Kinnick continues to own diamonds in Japan
Yokota first baseman A.J. Leake awaits a throw as Zama baserunner Keanu Cruz dives into first during Saturday's round-robin game in the DODDS Japan high school baseball tournament at Camp Zama, Japan. The teams tied 5-5, the second tie game of the tournament.
CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Meet the new champs. Same as the old champs.
As they have since the advent of DODDS Japan tournaments in 2012, Nile C. Kinnick remains on top of the heap, baseball capturing the DODDS Japan tournament title for the second straight year and softball for the third year running.
Daniel Ross outpitched Keiyl Sasano in a duel of right-handers and Ross helped himself with a first-inning RBI single as the Red Devils edged Zama 1-0, leaving Kinnick with the best win-loss record (3-0-1) in the three-day round-robin baseball tournament at Rambler Field.
Meanwhile, drama was hardly a factor in the softball tournament, where Grace Huezo and the senior-laden Red Devils took command early and downed E.J. King 12-3 in Saturday’s final at Yokota High School’s Headley Field.
Winning two straight “is great, of course, but there (were) a lot of close games, so the tournament could have gone either way,” Red Devils baseball coach Charles Stark said.
He preaches pitching and defense, “and this week they came through for us. We got a guy named Daniel Ross who’s pretty good. I’m proud of the guys for fighting for these wins.”
Ross and Sasano each pitched complete five-inning games, Ross striking out eight and allowing two hits, and Sasano giving up three hits, striking out six and allowing that lone first-inning run.
George Calvert reached on a strike-out when the ball got away and the throw to first sailed into right field. He came home from third on a Ross single.
“We’re going to miss him next year, because he was simply outstanding this whole tournament,” Stark said of Ross, a senior.
Kinnick softball coach Katrina Kemper is facing a similar situation; her entire pitching staff graduates in June, including Huezo and her twin sister Gabby and staff ace Kelly Osterbrink, who sat out DODDS Japan as a precaution against an ankle sprain.
As such, Kemper said she tried “giving opportunities to new kids,” including freshman right-hander Erika Farrelly, sister of former Red Devils first baseman Elizabeth Farrelly. “I think she has promise, she has the ability to be a good pitcher,” Kemper said.
She added that Osterbrink should be ready “for sure” to help Kinnick defend its Far East title.
Kinnick scored the game’s first seven runs, withstood a three-run Cobras fifth, then put the game away with a five-run sixth.
Stars and Stripes reporter Dave Ornauer contributed to this report.