Kubasaki back on top with rout of St. Mary's
For three seasons, Jared Paul found himself stuck in bridesmaid status. He and his Kadena baseball team repeatedly finished second in Far East High School Division I Tournaments as well as being stuck behind Kubasaki in the chase for Okinawa bragging rights.
A transfer to crosstown Kubasaki his senior season yielded different results. Happier ones for Paul. First an Okinawa title and now a Far East Division I title thanks to the Dragons’ 19-1 championship romp Saturday over St. Mary’s International.
“Best decision I ever made,” said Paul of moving to Kubasaki after he went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs in the final at Yokota Park. It’s Kubasaki’s second D-I title, following a championship in the inaugural Far East event in 2010.
In a much closer championship contest, defending champion Robert D. Edgren rallied from two runs down by scoring three runs in the fifth inning to down host Zama American 4-3 for the Eagles’ second straight Division II crown. Zama and St. Mary’s were making their first Far East finals appearances. Much was made of the Dragons’ experienced, yet young pitching staff, led by juniors Angelo Bourdony and Tommy Warren and sophomore ace Renton Poole. But the team’s hitting, Paul said, has come around as well.
“We’ve been working on it all year long,” he said. “That’s all we had to do, play every game, keep working hard until it was perfect.”
“He had a big tournament for us,” coach Randy Toor said. Paul played first base for Kadena but was moved to the outfield with Kubasaki “and didn’t say a word. He’s a team player, he’s energetic, he’s brought a lot to the team.” Kubasaki rapped 24 hits against five Titans pitchers. Bourdony went 5-for-5 with a double, a homer and three RBIs and Shoichiro Vivas batted 4-for-6.
Bourdony got the win with two innings of relief and Pool went three for the save, a day after pitching the Dragons to a 1-0 semifinal upset of heavily favored American School In Japan.
Of the Dragons on the current roster, most should return next year except for Paul, who graduates.
“This is a great bunch of kids,” Toor said. “I’m proud. I’m happy. They work hard on the baseball field, in the weight room, in the classroom. This is a great bunch to work with.”
Saturday’s D-II final was pretty much a microcosm of Edgren’s season. Trapped indoors for the first month or so and only able to play outside on the road, the Eagles have been something of a late riser the last two seasons.
Zama seized a 3-1 edge in the second inning on RBI hits by Daniel Roland, Ivan Molina and Christian Venzlauskas. That held until the fifth, when Zama’s exhausted pitching staff turned to freshman Keanu Cruz to close it out.
Edgren’s Izzy Leon walked and stole second to lead off. Will Appell walked and the two pulled a double steal. Isaac Victorino’s single plated both runners, and he in turn stole second, went to third on a passed ball and scored on an error. Edgren’s Cameron Ray pitched a complete game for the win.
For Eagles coach Brett Lehner, the win was more special than the team’s first title a year ago.
“This team is so different,” he said. “They worked extremely hard, we didn’t have the pitching we had last year, the defense was different and a group of guys stepped up and filled those gaps. I didn’t think these guys could accomplish this, but they did.”
Zama played the final without freshman ace right-hander Keiyl Sasano, who was ejected in the Trojans’ 6-3 semifinal win over Osan American when he lowered a shoulder into the Cougars’ catcher at the plate. By National Federation of State High School Associations rule, Sasano had to sit out the final.
“Definitely,” Zama coach Stephen Venzlauskas said when asked if Sasano would have made a difference. “He’s one of our better sticks and better pitchers.”