Saint Louis’ JT Navyac has some serious shortstop skills and they were on display Tuesday in a 5-4 loss to Kamehameha at Hans L’Orange Park.
It’s no wonder the kid — only a junior — committed to Cal State Fullerton about a year and a half ago.
Here’s some of what he did Tuesday:
>> Tracked down a ground ball deep into the hole and threw out a runner by a step in the third.
>> Tracked down a hard grounder deeper into the hole — also in the third inning — and somehow got a throw off that didn’t come close to getting an out. But the fact that he even got to the ball was extraordinary.
>> Got to another hard bounder deep into the hole, too deep to have a chance at a play in the fourth. Still, another difficult effort.
>> Caught a liner straight at him, but there was a runner in front of him who ducked about a second before the ball came screaming at him, and then he ran over to step on the bag for a double play.
>> Scored two of his team’s four runs.
“He’s very good,” said Kamehameha coach Daryl Kitagawa about Navyac after the Warriors’ victory that clinched the ILH tournament and put them in the overall championship game today at 4:30 p.m. at Hans L’Orange Park. “He’s got a Division I spot for him at Cal-State Fullerton. That’s the type of caliber of player he is.”
“He’s a great kid,” offered Crusaders coach George Gusman, who was still in disbelief that his squad did not advance to today’s title game.
Navyac sat out all of last season after transferring from Mid-Pacific after his freshman year.
“It was tough not being able to play last year, especially since we came so close to making states,” Navyac said. “This year, I actually got a chance to start. My whole approach this season has been to get on base, The lineup has speed and power and contact. I’m more of a contact guy, so my role is to get on base and steal bags. Defensively, I’m supposed to stop every ball and make the play.
“Playing for coach Gusman … he’s kind of tough on me, but he motivates me and helps me a lot. Coach Dunn (Muramaru) helped me a lot, too. In sixth and seventh grade I was with him every day working out and then a bunch of Mid-Pac seniors took me under their wing. I was a pitcher then, but over the summer, I played a lot of shortstop and outfield and mainly became a shortstop.”
Fullerton, Navyac said, is interested in the possibility of him pitching.
“Last summer, I started to pitch,” he said. “They came and watched me and were really impressed. I’m not sure if I’m going to be a two-way there or not.”
The Crusaders (16-5), despite losing Tuesday, will still be competing at the Division I state tournament next week on Maui. They’re behind Baldwin at No. 2 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10.
“We’re going to have that no-tomorrow approach,” Navyac said. “Tomorrow, I expect practice to be real high-energy — everybody is going to bring the energy.”
Today’s ILH championship game winner — either No. 3 Punahou or No. 6 Kamehameha — will get a seeded berth and a first-round bye at states. The loser, like Saint Louis, will head to the first round.