“Knuckle Princess” Pitching Saturday Against the Stars
Twenty-year-old Eri Yoshida has pitched in the United States for each of the last three seasons, and the shine of her specialty Knuckleball and ability to cross the gender and language barrier still make her a hit wherever she pitches. On Saturday, that location will be Wong Stadium, as Yoshida’s Na Koa Ikaika Maui will face the Hawai’i Stars in the fifth game of a six game series.
The pitching matchup is enough to garner interest from baseball fans. Yoshida hasn’t lost a game yet this season, going 3-0 with a 3.20 earned run average in over 19 innings pitched. She’ll be facing local product Ronnie Loeffler, who started the season 3-0 before getting roughed up in a start on the road last weekend. The former University of Hawai’i at Hilo pitcher is currently 3-1 with a 3.81 ERA.
All eyes, however, will be on the 20-year old Yoshida, who at 5-foot-1, may be hard to find when not on the mound, but by skill, has blown away fans and baffled opposing hitters. Her knuckleball, made famous by former major leaguer Tim Wakefield and current New York Mets hurler R.A. Dickey, has only accounted for two strikeouts this season, but leads to a lot of ground ball outs. The Stars already know about this, having lost to Yoshida on June 9. She allowed only two runs on four hits over seven and two-thirds innings, picking up her first win of the season.
Yoshida is not the first female baseball player. In the last twenty years, she is one of only two to grace an American baseball diamond. Ila Borders played for the Saint Paul Saints, a Northern League team, in 1997. Go back farther to 1931, and you’ll find Jackie Mitchell, who played AA baseball in Chattanooga, and is famously known for striking out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game.
Yoshida is, however the first female to ever play professional baseball in two different countries, Japan and the United States. She is also the most successful female pitcher in professional baseball history with four wins, her first coming last year with Maui.
This trailblazer may be pitching at her best level yet going into Saturday’s start, which will begin at 5:35 p.m. at Wong Stadium.