Stars Hand Eri Yoshida First Loss of the Season
Saturday night’s featured attraction at Wong Stadium was Na Koa Ikaika Maui’s Eri Yoshida, also known as the “Knuckle Princess,” but the show stealer was her opposing starting pitcher, Ronnie Loeffler of the Hawai’i Stars, who pitched a complete game to lead his team to an 8-3 win in front of a buzzing crowd of 364.
Na Koa took an early lead in the fourth inning when Nick Valdez scored Waylen Sing Chow on a ground ball out to shortstop, but the Stars came back immediately for a big inning off of Yoshida. The first four batters reached base safely in the three-run bottom of the fourth against the knuckleball hurler. Anthony Lopez started the scoring with an RBI single to left field that scored Steve Tedesco. The next batter, Brenden Davis, singled in Matt Hibbert, and Jason Thomas brought in Lopez on a 4-3 double play ground ball out.
Yoshida watched the bases load up against her in the fifth inning with no one out, and the home team used that to produce another three-run frame. Jose Angel Sanchez scored on a Tedesco fielders choice for the first run and out. Two batters later, Tedesco and Keoni Manago scored on an infield single from Lopez. Manago scored thanks to a throwing error from Maui second baseman Gerald Mochizuki, who tried to fire a throw to Yoshida who was covering first base on the play.
The fifth inning turned out to be the last inning for Yoshida (3-1), who started strong by striking out the first two batters she faced in the game. She allowed six runs overall, four of them earned, on eight hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
Down 6-1 heading into the sixth inning, the visitors tried to cut into the lead against Loeffler, but could only manage a run off of a wild pitch that brought Mochizuki home from third base. But, Hawai’i opened it back up in the eighth inning, scoring two off of reliever David Jensen. Matt Hibbert drilled a deep double to left field, bouncing right in front of the Wong Stadium fencing and scoring Tedesco. Two batters later, Davis brought him home on a single to center field.
Loeffler (4-1) labored in the ninth inning with his team holding an 8-2 lead. He allowed a single and a double to lead off the inning before Valdez hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Danny Sandoval. After picking up that out, he settled back in and induced two more flyouts to end the game, securing his first complete game as a pro.
The Waiakea High School and University of Hawai’i at Hilo graduate allowed three runs on eight hits with a pair of walks and strikeouts on his tally. The win was an important bounceback to his rough outing on the road Sunday, where he allowed nine earned runs in five innings of play.
Manager Gary Templeton II made a slight adjustment to his lineup at the top of the order, moving Hibbert out of the top of the order and moving up Tedesco. It worked, as each of them paired hits and drove in a run in their spots in the lineup. Lopez and Davis each also picked up two hits and an RBI each.
The Stars will face a group of recent high school graduates in a pair of exhibition games on Wednesday and Thursday at Wong Stadium. They return to North American Baseball League play on July 10 against Sonoma County.
Na Koa Ikaika Maui 000 101 001 – 3 8 1
Hawai’i Stars 000 330 02x – 8 11 0