PURCHASE, N.Y. Keio baseball coach Rocky Pasquale said earlier this season that freshman Riku Kawada had been a pleasant surprise for the Unicorns this season.
He went from pleasant surprise to hero in Keios Section 1 Class B semifinal win against Hastings on Tuesday. The No. 2 Unicorns defeated the No. 14 Yellow Jackets, 6-2, to advance to the finals against Briarcliff.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning, Kawada roped a single toward right field that the defense misplayed and the freshman found himself on third base and the bases cleared. A 2-2 tie became a 5-2 Keio lead.
We stress putting the bat on the ball. We dont always do it, but he did it in the key situation and thats baseball at any level. Its situational hitting, said Keio coach Rocky Pasquale. You dont have to get many hits, but when you get a chance with the bases loaded and one out, Ill take a hit there. He added, If youre going to go 1-for-4, thats where I want your one.
A sacrifice fly from Yuta Ishii brought Kawada home from third for the Unicorns sixth and final run of the game.
Junior Takumi Yokoyama pitched a complete game for the Unicorns. He struggled a bit in the fourth inning when upset-minded Hastings tied the game at two, but Pasquale trusted his pitcher and Yokoyama rewarded his faith by shutting down the Yellow Jackets in the final three innings.
He just came out in I guess it was the fifth inning and just threw a good inning. I didnt really say too much to him when I went out to the mound, but we did have Masatoshi (Watanabe) warming up, Pasquale said. But he came out and he had a strong next inning and that made the decision easy for us.
Hastings won just seven games in the regular season but scored two upsets to get into the semifinals. Coach Jesse Waters said he and the team discussed playing spoiler before Tuesdays game.
We stressed being loose and having really nothing to lose and just being able to go out there and be loosey-goosey and win a couple of games, Waters said. We thought we had a chance and they just beat us.
It remains to be seen if the Yellow Jackets can take the momentum from this playoff run into next season. But Waters thinks that the experience will be a benefit to his club next spring.
I think the experience that they got from just seeing, even the guys that were going to lose, how to play it right and how to come back and how to not give up, its going to be invaluable, Waters said. I think it will give us a good start. Were going to need pitchers like (Dylan) Healy next year but just the experience they all got from this, its going to be great I think for next year (to) push us forward.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.