It was a string of missed opportunities by the Saint Louis Crusaders and Kamehameha Warriors on Tuesday night.
The ILH baseball tournament title was on the line, a 5-all game, with Saint Louis needing a win to continue its quest for a league title. But they stranded a runner at third base in the top of the fifth against Christian DeJesus, who had replaced starter Kamahao Arita.
Kamehameha went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth against Crusaders starter Chase Meilleur, who went 5 1/3 innings with five strikeouts, two walks, one wild pitch and 88 pitches. It was a hearty effort by the hurler nicknamed “Bulldog” by coach George Gusman.
“It was rough. You always hope you’re going to do well and throw shutouts, but your job is to make sure your team can get outs behind you and stay in it,” Meilleur said.
In the top of the sixth, the Crusaders put two runners on base thanks to an error by the Warriors, but again came up empty.
Meilleur left with runners at third and first. Facing Dylan Lum in the bottom of the frame, Kamehameha came up empty.
“Sometimes, it’s not your job to get the win,” Meilleur said. “Dylan did great. It’s not easy to come in with one out and the (go-ahead) runner on third.”
That set up a memorable seventh inning for Kai Perreira-Alquiza, a workmanlike, steady asset to the Saint Louis lineup. The senior catcher had two runners on base with one out, and a 1-1 offering from DeJesus. The sophomore pitcher was phenomenal in 2 2/3 innings of relief, recording eight strikeouts, including four in the sixth inning.
But his inside-high fastball was exactly what Perreira-Alquiza was waiting for.
“Before the game, the plan was to wait on the fastballs and go for the curve balls,” he said. “But they were throwing a lot of curve balls. (DeJesus) threw curve balls on his first two pitches to me.”
He turned on it, belting a high, deep home run over the left-field fence at Hans L’Orange Park (333 feet). Just like that, Saint Louis was ahead 8-5 and never looked back. It was a fairy tale weekend plus for Perreira-Alquiza, who had returned to Kauai over the weekend to sign a letter-of-intent in his auntie’s restaurant. He will play for HPU next season, though he doesn’t mention this life-changing fact much.
“He’s a humble kid,” Gusman said. “He came through after going 0-for-3.”
Perhaps it was, as center fielder D.J. Stephens said on Saturday after the Crusaders blanked Kamehameha 2-0, simply “meant to be.”
Perreira-Alquiza’s 0-fer night turned into a celebration at home plate. His first home run of the season had the sound and fury like few others, and it happened to be clutch.
“I just waited for that fastball to come, and it flew out,” Perreira-Alquiza said.
Now the Crusaders, winners of the tourney, will again play regular-season champion Kamehameha for the ILH crown on Thursday at Hans L’Orange. Meilleur’s 88 pitches puts him over the limit, so he will not pitch. However, Lum needed just 21 pitches to get the final six outs, and Dawson Yamaguchi, a third ace, is fully available.
Kamehameha figures to start Hunter Breault, a magnet for scouts this season, and Li‘i Pontes, who pitched on Saturday, is also available. This much pitching depth makes this ongoing series feel more like a state-championship journey. Enjoy it while you can.