Saint Louis coach George Gusman has watched his star pitcher perform at a high level all season.
But what made Jordan Yamamoto‘s two-hit shutout against Waiakea on Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships even more special was the stage on which he delivered.
His showdown with Waiakea ace Kodi Medeiros was one of the most anticipated head-to-head pitching matchups in state tournament history. At one point, we counted 30, yes 30, different scouts/coaches/fans with radar guns behind home plate shooting both pitchers’ velocities after every pitch.
Yamamoto, who topped out at 93, sat in the low 90s for much of the game and showed a slider in the mid to low 80s with a changeup in the mid 70s. From the very first pitch to the last, when he recorded his ninth strikeout on pitch No. 106, he was always in control, and he did it with a lot on the line.
“I think you hit the nail on the head with this stage and the fact that it’s the state tournament where you win and you advance or you lose and head to the consolation bracket,” Gusman said. “Jordan found a way.”
Yamamoto’s draft stock has risen a ton since last summer, when the velocity on his fastball jumped into the low 90s from the mid 80s. It got him a scholarship offer from Arizona, where he signed in the fall, and it now has him projected as a top-10 round pick in next month’s draft.
Now that Saint Louis has advanced to the semifinals, Yamamoto is eligible to pitch another 18 outs over the next two days according to tournament rules. Gusman, who said he still needed to figure out what to do for Thursday night’s semifinal against Campbell, said he’d only use Yamamoto in a late-inning save situation on Friday if the Crusaders make it to the final.
“We’ve talked a lot about coming back on short rest during the season and (Yamamoto) will tell me if he’s ready,” Gusman said. “I have to be the adult here and think about his career. IF we use him, it would have to be bottom of the last inning where it’s a save opportunity and we could win it right there.”
If that was his final high school outing, it couldn’t have ended a better way. Yamamoto walked two and struck out nine and allowed only four balls to reach the outfield.
After the game, he admitted the matchup against Medeiros, who could become just the third player drafted straight out of a Hawaii high school in the first round, made the night extra special.
“I don’t know if it’s my best but it was one of my better outings,” Yamamoto said. “It was special to battle the top prospect in Hawaii.”
Medeiros’ high school career is likely done after he threw 121 pitches against Saint Louis, allowing two runs on six hits with three walks and eight strikeouts. He wasn’t as sharp as he’s been with his location as in other starts this season, but the stuff was there. He was consistently at 92-93, touching 94, with a devastating slider that just falls off the plate.
“I know that Jordan is another big prospect who is a good pitcher and I knew today was going to be a good game because the intensity was there and the hype was really big for this game,” Medeiros said. “I don’t want to take my losses really hard. It’s done with and I don’t want to dwell on it but instead move on.”
Medeiros could join Waipahu’s Jerome Williams and Kamehameha’s Bronson Sardinha as the only first-round draft picks to come straight out of high school in Hawaii.
The Crusaders move on to play the only seeded team to win on Wednesday in the Campbell Sabers, who routed Kaiser 9-0.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do as far as pitching,” Gusman said. “I’ve seen them play their last three games and they have hit the ball all over the place so I’m not sure what we’re going to do.”