Crusaders accomplish mission, take ILH
St. Louis beat MPI for regular-season title, but there's no time to rest with the league tourney ahead
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Saint Louis' Lucas Gonsalves (6) and Kaden Kamoe celebrated the team's 3-1 win over Mid-Pacific in the ILH baseball regular-season championship yesterday at Ala Wai Community Park. The Crusaders earned an automatic state berth.
The Saint Louis hit parade churned out another wrinkle -- steady pitching -- to stifle Mid-Pacific 3-1 yesterday for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu regular-season title.
The win at sunny Ala Wai Community Park also gave the top-ranked Crusaders (14-1) an automatic state tournament berth.
Josh Saio and Tamatoa DeMello combined on a two-hitter to silence the potent offense of No. 2-ranked Mid-Pac.
It was the second save in as many days for DeMello, who normally plays center field. His save against Punahou on Monday gave Saint Louis a share of first place with the Owls, necessitating yesterday's tiebreaker.
Saint Louis and MPI (13-2) will begin play in the ILH double-elimination tournament on Saturday. The tourney winner will face Saint Louis for the league championship.
Crusaders coach Duane Fraticelli was loose, but far from celebratory.
"We ain't done yet. We still got a lot of games to play," he said, looking ahead to the league tourney.
For now, the Crusaders proved worthy of their No. 1 ranking. Saio allowed just one unearned run in two bases-loaded jams.
"I was trying to get my inside fastball going, but it was tailing to the outside," the senior southpaw said.
He made up for it by hitting the outside corner more often than not and mixing his offspeed pitches.
"His changeup was keeping them off balance," Fraticelli said.
Saio, who pitched 5 2/3 innings, struck out four and walked five. DeMello struck out three of the four batters he faced in a flawless relief stint.
"The guy threw good and DeMello had some clutch pitches," MPI coach Dunn Muramaru said.
Owls ace Matthew McDaniel scattered nine hits, struck out five and walked one in seven innings.
"It's frustrating. We had it, but we couldn't score runs, basically," McDaniel said. "Josh pitched a helluva game."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Saint Louis' Danny Higa hit an RBI single in the third inning to give the Crusaders a 2-1 lead yesterday in a 3-1 win over MPI.
Saio started out on a rough patch, hitting leadoff batter Russell Doi, and after a walk and an error, Derek Tan drew a walk to force Doi in with the first run. Nick Tasaka's liner back to Saio ended the threat.
Kaden Kamoe answered for Saint Louis in the second with a two-out triple to right-center. Lucas Gonsalves followed with a single to left on a 1-2 count, and the game was tied at 1.
In the third, DeMello singled, stole second and went to third on a throwing error by MPI catcher Aaron Fujiki. Danny Higa followed with an opposite-field single to bring in DeMello for a 2-1 Saint Louis lead.
"He's tough every time he pitches," Higa said of McDaniel. "We figured out a little bit what he throws, but he's tough."
Catcher Keoni Haina blasted a homer over the left-field fence to lead off the fourth, his first home run of the year.
"It was a fastball kind of low. I thought it was like my first at-bat (a fly out to left)," Haina said.
The Owls loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the sixth on singles by Michael Nagamine and Derek Tan, and a walk by Tasaka. DeMello then took the mound against Michael Arakaki, who worked the count to 3-0. DeMello battled back and struck out Arakaki to preserve the Crusaders' lead.
"Especially against this team, it's never over. They've been coming back," DeMello said, noting Mid-Pac's recent come-from-behind win over Kamehameha.
DeMello retired the side in order in the seventh, fanning Doi and Wade Tamaru to end the game.
Now the Crusaders are one step away from an ILH title. The notion that it's been 19 years since the last title -- Charlie Hall was the coach -- drew laughter from DeMello and Higa, who weren't even been born yet.
For assistant coach Nohili Naumu, comparisons are intriguing.
"The togetherness is the same," said Naumu, who played on the '89 squad. "Talent-wise, and the team speed, this team is better."
|Saint Louis (14-1)
Josh Saio, Tamatoa DeMello (6) and Keoni Haina, Moses Samia (6). Matthew McDaniel and Aaron Fujiki. W
Leading hitters--Saint Louis: Lucas Gonsalves 2-3, RBI, Keoni Haina 1-3, HR, RBI, Kaden Kamoe 1-3, 3b. Mid-Pacific: Derek Tan 1-2, RBI.