The reality about the strange pre-game delay of 81 minutes on Saturday afternoon when second-place Saint Louis and first-place Kamehameha met for an ILH baseball game at Ala Wai Field is this: Not only were both coaches unwilling to play with only one umpire, but both we considering postponing the game.
Game time was 3 p.m. on a steamy, sunny afternoon. By 3:30 p.m., fans sitting in the bleachers began to ask aloud what was going on. It seemed that the teams had simply been waiting for the foul lines and batters’ boxes to be re-lined following the two earlier ILH Division I games. But both teams just stood around or sat in their dugouts. Word finally came that the chief umpire, the one who would work behind home plate, was nowhere to be seen. Nobody could reach him.
By 3:45, both coaches were still hoping for a game, but both teams had already been at the field for nearly two hours by then. It was hot. Nobody wanted to be disconnected from pre-game routine, but there they were, at the mercy of an unusual situation. Both Tommy Perkins of Kamehameha and George Gusman of Saint Louis — former coaching comrades in Kamehameha’s baseball program for years — were mentally preparing for the possibility of no game. A postponement.
Then came 3:50 p.m., when a Saint Louis supporter was able to get ahold of the wife of another umpire. He was willing to come to Ala Wai and fill in. That’s all it took. Within 20 minutes, he was at the field, and by 4:21 p.m., the fans who stuck around — my guess is that 90 percent stayed — were rewarded with a battle for first place in the crazily competitive ILH.
“We just hope nothing bad happened,” Perkins said of the missing umpire.
But we know a few things that resulted from this seemingly unprecedented scenario.
1. Kamehameha’s sophomore starting pitcher, Christian DeJesus, actually warmed up twice. Perkins was told by the base umpire at 3:10 p.m. that the game would start at 3:15. Obviously, he had no idea that his crew mate would never show up.
2. DeJesus struggled, showed flashes of amazing talent, but lasted just two innings, throwing 63 pitches. We don’t know how many he threw in the pen, but it had to be at least 20 and probably closer to 40 during that long delay.
“He needs to warm up good when he pitches,” Perkins noted.
3. Saint Louis starting pitcher Chase Meilleur is quite the opposite. Since he doesn’t rely on getting the ball past batters — he went six innings and struck out just one batter en route to victory — he was informed by his coaches and the umpire who was waiting that, yes, there certainly was a missing umpire. So Meilleur didn’t bother to warm up, waste energy and have to deal with constant cooling down while waiting.
“The umpire said, ‘We don’t know where the (other) umpire is,’ ” Meilleur recalled.
4. The delay may not have mattered at all. Even without being able to spot his curveball, Meilleur relied heavily on locating his fastball, changing speeds, using his change-up, and the result was 11 fly-ball and pop-fly outs in six innings.
“The same thing happened last time,” Perkins said, referring to the ILH opener back in late February.
That day at Hans L’Orange Field, Meilleur went seven innings and threw a four-hitter in a 2-1 win.
The old Bill James books of the 1980s indicate clearly that pitchers who don’t strike many batters out tend to have a shorter shelf life. Perhaps it is true today, but after two starts against a powerful Kamehameha team — which is ranked No. 2 currently — maybe it’s just as simple as this: Meilleur has the kryptonite that the Warriors can’t escape from.
Two earned runs in 13 innings with five strikeouts and four walks. And Kamehameha’s only two losses in league play.
5. By the time the seventh inning began, light began to dim. It was shady enough by mid-game as the sun dropped behind the towering condominium buildings nearby. But it was clearly getting darker by the final inning, which could have worked against hitters, but also against fielders. That’s why some Warrior fans were annoyed that their hitters kept putting Meilleur’s offerings into the air instead of onto that unpredictable, bumpy natural turf of Ala Wai Field.
“There were waves on that field last year,” Meilleur recalled.
The game started late and ended just in time. With no lights turned on — that happens during week nights when soccer teams take the field – it took only 15 minutes after the game ended (roughly 6:50 p.m.) for almost total darkness to envelop the place.
A strange afternoon in so many ways, but classic Chase Meilleur pitching. With Saint Louis and Kamehameha tied at 7-2 atop the ILH standings, that automatic state-tournament berth for the ILH’s regular-season winner is turning into an insanely tough chase of its own, as always.