CAMP ZAMA, Japan — Seniors James Ritton and Scott Sakraida don’t mind staying in the background and doing the little things to help their baseball teams win.

Yet their coaches rave about the contributions Yokota’s Ritton and Zama American’s Sakraida have made for their 8-8 squads.

“He’s the unknown soldier of this team,” Yokota coach Brian Kitts says of Ritton, a four-year starter who sparks the team from the top of the lineup with a .407 average, 23 runs, and 20 stolen bases, while playing several positions.

“He’s been a starter all four seasons and he’ll play anywhere you ask him,” Kitts said. “He’s one of the leaders on the team.”

Same goes for Sakraida, a four-year veteran who last year helped Zama, win its first Kanto Plain regular-season title since the early 1970s.

Sakraida is batting .610 with an .847 slugging percentage — and has not struck out this season. He even has four saves.

“He gets his bat on the ball,” Zama coach Tom Allensworth said. “He’s a good contact hitter with occasional power. He’ll pitch for us, play shortstop, third baseman, catcher, wherever we need him.”

Neither Yokota nor Zama boasts teams comparable to past ones that won titles — Yokota won the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools postseason tournament last year and league and tournament titles in 2002 — but the eight-team Kanto tournament, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Camp Zama, can yield any number of surprises.

The Trojans were favored to win the tournament last May but were beaten 2-1 by the Panthers in the semifinals, and Yokota beat St. Mary’s in the championship game.

Zama could provide a surprise. The Trojans have won seven of their past 10 games and Allensworth credits a deep pitching staff.

“March was a bad month for us. We were still trying to figure out where who would play,” Allensworth said. “A team that has the best pitching when it needs it will have the best chance in the tournament.”

“I think if we’re focused, cut down on our mistakes, anything is possible,” Kitts said of his middle-of-the-road squad. “It depends on which team shows up.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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