CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – Dominic Shea picked a capital moment to end a batting slump – and help end a lengthy string of futility for Kadena baseball.
The senior catcher equaled his hit total for the season series against Kubasaki, going 2-for-2 with a double and four RBIs, and the Panthers outlasted the Dragons 8-5 Tuesday to clinch the Okinawa season series 3-1.
It was the first island championship for Kadena in nine years.
“It’s wonderful for the kids,” Panthers assistant coach Boe Roberts said. “The hard work the kids put in. They wanted this. I’m happy for the kids, especially with everything they went through last year, then to battle back.”
Especially with two freshmen in the starting lineup, to take three of four from the defending Far East Division I champions, and to beat Kubasaki ace right-handers Tommy Warren and Renton Poole in the process, “that’s just amazing,” Roberts said.
Tuesday’s performance marked a breakout for Shea, who had gone a combined 2-for-8, each hit a single, in the previous three games.
Shea had approached Roberts before the game and asked that they make some lineup changes, moving Justin Sego from leadoff to cleanup and Shea from fourth to fifth.
His bat finally woke up; it’s been asleep,” Roberts said, adding that freshman leadoff batter Justin Wilson “did a great job of getting on base. Sego is an outstanding player, he’ll feel right at home at the four spot and Dom seemed to like the five spot.”
Kubasaki led briefly 4-3 on Warren’s first-inning grand slam, but the Panthers tied it 4-4 when Shea was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. His two-run double in the fourth put Kadena ahead to stay 6-4.
The Dragons left the bases loaded in three innings, including the seventh, when with two out, Eric Carballo hit a slow roller and was thrown out on a close play at first base to end the game.
Kubasaki coach Randy Toor, who had won every district championship since he took over in 2006, said his team will seek redemption when the Dragons defend their Far East crown next month.
The other team played well,” he said of Kadena. “They hit the ball at the right time. We had our chances and we didn’t come through. The biggest one is at Far East. Hopefully, we’re there.”