could throw my slider any time. Our (pitching) coach said to believe in our pitches,” Lum said.
Coach George Gusman saw something a bit out of the ordinary.
“In the loss to Kamehameha, he pitched well. Today was extra special with his pitches and his command,” Gusman said. “He had command.”
Wednesday’s game came down to Saint Louis’ flawless defense and untimely errors by the Buffanblu. One error, on a sacrifice bunt attempt, turned into an error that allowed two Crusaders runs to score in the bottom of the third inning. Then came the fifth, when two strange hops occurred on the natural surface of Ala Wai Field.
DJ Stephens’ hard grounder behind the mound was playable. Punahou second baseman Andrew Matsueda was on the spot, circling in for a good angle and throw, but the grounder took a wicked hop higher and right over the fielder. A moment later, Matthew Wong swung and lofted Kyle Uemura’s pitch down the left-field line. Outfielder Kai Terada-Herzer was close, but with the sun in his eyes, played it safe. The ball should have bounced right into his glove, keeping Stephens at second base.
Instead, the ball took a 90-degree turn left and went directly into foul ground. Stephens raced around third and scored, giving Saint Louis a 4-0 lead.
“Dylan’s dad (Kui) passed away last summer,” Stephens said. “He’s watching over us. And we had Mass today.”
Lum and the Crusaders (13-5) didn’t do much celebrating after the game. In fact, it was more business-as-usual mode. They’ve got a matchup with Kamehameha, the only unbeaten team in the ILH double-elimination tournament. To win the ILH title, Saint Louis must beat Kamehameha twice for the tourney crown, and the one more time for the league championship.
They’ve got the arms to do this. Chase Meilleur, Dawson Yamaguchi and, of course, Lum. Gusman doesn’t peg numbers to his pitching aces, but some fans simply refer to Lum as the No. 3 starter, even though he’s pitching as well as anyone in the state. Potentially, three games against Kamehameha, and certainly, at least three games at states. Having the luxury of three elite hurlers gives Saint Louis — and Kamehameha, no doubt — the edge come post-season time at Les Murakami Stadium.
Emerging out of the gauntlet of the ILH, where Punahou (12-7) and ‘Iolani were clearly competitive enough to challenge any team in the islands, took a lot of reps and a bit of luck.
“Saint Louis’ infield defense is the best in the state, easily,” Punahou coach Keenan Sue said.
The Buffanblu coach wasn’t about to complain about the inefficiency of the state championships — which doesn’t include the truly best 12 teams in the state — though equal representation is accomplished.
“We’d all love to have the third (ILH) berth, but we’ve got to compete within the rules set by our leagues. There’s no excuses,” Sue said. “We made a lot of errors today. Lum is a great pitcher. He pitches like a veteran. We tip our hats to Saint Louis. They played great all year.”