In its season openers on a frigid Friday, American School In Japan got exactly what coach John Seevers said it wanted – a sweep dream and vengeance for a heartbreaking Far East Tournament semifinal loss.
Right-handers Mizuki Shumsky and Justin Novak combined for 22 strikeouts in 12 innings and the Mustangs swept defending Far East Division I champion Kubasaki 2-1 and 10-0 at Mustang Valley.
The sweep came more than 10 months after Kubasaki upset prohibitive favorite ASIJ 1-0 in the D-I semifinal, something Seevers said the Mustangs have been talking about since.
“That was in the back of their minds, no doubt,” Seevers said, adding that Novak and Shumsky “threw very well. You play two games in 3½ hours, that means you have pitchers throwing strikes. It was fun, a lot of strikes, no time wasted.”
In the opener, a rematch of the D-I semifinal starters, Novak and Kubasaki’s Renton Poole nearly matched strikeout for strikeout the first six innings, only surrendering home runs by ASIJ’s John Yonamine and Kubasaki’s Jaren Blessett.
Novak’s RBI infield grounder plated the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
Novak signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Virginia last month. His older brother Shawn pitched for Yokota in the 2000s and now works for Major League Baseball International. Their father is retired Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin Novak, now with the State Department in Tokyo.
“He’s always playing baseball year-round, always working, always throwing, always hitting,” ASIJ’s athletics director, Brian Kelley, said of Justin Novak.
In the nightcap, two fourth-inning Kubasaki errors opened the floodgates for ASIJ, which plated three runs in that inning and six more to end the game in the sixth via the 10-run rule.
Shumsky – who signed to play with Miami, Ohio – went 3-for-4 with a double and allowed one hit in five innings, striking out seven. Neither he nor Novak walked a batter.
“We didn’t make any plays,” Kubasaki coach Randy Toor said. It was the Dragons’ season-opening games as well.
Facing such opposition right off the bat is a “good experience, but you can’t win against good teams if you don’t make plays. We came to face good teams and good pitchers and that’s what we got. They made plays and we didn’t.”
Kubasaki’s two-day season-opening road swing continues Saturday when the Dragons visit the St. Mary’s International team they beat 19-1 for their second Far East D-I Tournament title last May 26.
Stellar pitching performances weren’t limited to Mustang Valley.
At Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Yokota’s Leo Austin pitched one-hit ball over five innings, throwing just 56 pitches, as the Panthers blanked Matthew C. Perry 13-0 in a run rule-shortened DODDS Japan opener for both teams. Austin helped his cause by going 3-for-3 with three RBIs.
Chris Deibel tossed a five-inning, four-hit shutout and Daniel Ross pitched a six-inning complete-game two hitter as Nile C. Kinnick swept a twin bill from reigning two-time Far East Division II champion Robert D. Edgren 2-0 and 11-1.
The first full weekend of DODDS Pacific spring sports season also saw Korea’s soccer season open, including the debut of Humphreys, whose Blackhawks boys lost 4-1 and girls lost 3-0 at Taejon Christian International. Manasseh Nartey had the boys’ lone goal.
The lone DODDS Korea winner Friday was Seoul American’s boys, who got a hat trick from HoKyung Adkins in a 7-2 home triumph over Yongsan International-Seoul.
At Iwakuni, Gaku Lange netted two goals and two-time defending Far East D-II champion Matthew C. Perry downed Kyoto International University Academy 3-1, improving to 2-2-1 this season.
The youthful Samurai girls continued their hot start (6-0), as freshman Bobbi Hill netted her seventh and eighth goals and Ani Erhart scored her fifth and assisted on two in Perry’s 4-0 shutout of E.J. King.
Senior striker Kaile Johnson and newcomer Alyssa Leal each scored in Kinnick’s 2-1 opening win over Seisen International.