By: Wes Nakama
WAIPI ‘O — Only the setting sun over the Wai’anae Mountain Range could stop ‘Iolani and Saint Louis from battling until one team came out on top Thursday, so the ILH baseball showdown was called at 6:36 p.m. due to darkness and declared an 11-11 tie after 3 hours and 11 minutes of wild and exciting action.
The game was played at Patsy Mink Central O’ahu Regional Park Field #1, which does not have lights.
Saint Louis still is alone atop the league standings at 6-1-1, with Kamehameha just one “point” behind at 6-2 after squeaking past Pac-Five, 1-0, Thursday afternoon. Mid-Pacific (5-3) is now in third place, followed by ‘Iolani (4-3-1) and Punahou (4-4). For standings purposes, each victory is worth two points, with a tie valued at one point.
“When you turn to the second round, it’s gonna be like this,” said longtime Saint Louis coach George Gusman. “Everybody is better, by playing that first round. You find out a lot about the guys that you have. We know a lot about them, and they now in turn know a lot about us. So it’s (about) who is going to execute.”
‘Iolani lost to the Crusaders, 4-1, in the teams’ first round meeting on March 14, and was down 8-2 after the first four innings Thursday. But the Raiders rallied for five runs in the top of the fifth, and then scored four runs in the sixth to take a stunning 11-10 lead.
But Saint Louis tied it on a two-out balk in the sixth, and both teams stranded the only runner they got aboard in the next two innings.
“These are fun, though, this is what we signed up for,” ‘Iolani coach Kurt Miyahira said. “I think every game is a tough game — first round, playoffs, it doesn’t matter. These games are all a privilege to be a part of.”
The Raiders took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning after Cole Ide was hit by a pitch with one out, advanced to second on Cade Ueyama’s single, to third on an infield error and then scored on Brock Makishima’s sacrifice fly to center.
But the Crusaders exploded for eight runs in the bottom half, on six hits and four walks, capped by Kahanu Martinez’s two-run single that made it 8-1. ‘Iolani answered with one run in the top of the third after Kaimana Lau Kong reached on a one-out double, took third on Brandon Wada’s single to right and then scored on a passed ball.
Lau Kong added a two-run double to the right-center field alley to highlight the Raiders’ five-run fifth which closed it to 8-7.
“Every day Coach Kurt preaches to us to believe in each other, and believe that we can make these big comebacks, because we are more than capable of coming back from a large deficit like that early on,” said Lau Kong, a sophomore left fielder/first baseman. “I think it’s that belief in each other that brings in a lot of hope. So I think anything is possible, as long as we believe in each other.”
Saint Louis made it 10-7 in the bottom half when Sean Yamaguchi crushed a two-run double to straightaway center, but ‘Iolani answered with four runs in the sixth, after an RBI single by Cole Yonamine, a run-scoring groundout by Cade Ide, a bases-loaded hit batter and Isaac Ahokovi’s two-out RBI pinch infield single.
Martinez was hit to lead off the bottom of the sixth, advanced to second when Chyler DeSilva also got hit, to third on Ezekiel Ribuca’s sacrifice bunt and then scored on a balk.
“The calls are the calls, we can’t control the calls,” Miyahira said. “We just gotta keep fighting and keep playing.”
After a 1-2-3 top of seventh, the Crusaders threatened in the bottom half when Tanner Chun reached on a one-out infield single and stole second, but reliever Rylen Miyasaki got a flyout to center and a strikeout to end the rally.
Ethan Nakamura was hit by a pitch to lead off the eighth, but Chun — who had moved to pitcher from second base — got a strikeout and flyout to right, and then catcher Jacob Villacorte made a spectacular sliding catch near the backstop on a high foul popup. After Miyasaki retired the side in order in the bottom half, darkness set in and the game was called.
“It’s a little bittersweet, but we can always take something out of this,” said Lau Kong, who finished 4 for 5 with three doubles and three runs scored. “We showed that we can do anything no matter how much we’re down by, and anything is possible. We just have to believe in each other.”
Yamaguchi went 3 for 5 with two triples and four RBIs to lead the Crusaders, DeSilva went 2 for 3 with one RBI and Chun and Kolby Gushiken each went 2 for 5. Ueyama finished 3 for 4, Bruin Agbayani went 2 for 5 and Makashima had two RBIs for ‘Iolani.
Photos: Lori McKeown