The words “baseball championship” have a nice ring to it.
Those words had not been heard at St. Francis until Thursday, when the Saints defeated Pac-Five 6-3 at Hans L’Orange Park to finish off a whirlwind Division II league campaign.
St. Francis (14-5) cruised through the regular season with a 12-3 mark to nail down first place, but stumbled a bit in the postseason tournament and was taken out of tourney title consideration with losses to Pac-Five and Damien.
But in the overall league championship game (regular season winner vs. tournament winner), the Saints got their mojo back and wrapped it up.
With well-known and successful Oahu baseball minds Chad Konishi and Duane Eldredge sharing athletic director duties at the small school in Manoa, you can bet that there will be a certain focus on that sport as the years go by.
Head coach Kip Akana‘s squad, however, did not get one of the four seeds in this week’s eight-team Division II state tournament.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Akana said. “We came out hot at the start of the season and hit a bit of a bumpy road toward the end. But we showed up when it mattered.”
Akana pointed to a 2-0 tournament loss to Pac-Five as a showcase of the high level of baseball being played in D-II.
“It was errorless ball by both sides and we came out on the short end,” he said.
Ace Laakea Phillips pitched that game and he was also on the mound for the clinching victory over the Wolfpack on Thursday. That’s when he had 11 strikeouts, including some critical punch-outs with runners in scoring position.
With the score tied 3-3, Phillips hit a one-out double and Bubba Akana drove him in with a base hit for the eventual winning run.
“Dennis Fukunaga (the Pac-Five head coach) has built them back up and they battled to the last out,” Akana said. “They were very scrappy and it was a close game.”