WAILUKU - On a night of opportunity, Na Koa Ikaika Maui couldn't find the door.
Instead, the last-place Sonoma County Grapes walked through it.
In front of 603 fans at Maehara Stadium, Maui dropped a 5-1 decision to the Grapes on an evening that Na Koa could have matched a season-best by moving three games over .500 and drawn within four games of division-leading San Rafael, a 14-6 loser in Hilo.
ERI YOSHIDA, Na Koa Ikaika Maui pitcher
Instead, Sonoma County took advantage of nine walks and a hit batsman by Maui's first two pitchers - Eri Yoshida and Josh Larson - as the Grapes won for just the 14th time in 41 games this season. Na Koa's Yoshihiro Doi and Mike Koons pitched the final 2 2/3 innings without allowing a run or walk.
The Grapes had 20 baserunners on the night.
Meanwhile, Sonoma County's Dustin Crenshaw and Joseph Lewis combined to strike out six and walk just one in a six-hitter. They also combined to retire the last 13 Maui batters of the game.
"I mean, we just ran into a good pitcher tonight," Maui manager Jamie Vermilyea said of Crenshaw, who finished seven innings to even his record at 4-4. "He has had our number all season."
San Rafael comes to Maui Tuesday for a six-game set. The Grapes leave town today after the last of 18 matchups this season with Maui (21-20). Na Koa is 12-5 against the Grapes and 9-15 against the rest of the division, including 4-8 against San Rafael.
"Without a doubt, (today is) a big game," Vermilyea said. "We have Chad Blackwell on the mound and he's been doing well. We need some momentum going into the San Rafael series. If we can take four or five from them, we are in good shape. Our last 24 games are against the top two teams in the division, 12 of them with San Rafael, so we are OK."
Yoshida struggled for her fourth straight start. The knuckleballer gave up a run in each of the first three innings and it could have been worse, as she could not consistently find the strike zone.
Yoshida walked Samuel Perry to start the game, and he scored two batters later on an RBI single by Brandon Gregorich.
In the second inning, she hit a batter and walked three in a row, including Mark Micowski with the bases loaded, but got out of the jam with a runner caught stealing at third base, a strikeout and a fielder's choice that left the bases loaded.
In the third inning, she walked the first two hitters she faced and immediately surrendered a run on a base hit by Chris Debiasi, but retired the next three hitters.
Yoshida threw 69 pitches, but just 29 for strikes as she set her season high for walks with six. After winning her first three starts, she has lost four in a row and her ERA has gone from 3.20 to 5.45 in that span.
"She is fine," Vermilyea said of Yoshida. "She is pitching a lot more this year than she has in other years. The key for her is finding the strike zone, throwing strikes and making them put the ball in play."
Maui got a run back in the bottom of the fifth when Keith Kandell doubled to lead off and scored on Waylen Sing Chow's one-out double. Sing Chow was caught off second base on a grounder by Kalaika Kahoohalahala, and Danny Sandoval grounded out to end the inning.
Sonoma boosted the lead to 5-1 on an RBI double by Micowski in the sixth and a run-scoring error in the seventh.
Maui loaded the bases in the first inning with three straight two-out base hits, but could not push a run across. Besides its lone run, Maui did not get another runner to third base in the game.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Sonoma ..... 111 ..... 001 ..... 100-5 ..... 10 ..... 0
Maui .......... 000 ..... 010 ..... 000-1 ....... 6 ..... 1
Dustin Crenshaw, Joseph Lewis (8) and Tyler Finley; Eri Yoshida, Josh Larson (4), Yoshihiro Doi (7), Mike Koons (9) and Logan Kanamu, Alan Rick (6). W-Crenshaw, 4-4. L-Yoshida, 3-4. 2B-S, Mark Micowski; M, Keith Kandell, Waylen Sing Chow.
Leading hitters-S, Samuel Perry 2-3, run; Micowski 2-4, 2 RBIs; Frederick Atkins 2-5, 2 runs. M, Danny Sandoval 2-4.
NORTH AMERICAN BASEBALL LEAGUE
|Fort Worth||35||26||.574||3 1/2|
|Rio Grande Valley||34||27||.557||41 1/2|
|San Angelo||31||30||.508||7 1/2|
* * *
San Angelo 14, Abilene 13, 10 innings
McAllen 5, Edinburg 2
Fort Worth 4, Rio Grande Valley 2
Hawaii 14, San Rafael 6
Sonoma County 5, Maui 1
* * *
Today's Games (HST)
San Angelo 0, Abilene 0, tie, 1 innings, comp. of susp. game
McAllen at Edinburg, 1:05 p.m.
Sonoma County at Maui, 1:35 p.m.
San Rafael at Hawaii, 1:35 p.m.
Fort Worth at Rio Grande Valley, 2:05 p.m.
Abilene at San Angelo, 2:35 p.m.