Panthers solve ASIJ puzzle, hand powerful Mustangs first loss
A baseball team many thought to be unbeatable and a prohibitive favorite to win its second Far East Division I Tournament title in three years was brought down by its longtime rival in the nightcap of a Tuesday twin bill at Yokota Park.
Victor Madaris had an RBI single in a three-run sixth inning and Nate Sax escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh as Yokota scored a 4-3 upset win over American School In Japan, handing the Mustangs their first loss in 12 games against American and international high-school competition this season.
Happy times in Panther country, assistant coach Shannon Laliberte said. “It’s for sure, yes. They played great tonight.”
Sax scattered 10 hits and walked two while striking out seven. Kei DePontbriand went 3-for-3 in support of Sax. The Panthers scored on Madaris’ hit, and also on an error and a passed ball in the sixth inning.
ASIJ nearly clawed its way back from a 4-0 deficit, scoring three times in the top of the seventh. ASIJ had the bases loaded with two out when center fielder Jacob Mansberger caught a fly ball at the fence for the last out.
The teams won’t meet again until perhaps the Far East D-I Tournament scheduled for May 23-25, also at Yokota Park.
The Mustangs enjoyed a different result on their home pitch, as Katey Helwick scored twice and Maya Tromburg once in ASIJ’s 3-0 shutout over Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools rival Nile C. Kinnick.
It was revenge of sorts for the Mustangs (10-0-0), which handed the Red Devils their first defeat in 17 matches and also exacted payback for Kinnick’s 1-0 shutout of the Mustangs last May at Yokosuka Naval Base, which gave the Red Devils their fifth league title since 2000.
Mustangs coach Nathan Gildart feels there’s every chance the teams will meet again in the Far East D-I Tournament set for May 20-23, also at Yokosuka. “It’s not over yet,” he said.
On the diamond, Kadena’s No. 9 hitter, Morgan Beecher, made a strong case to be moved up in the lineup on Tuesday. She batted 2-for-3 with a triple and drove in four runs and Peyton Lettkeman, Asia Abdul and Maria Vaughan each had two RBIs as the Panthers beat Kubasaki 14-4 in five innings.
Starter Bailey Prince got the win with three innings of one-hit ball. Prince gave up just one hit but surrendered seven walks. Makyla Herrera took the loss for the Dragons, who have just one win in five games against the defending Far East Division I Tournament champions.
The teams have one regular-season game left on May 4, followed by the district finals on May 10-11 and Far East May 20-22 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.