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Saint Louis tops Kamehameha, 7-2, returns to top of ILH

By: Wes Nakama

WAIPI’O — After one week off the perch, Saint Louis returned to the top of the ILH baseball standings Thursday night by stopping Kamehameha, 7-2, in impressive fashion at Patsy T. Mink Central O’ahu Regional Park.

Jacob Villacorte allowed only one run and struck out 10 with one walk in six innings pitched and helped his cause with a two-run single to help the Crusaders improve to 9-3-1 heading into Saturday’s regular season finale against Damien (2-11). Kamehameha fell to 9-4 and will face Punahou (8-5), which has won five of its past six games, on Saturday.

Punahou defeated ‘Iolani, 4-2, Thursday afternoon, dropping the Raiders to 8-5. Also Thursday afternoon, Maryknoll (5-8) upset Mid-Pacific, 6-2, sinking the Owls to 8-5.

That set up a yellow brick road for Saint Louis, which started the season 6-1 but then went 1-2-1 in its next four games. And Villacorte seized the opportunity, setting down the first 10 batters — including five strikeouts — before Elijah Ickes broke up the perfect game with a one-out single to center in the fourth inning. 

“I felt really great in the ‘pen (in pre-game warm-ups), my arm felt good,” said Villacorte, a right-hander . “They’ve been saving me for like a week now, so our preparation was good. It went well today, my change-up and my slider … It went really well. I worked on it in practice, and thankfully it went well. I know these guys were looking (for) fastball early in the count … they’re big hitters. I made sure I started early with my slider and change-up early in the count, and then sneaked in a fastball. And it worked really well.

“It really is a good feeling, because of the preparation, it went well.”    

Things started going well on offense for the Crusaders in the third, when Matt Pavao led off with a double to left, advanced to third on Ryder Okimoto’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Kolby Gushiken’s sacrifice fly to center. Saint Louis then made it 3-0 in the fourth on Chyler DeSilva’s two-out, two-run single to center, then pushed the lead to 5-0 on Villacorte’s two-run single to center, also with two outs.

The Crusaders extended the lead to 7-0 in the sixth — yet again after two outs — on Gushiken’s RBI single to center and an infield error.  

“We (had) been struggling in the beginning of the season with two outs … but throughout the season (assistant) Coach Derrick (Fujioka) really told us to keep a two-strike approach,” Villacorte said. “We’ve just been looking for fastball first, and hitting it.”

The Warriors finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth, after Ayden Lobetos led off with a towering double to left, moved to third on Ickes’ single to center and scored on a wild pitch. Kamehameha closed it to 7-2 in the seventh when pinch-hitter Nainoa Dela Cruz slammed a two-out triple to center and was awarded home on a balk.

But Gushiken, who came in from left field as a reliever, got a groundout to shortstop to end the game.

“We ran into a buzzsaw tonight,” Warriors coach Daryl Kitagawa said. “It was just Saint Louis’ day. But we need to flush this behind us … and just gotta come out Saturday and be ready to play. Punahou is on a little hot streak themselves, so it’s gonna be a tough challenge ahead of us. We look forward to the competition, though.”

Crusaders coach George Gusman said he is proud of how his team stepped up, especially in the season’s biggest game so far, on live statewide TV via Spectrum OC16.

“This wasn’t just a good win, it was a great win, I’m just very happy about this game,” Gusman said. “In this league, you better come to play. Everybody’s got good players and it’s loaded with good coaches, as well. We needed to win this one.”