WAILUKU - Just when it looked like Eri Yoshida was going to lose a tough decision, Na Koa Ikaika Maui turned on the magic to rescue the "Knuckle Princess."
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Na Koa's Logan Kanamu smoked a two-run double to tie the score and Kalaika Kahoohalahala, a fellow Mauian, followed a batter later with an RBI double to put the team on top for good in a 5-3 win over the Sonoma County Grapes in front of about 700 fans Saturday night at Maehara Stadium.
Kahoohalahala came in hitting .218, but raised his average to .254 with a 3-for-4 effort as Na Koa improved to 8-9 in the North American Baseball League, remaining two games out of first place in the Northern Division.
ERI YOSHIDA, improves to 3-0
The Grapes fell to 7-10.
"I was just trying to find fastballs to hit, the pitcher got behind in counts, so I went for the first thing I saw," Kahoohalahala said. "We feel a little more juice when Eri is on the mound."
Yoshida was throwing her knuckleball in the mid-50-mph range according to the meter on the new scoreboard. She went six innings, allowed two earned runs and six hits, walked one batter and struck out none in her fourth straight win dating to last season.
Her 3-0 record this year leads the team and her 2.74 ERA is the best among the starters. She threw 70 pitches Saturday, 45 for strikes.
"I lost the two runs, but everybody was backing me up with the batting, so I'm very happy about it," Yoshida said through interpreter Masayo Sutton before being surrounded by autograph seekers. "Tonight there were no errors, so I was just throwing strikes because I knew our guys were going to get outs."
A sign that this was Maui's night came in the bottom of the seventh when Danny Sandoval's high pop fly fluttered in the wind and dropped safely about five feet in front of the plate. Sandoval later scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Valdez, and Chemah Sanchez came home on the same play when the relay throw went awry.
Yoshida fell behind for the first time this season in the third inning, when she grooved a 61 mph fastball on a 3-1 count with two outs and Bunyu Maeda smashed it about halfway up the trees behind the left-field fence. Maeda's RBI single in the fifth made the score 2-0.
Yoshida retired eight of the first nine hitters she faced and six in a row after the homer.
In the sixth, Maui first baseman Joseph Kala came up big on back-to-back pitches. With one out and runners on the second and third, he fielded a bouncer by Joseph Lewis and nailed Mark Micowski at the plate, then went high to snag a line drive off the bat of Chris DeBiasi to end the inning.
Na Koa were only able to advance two runners to second base through five innings.
In the sixth, they got runners to second and third, and Kanamu hit a two-out double on one bounce to the left-field wall.
Kanamu is Yoshida's personal catcher.
"When she pitches we have a lot of confidence behind her and we want to back her up and get her that win," Kanamu said. "I take a lot of pride in catching for her. I work with her one or two times a week in bullpens. We can't really communicate too well, but we do the job."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sonoma ..... 001 ..... 010 ..... 010-3 ..... 9 ..... 2
Maui ........... 000 ..... 003 ..... 20x-5 ..... 8 ..... 0
Ross Pomerantz, Shane Cadaret (6), Marquis Pettis (8) and Tyler Finley; Eri Yoshida, Josh Larson (7), David Jensen (8), Mike Koons (9) and Logan Kanamu. W-Yoshida, 3-0. L-Pomerantz, 0-2. Sv-Koons, 6. 2B-M, Kanamu, Kalaika Kahoohalahala. HR-S, Bunyu Maeda, Brandon Gregorich.
Leading hitters-S, Maeda 2-5, run, 2 RBIs; Gregorich 3-4, run; Frederick Atkins 2-4. M, Kahoohalahala 3-4, RBI.
|Rio Grande Valley||18||11||.621||—|
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San Angelo 8, Abilene 3
Edinburg 5, Fort Worth 3
Rio Grande Valley 5, McAllen 2
San Rafael 11, Hawaii 2
Maui 5, Sonoma County 3
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Today's Games (HST)
Hawaii at San Rafael, 10:35 a.m.
Edinburg at Fort Worth, 1:05 p.m.
Abilene at San Angelo, 1:05 p.m.
McAllen at Rio Grande Valley, 1:05 p.m.
Sonoma County at Maui, 1:35 p.m.