Damien right fielder Kyle Kinney probably won’t make it on America’s Got Talent anytime soon, but he almost danced his way to a Monarchs victory Thursday at Central Oahu Regional Park.
Instead, though, St. Francis held off hard-changing, arch rival Damien 6-4 in an ILH Division II baseball game.
So let’s set the dance stage. The Monarchs were trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth with Kinney on second base after a single and Jordan Donahue on first on a walk. Kaysen Kajiwara hit a hard grounder to St. Francis third baseman James Yamasaki‘s left and he cleanly fielded it and was about to tag out Kinney.
Kinney, though, sprinted toward third, but put the brakes on and watched Yamasaki approach him. Kinney started and stopped again and then shimmied left and shimmied right in an effort to make Yamasaki miss.
Then Yamasaki tried to swipe Kinney with a tag and the ball popped out, allowing Kinney to make it to third to load the bases.
Big trouble, right? That’s what it looked like, but Saints reliever Brayden Nomura got out of the jam. He also got out of another tight spot with runners on first and third in the seventh to earn the save for winning pitcher Darian Kamibayashi.
Nomura needed to make sure Kinney wasn’t going to pull any more off-the-beaten-path stunts in the seventh with two down and those runners on the corners. On a 2-2 pitch, Kinney didn’t make good contact, however, and it was an easy out, 1 to 3, to end it.
“He took me lightly and thought it was an easy out,” Kinney said about Yamasaki on the dance play. “I made it hard and I had that ‘I did not want to get out’ mentality. When I saw the ball fly out, I just booked it to third.”
Coaches Kip Akana of the Saints (3-1) and Timo Donahue of the Monarchs (0-5) looked at that play a little differently.
“He’s not out unless he goes out of the basepaths, which I thought he did,” said Akana, who did not argue the call with the umpires. “It shouldn’t have gotten to that. We should have gotten that out and moved on to the next pitch. James is our stud pitcher and he plays all over the place as a utility player when he’s not pitching. He made a mistake, but he responded well.”
From Donahue’s perspective, Kinney did not leave the basepath.
“He was dancing, whatever, but the ball came loose,” Donahue said. “It’s not a play you see all the time or even see work.”
St. Francis cleanup hitter Bubba Akana drove in his team’s final three runs with two booming triples (about 350 and 370 feet) to left-center in the fifth and seventh.
“Lately, I’ve been struggling and been kind of in this pit,” Akana after his 3-for-4 day. “We practiced all yesterday and the coaches helped me to get into the right frame of mind. We’ve been preaching the mental game for the past couple of months or so. That at-bat when I struck out (in the third), if I stayed on that and didn’t practice my mental game during the game then I probably wouldn’t have been able to get any of those (triples).
“Damien’s always a tough team. Always good competition. Rivals. To come and win is a big thing, but you’ve gotta give it up to them. They never back down.”