WAILUKU - Garry Templeton II knows what it takes to win at Maehara Stadium. Ronnie Loeffler made it look like he was right at home.
The rookies - manager and pitcher, respectively - guided the Hawaii Stars to a 5-2 win over Na Koa Ikaika Maui on Wednesday night in front of an announced crowd of 461, more than 2,300 less than 24 hours earlier in the opener for both North American Baseball League teams.
Na Koa won that opener 4-3, but Loeffler's professional debut didn't allow that to happen on Wednesday. He held the home team hitless for 5 1/3 innings before surrendering a pair of runs in the sixth, but his teammates got him the victory with three runs in the top of the seventh.
"I was just grooving in there and my defense backed me up the whole way," said Loeffler, a former Waiakea High School and University of Hawaii-Hilo standout playing for his hometown team that was only created a month ago. "I was just throwing strikes and every play that was out there, they made it."
Loeffler did run into trouble in the sixth when a former high school foe - Joe Kala, a 2003 Maui High graduate - singled in a run and a wild pitch scored another before Loeffler finished the inning and his night with two hits and two runs allowed.
He didn't notice the no-hitter until he walked out to the mound to start the sixth.
"I just looked up at the scoreboard and I thought, 'Oh my God, I have a no-hitter going,' " he said.
With former South Carolina All-American Chad Blackwell, a sixth-round draft choice of the Kansas City Royals in 2004, matching zeroes with Loeffler, it appeared the youngster might take the tough loss.
But Hawaii bounced right back against Blackwell with three runs on four hits, a wild pitch and an error in the top of the seventh to take a 3-2 lead. Adam Jacobs scored the first run on a wild pitch, Steve Tedesco knocked in the next run with a single to left field, and the Stars took the lead on an error by Maui third baseman Chemah Sanchez off the bat of No. 9 hitter Matt Hibbert.
Loeffler was in complete control through five innings, although Maui did have four baserunners.
In the second, Na Koa's Mark Okano made it to third base after his walk - on a wild pitch and a groundout - but was left there when Loeffler got Eric Rodriguez to ground out and A.J. Alexander to fly out.
After that, Loeffler retired eight straight hitters until hitting Sanchez with a pitch with one out in the sixth. Danny Sandoval followed with the first hit for Maui, just past a diving Anthony Williams, the Hawaii second baseman.
With runners on first and second with one out, Loeffler walked Nick Valdez to load the bases. Kala followed with his breakthrough base hit to left to make it 1-0, leaving the bases loaded. Okano followed with a screaming grounder that was snagged by Hawaii third baseman Angel Sanchez, who got to his feet and fired home to force out Sandoval.
Loeffler then uncorked a wild pitch to bring Valdez home with the second run. Loeffler escaped the jam by getting Rodriguez to line out to shortstop.
Hawaii put the game away with a two-run double by Hibbert in the top of the ninth.
It added up to the first win of Templeton's managerial career - he was the third-base coach and Sunday manager for his father, 16-year major league veteran Garry Templeton, for Maui last year.
"It feels good," he said. "I was nervous yesterday, that was my first time (managing his own club). I was hanging on every pitch, every at-bat. Today, I was a lot more calm."
He said his father would receive a phone call late Wednesday night at home in California.
"Everybody is getting a phone call tonight," he said with a wide grin.
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ronnie Loeffler, Josh Larson (7), Roman Martinez (8) and Adam Jacobs; Chad Blackwell, Victor Ferrante (9) and Nick Valdez. W-Loeffler, 1-0. L-Blackwell, 0-1. Sv-Martinez, 1. 2B-H, Matt Hibbert.
Leading hitters-H, Jacobs 2-4, run; Steven Tedesco 3-4, 2 runs, RBI; Hibbert 2-4, 2 RBIs.