The ILH baseball season is going to be fun to watch this season, especially if you’re a University of Hawaii baseball fan.
Saint Louis right-hander Pono Anderson, ‘Iolani third baseman Pikai Winchester and Kamehameha catcher Kekai Rios have all signed to play at UH next season.
They will be teammates next fall, but for now will go head-to-head with each other on a weekly basis.
Winchester and Anderson got after it on Friday night in the ILH opener for both Saint Louis and ‘Iolani at Les Murakami Stadium. Anderson got the best of it in a complete-game victory as the Crusaders won 9-4. Standing 6-foot-1, Anderson allowed five hits and four runs and struggled at times with his command, issuing four walks with four strikeouts.
“I shouldn’t have walked anyone actually,” Anderson said. “After I fall behind in the count, I should be able to get myself back up and get out of it.”
Anderson came up big for Saint Louis in the state tournament last year, tossing two five-inning complete games while earning the save in another to help the Crusaders win the state title.
Over the entire tournament, he threw 11 shutout innings and allowed six hits with three walks and six strikeouts as the Crusaders’ No. 2 guy behind Jordan Yamamoto, who signed with the Milwaukee Brewers as a 12th-round pick last summer. Since then, Anderson says he’s gained at least 20 pounds as he tries to bulk up and carry the load for the Crusaders this season.
“We’ve played a lot of good teams in the preseason which has helped prepare us a lot,” Anderson said. “My defense got my back today and the offense stepped up so hopefully we can keep that up.”
Saint Louis coach George Gusman said Anderson has been sitting consistently at 86-88 MPH with his fastball. He threw a couple of his best pitches against Winchester, who he admitted to being a little amped up to face. The two were teammates last summer and are good friends, but Anderson was at an advantage. Winchester played last Saturday in the boys basketball state final and only started practicing with the baseball team this week.
“He’s still tough,” Anderson said. “I’m just glad that he’ll be on my side next year.”
Winchester said he only worked out for baseball on Sunday’s during the basketball season. He’s normally a third baseman but served as the Raiders’ designated hitter as he works to get into the baseball groove. He finished 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly against Anderson.
“There’s a lot of competitiveness between me and him,” Winchester said. “It’s fun though. I know sometimes he’ll challenge me with a fastball right down the middle just to see if I can hit it.”
Winchester saw only five pitches in three at-bats against Anderson. He grounded out to first on a 1-0 count in the first inning and went after the first pitch he saw in the third, dribbling another ball to first. He got the fastball he talked about from Anderson in the fifth and lifted a fly ball to left to bring in a run.
“Just missed,” he said.
He won’t have much time to worry about it. ‘Iolani is back on the field Saturday morning at 9 a.m. against Kamehameha at Hans L’Orange Field as Winchester plays against another good friend in Rios.