Okinawa teams combine to sweep Yokota
Stars and Stripes March 26, 2023
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Kubasaki used the long ball while Kadena played small ball.
In doing so, they swept a weekend inter-division, inter-district softball series from Yokota, winning two games each.
Taylor Tobin on Friday batted 4-for-8 with a triple, a home run and seven RBIs and the freshman catcher nabbed three would-be base stealers to lead the Dragons past the Panthers 19-18 and 14-7 on Friday.
Then on Saturday, Jessica Petruff executed three successful squeeze bunts and the sophomore batted a combined 6-for-7 with four RBIs as Kadena downed Yokota 19-4 and 10-4 on a rainy Saturday.
“It’s very effective, and today she (Petruff) was on point,” Kadena coach Jessica Geffre said of the bunting strategy; the Panthers used four squeeze bunts total during the two games.
Petruff batted right-handed during her freshman year, but switched to left-handed for the current season, in part to help the team, but also because she felt she was capable of making the change.
“Last year, we didn’t have many left-handed batters, and I can do it, so why not?” said Petruff, who is in her fourth year of organized softball, two of those seasons for Okinawa’s Diamond Divas youth club.
The Panthers did hit their share of extra-base hits, too. Lia Connolly tripled and homered and knocked in five runs, Petruff’s twin sister Julia pitched the win, doubled twice and had two RBIs in the opener and Emaleigh Appleton homered in each game and drove in five runs.
Tobin is another youngster not new to softball, having played for nine total years, including two for Okinawa’s Lady Ambassadors youth club.
“She hustles, she communicates very well, she has a great attitude and her skill level surpasses that of most freshmen,” said Mia Vedsted, a four-year Dragon, of Tobin.
“Taylor is one of the strongest silent people I’ve met,” Kubasaki coach Cassandra Pineda said. “She holds herself to a high standard and aims to do her best every time she steps on the field.”
Vedsted and Kristen Lininger each doubled and drove in a run, Addi LaTour went 3-for-4 with an RBI and Quinn Suey-Schwartz got the win in the nightcap. Vedsted pitched and got the win in the opener.
The Panthers, who beat Kubasaki 18-6 in the second of two games a week earlier at Yokota, very nearly stole Friday’s opener, scoring 12 runs in the top of the fifth after trailing 19-6. But Siera Light grounded out with the bases loaded for the final out as gametime expired.
“They learned not to give up,” Yokota coach John Liss said.
Players and coaches on all three teams said the weekend series was important preparation for the Far East tournaments April 24-26, Division I at Humphreys and Division II at Naval Air Facility Atsugi.
“It was fun seeing new people, hitting off of new pitchers,” Tobin said. “Getting a better idea of what other pitchers can be like, their speed and potential.”
Liss said the Panthers might have stood a better chance had they made fewer errors – they committed 21 in the four weekend games.
“Story of our weekend: We allowed them to stay in an inning and they capitalized,” Liss said. “They hit the ball where we weren’t. But this was good experience. I want to build their (players’) self-confidence.”