St. Francis lost a game that was almost brutally quick Tuesday.
But, thanks to some intestinal fortitude by the ILH Division II Saints, what could easily have been a mercy-rule embarrassment turned into a close game.
Trailing by 10 runs to Division I Maryknoll after two innings, St. Francis made a game of it, pulling within two before falling 13-8 at Hans L’Orange Park.
The early going was rough, for sure, replete with poor throws, misjudgments, and pitchers hitting batters (six overall) and issuing walks (eight overall).
The Saints (5-2) could have caved, but didn’t. Zach Alcos and Bubba Akana drove in two runs each in the third and fourth innings, and by the bottom of the fifth, they were well within striking distance at 10-8.
All the while, reliever JP Tilley was keeping the Spartans (5-3) from doing more damage.
To sew it up, Maryknoll manufactured three runs in the sixth on four straight walks, a hit batter and Maddux Miyasato‘s sacrifice fly.
That peak and valley and struggle to finish it off was a big lesson for the Spartans. Pitcher Drayden Yamauchi, who ended up with the win, admitted afterward that they got overconfident.
So, despite an eye-opening 2-0 win over Saint Louis earlier this month, Maryknoll coach Eric Kadooka‘s team is still going through the long process of learning how to win consistently.
When Kadooka won seven straight state titles at Punahou, he didn’t just show up and the Buffanblu started dominating. It took a while. Lessons. Lessons just like on Tuesday.
“Maybe this is their first experience,” Kadooka said, referring to the loss of a big lead. “We were ready, though. This is not their first rodeo. We have to learn what we can do to slow them down and also score some (more) runs in that situation. We’re still young and learning how to win, learning how to compete. You win some, you lose some. The main objective is to compete and not give up.”
Never giving up may be a the Saints’ calling card. Not many teams go down 10-0 and have the will to fight back. Amazingly, they outhit the Spartans 10-4.
“It shows their character,” Kadooka said.
Said St. Francis coach Kip Akana: “It takes a lot of energy to dig back from that deficit. We ran out of gas in the end. It takes a lot out of you.”