St. Francis can rest a little bit easier now that it’s hunted down that all-important state Division II baseball championship.
Everything was on the line — or as designated hitter Makana Poole said it after a semifinal victory on Friday, “It’s all or nothing.”
They wound up getting it all. The Saints (15-4) broke open a close game with a four-run sixth inning for an 8-4 victory over Waimea (9-5-1) Saturday in the finale of the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue on Kauai.
They did it on the same day that team grandmother Nora Nakahara died after a long fight with cancer.
After the game, coach Kip Akana summed it up nicely: “These boys had a lot to play for. It was going to be virtually impossible to defeat these guys. They were playing for the closing of the school, their last game in that uniform, the last time with their teammates and coaches. They were playing for the last of the last sports at St. Francis. And more importantly, they were playing for granny and the only way she could have come and watched this game — because she wouldn’t miss it; we know her — was to go get her wings today and we’re grateful. They were willing to die out there today.”
Reece Kadota, Nakahara’s grandson, had a big hand in the victory. The starting catcher, a junior, hit a two-run single in that crucial sixth inning.
Kadota recalled how much Nakahara meant to him after the game as soothing sprinkles of rain greeted the team from above.
“One time, she drove me to a game at CORP and then I realized I forgot my cleats,” he said. “So she drove all the way back to Kapahulu to get the cleats and drove all the way back to CORP and got there before the game started.”
Nakahara never missed a game.
Senior Bubba Akana closed out his career with a 2-for-4 performance that also included a stolen base and two RBIs. He’ll be off to play for the University of Hawaii next year.
Poole had another hot outing with two doubles, a sacrifice, three stolen bases, an RBI and two runs scored. James Yamasaki, the winning pitcher in an 11-1 win over Radford in the semifinals Friday, went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
On the hill, right-hander Brayden Nomura fanned eight batters and gave up five hits in the complete-game win.
All in all, it was a memorable way to close what has been a rough year for St. Francis, the 95th year of the school’s existence. Along with the school closing, the football team forfeited its 9-0 season due to an ineligible player.
After Nomura got the final out with a strikeout, he threw his hat up high and also threw his glove as high as he could. The dugout emptied and the sky was filled with blue hats before the hugs and mob scene occurred near the mound.