Things learned, observed in Pacific high school spring sports season Weeks 12.0, 13.0

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer with great trepidation enters the nine-event Far East tournament week hoping he comes out in one piece on the back side of Saturday:

-- Rain, rain, go away! Will they EVER complete the Okinawa Activities Council district best-of-three baseball finals? Chances aren’t looking good, that’s for sure.

Game 1 was played on May 10 with Renton Poole tossing a two-hitter and Angelo Bourdony and Jaren Blessett combining to drive in seven runs in Kubasaki’s 14-3, run rule-shortened six-inning victory at Kadena.

Games 2 and 3, the latter if necessary, were scheduled for May 11, but that morning the annual monsoon season announced its beginning “with a vengeance,” Kubasaki athletics director Fred Bales said. Vivid lightning, booming thunder and Biblical rains that had most folks looking around for Noah and the Ark.

They tried to make up the games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, without success. On Saturday, the weather broke, but … it was Kadena’s prom night, so playing was out of the question.

They’ll try again on Monday; overcast conditions are forecast. If they do play, it would be possible for Poole to get the wins in both games, should Kubasaki sweep the series and win it for the eighth straight year. It’s the last time they’d be able to finish the series until after the Far East Division I Tournament, scheduled for this Thursday-Saturday at Yokota.
-- Panthers softball back on top (but…): They’re Okinawa district champions once more, the Kadena Panthers softball team, reigning Far East D-I Tournament champions who recaptured the district title they’d lost for the first time in league and school history last year to Kubasaki.

The Panthers swept the best-of-three finals 2-0, putting the finishing touches on it Tuesday (so, how did they play and baseball did not?) with a 9-5 win over the Dragons. Maria Vaughan and Morgan Beecher had multiple extra-base hits and Peyton Lettkeman pitched one-hit ball over 5 1/3 innings, striking out seven.

If there’s one disquieting note to Kadena’s performance in the two-game set, it is pitching. Despite getting the wins and holding Kubasaki to a total of five hits in the two games, it’s bases on balls that may, just may be a tiny Achilles’ heel.

Panthers pitching allowed 20 walks in the two games. As baseball coaches are wont to say, if you put the ball over the plate and make hitters out of the batters, you have seven people behind you to help you out. But there is no defense against the walk.
-- Whither Kanto Invitational? It’s time that something be done to revive interest in the Kanto Invitational track and field meet; only six girls and five boys teams attended, and only one of those from off-island and that team, Kubasaki of Okinawa, featured just one athlete.

Talk among some of the organizers revolved around flipping the Kanto Invitational with the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools district finals, moving the former to the last week of April – prior to the DODDS Pacific-mandated Far East meet qualifying deadline – and the latter to the second week of May.

This way, the Kanto Invitational becomes the last major Far East qualifier and truly becomes a Far East dress rehearsal, with many of the major players from many more teams in attendance. Not to mention that teams from Okinawa, Korea and Guam that wish to travel to Yokota, the Kanto Invitational’s host site the last few years, won’t be bound by the DODDS restriction on long-haul trips during the two-week Advanced Placement testing period.

And it would also put the Kanto and the Okinawa Activities Council finals on equal footing, with each serving as a district championship, but not a Far East qualifier.

A modest proposal: Make that move.
­­-- As good as advertised, and thensome: American School In Japan regular season-ending girls soccer matches have been as good as advertised, definitely lived up to the hype, so much so that weeks in advance of them, I’d made plans to come to the last two, the Nile C. Kinnick 1-0 victory last May 11 at Yokosuka Naval Base and the Mustangs’ 1-0 rain-soaked win over Yokota last Thursday.

A couple of things resonated with me before, during and after the match, which was delayed 40 minutes by lightning.

The teams and spectators were ordered indoors by the referees to stay out of harm’s way. So all sequestered to ASIJ very well-appointed school cafeteria, where Panthers and Mustangs players – who seem to get along famously! – mingled at a couple of cafeteria tables, blue jersey next to black jersey, played games, sang songs, some good fellowship to pass the time prior to the match.

Rain drenched the match from start to finish, ranging from drizzle to downpour. In the end, the Mustangs took care of the business they didn’t at Yokosuka and salved the wounds from that heartbreaking loss to Kinnick by scoring in the 70th minute, in a manner that had to hurt the hearts of the Panthers as well.

ASIJ’s Kiyomi Powell sent a deep ball from the sideline toward the net and Yokota freshman goalkeeper Sarah Cronin. She appeared to have a good bead on it and had gathered it in … but it somehow slipped beneath her toward the goal and ASIJ’s Maya Szerdaheyli had a clear path to the net. Goal. Game. Set. Match. Mustangs win the Kanto Plain and gain Japan’s top seed into the Far East D-I Tournament (more on that later).

And plenty of fellowship after the match ended, too. ASIJ and Yokota players hugged, and every Panther was there to comfort Cronin, who looked as if her dog had run away. Sarah, that happens to even the best professionals on the biggest of stages (ask Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings about the fluke goal he gave up against the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Playoffs). And if that’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, believe me, you’re doing great.
Best of luck to all at Far East this week.

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Ornauer on AFN


Stars and Stripes reporter Dave Ornauer talks about the Pacific sports scene on AFN Radio. (Click on right arrow to play file.)


Sept 28:Dave Ornauer is back with the latest on the Pacific sports scene.

May 22:Yokota has dominated in first year at D-II spring championsihps.

May 8: Dave Ornauer highlights a few athletes who are participating in the Kanto Plains track and field finals Saturday.