NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan – Justin Wilson picked the perfect time for his bat to awaken after a perfectly awful first few at-bats in Kadena’s quarterfinal game against St. Mary’s International.
The freshman outfielder belted a three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the fifth and final inning. It capped the Panthers’ rally from a 5-0 deficit for an 8-5 win over the Titans at Atsugi’s Bandy Field in the Far East High School Division I Baseball Tournament.
“It feels great. I’ve never hit a walk-off before. It feels awesome,” Wilson said.
He wasn’t trying for a home run, he said, just a base hit that would bring home Kota Manning, who singled with two out. Holden Schreiber then reached base, setting the stage for Wilson’s heroics.
“I just swung, looking for the hit, and it went over,” Wilson said of his blast that cleared Bandy’s left-field wall.
That swing was just the beginning of the day for the Panthers, who reached their third D-I final in the tournament’s five-year history. Kadena edged Kubasaki 2-1 in Friday’s semifinal, the fourth time the Panthers have beaten the Dragons this season.
The teams traded runs in the first inning, then Kadena’s Justin Sego and Kubasaki’s Tommy Warren matched each other until the sixth inning. Steven Black’s squeeze bunt plated Sego with the winning run to cap the pitchers’ duel. Sego struck out 12 and Warren 15 in the loss.
Kadena will face American School In Japan, which knocked off Nile C. Kinnick 12-0. Game time is 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Division II round-robin continues Saturday with host Zama, leading the pool at 3-0, taking on two-time defending champion Robert D. Edgren at 10 a.m., a rematch of last year’s final.
The top two teams in that pool will play for the title at 6 p.m. at Zama’s Rambler Field.
Friday’s games were played under partly cloudy skies, a sharp departure from Thursday, which saw thunderstorms and heavy rain truncate both the Division I and II pool-play and round-robin schedules.
Organizers canceled four D-I pool-play games scheduled for late Thursday and seeded the teams into the playoffs based on what win-loss records the teams had posted to that point.
D-II organizers dropped the last three games scheduled for Thursday, meaning the six teams will play four round-robin games instead of five.