The wind was wicked and unkind, but neither the Owls nor the Raiders would succumb often.
There were dazzling, whirling catches by the visiting ‘Iolani Raiders on a rainy afternoon. Swirling winds made life difficult on routine pop flies. By the end, regular-season winner Mid-Pacific edged ‘Iolani 7-6 on a game-winning sacrifice fly by Jet Uechi, and the dream flourishes for the Owls.
They are now the only remaining unbeaten team in the ILH baseball double-elimination tournament. For a long stretch of the regular season, they thrived on adversity and difficulty. Now, MPI (14-3) seems to relish the role of favorite.
But first, on Tuesday, there was a wild wind that was blowing in from left center during pre-game. That changed quickly.
“It carried to right-center,” MPI right fielder Micah Pi said. “Then it’s in my face. Then it’s on all sides.”
As expected, the Owls and Raiders fared rather well despite the unpredictable wind. MPI second baseman Hunter Hirayama had to spin as the wind played tricks on the pop-up by Shaydon Kubo to make an outstretched grab on what had begun as a routine pop fly.
‘Iolani fared well despite a voyage into the wilderness of Manoa gusts. Third baseman Jordan Hara showed superb reflexes, chasing a pop fly that was near the MPI dugout, then had to be chased by Hara all the way back to the foul line, where he made a shoestring catch on a dead sprint with his catcher also in pursuit.
Pi was clutch in the seventh, leading off with a double to right that was a fastball middle-outside, he said. His hit led to the winning run by pinch runner Breyndon Nakamura. Uechi, who finished with three RBIs, also had a two-run triple in the big third inning for the Owls. That pitch, he said, was also middle-outside, a fastball from ‘Iolani ace Trevor Ichimura, who pitched a strong game despite the conditions and the top-to-bottom excellence of MPI’s lineup.
Those two hits — the triple by Uechi, the No. 7 hitter in the lineup, and the double by Pi — were the ones that stood out for coach Dunn Muramaru. So was the clutch pitching of senior Shane Adams.
In the end, Adams came up huge for the Owls in relief. After scoring six runs against MPI hurlers Michael China and Matthew Valencia, the Raiders mustered nothing against Adams, who mixed a good fastball with his off-speed stuff. He faced eight batters, retired eight batters including there on strikeouts.
“I didn’t know I was or wasn’t pitching today. Coach said I’d pitch on Friday,” Adams said of the impending start. “When Matt got in trouble, Coach said to get loose. It took a little while to get hot, but I had to trust my defense and get ground balls. I had to trust my changeups and curves.”
Adams threw 26 pitches in 2 2/3 innings for the win. Ichimura allowed seven hits in six-plus innings, giving up six runs with one strikeout, three walks, three hit batters and two wild pitches. With rain pouring and softening all game long, plus the wind, it was a spectacle of Mother Nature’s whims.
Muramaru said he hesitated at first to bring Adams in. He had two other pitchers who throw off-speed pitches. But he went with Adams, and ‘Iolani’s hot bats cooled off.
“Shane threw strikes and his off-speed helps his fastball,” Muramaru said.
So, with any double-elimination format, to the victor go the spoils with each win. The Owls can sit and wait as Punahou and Saint Louis go to battle in the next phase. That winner will meet ‘Iolani. Whoever emerges will then have to beat MPI twice for the tourney title.
The Owls already have a spot in the league championship game sewn up, but they can seal the ILH crown by winning the double-elim tourney.
At Damon Field
One out when winning run scored
‘Iolani (13-4-1) 003 210 0 — 6 12 2
Mid-Pacific (14-3) 015 000 1 — 7 8 1
Trevor Ichimura and Micah Yonamine. Michael China, Matthew Valencia (3), Shane Adams (5) and Kyle Layugan. W—Adams. L—Ichimura.
Leading hitters—‘Iolani: Shaydon Kubo 3-4, RBI, run; Matt Inaba 1-3, RBI, run, SF; M. Yonamine 2-4; Shane Sasaki 1-4, RBI; Cade Yonamine 1-4, HR, 2 RBIs, run; Aaron Ujimori 3-3, double, 2 runs. MPI: Wyatt Young 1-3, BB; Jacob Yoshino 1-2, BB, HBP, run; Layugan 2-3, double, RBI, HBP; Micah Pi 1-3, 2 runs, HBP; Jet Uechi 2-3, triple, 3 RBIs, 2 runs; Cale Yoshino 1-2, RBI.