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Special night at Maehara: Yoshida wins

August 10, 2011 - Robert Collias
The electricity was tangible in the stands at Maehara Stadium on Tuesday night at Eri Yoshida became the first female pitcher to win a game in an American professional league since Ila Borders won single games in 1998 and 1999 in the Northern League.

Maui manager Garry Templeton had Yoshida on his 2010 Chico Outlaws team and said this, among other things, after the game:

"I gave her a shot last year and she kind of fell apart because she was tired," he said. "I was, like, 'Man, she looked like she was getting tired,' but she got a little better."

I just read my story that ran in the paper today, and unfortunately because of our very limited space, a few details got cut, so here is the entire story I filed last night:

WAILUKU — Eri Yoshida was just what the doctor ordered for a struggling Na Koa Ikaika Maui.

Yoshida, a 19-year-old female knuckleball pitcher from Japan, picked up the first win of her two-year career in the Golden Baseball League and its follower, the North American Baseball League. She came in 0-4 with a 12.04 ERA in nine previous starts, all for Chico.

“I am really happy, just one word: happy,” the 5-foot-1 Yoshida said through interpreter Masayo Sutton after the 4-1 win over the Edmonton Capitals as many of the 934 fans in attendance waited for an autograph outside the fence.

Maui traded for her on July 28 and Tuesday night was her first appearance — in front of the third-largest crowd of the season at Maehara Stadium — after a non-baseball foot injury hampered her.

Her defense played a major part in the victory, especially when she struggled in a scoreless first inning. Na Koa broke a four-game losing streak in the process and won for just the third time in 17 games.

“The defense really helped and also the following pitchers after me, it was all helping me,” Yoshida said. “I really appreciate everybody’s help.”

She is the first female to collect a win in an American professional league since Ila Borders did it more than a decade ago. Borders collected single wins in the Northern League in 1998 and 1999, according to Wikipedia.com.

Gered Mochizuki, a Baldwin High School graduate, led the way at the plate with two triples, a double, two runs and an RBI.

Yoshida threw 81 pitches — 41 for strikes — walked three, allowed one earned run and four hits. Of her strikes, 16 were put in play, 12 for outs. After the first inning, she threw 33 strikes in her final 60 pitches.

“Every inning I had runners on, but inning by inning I was getting more comfortable,” she said. “I was gaining more and more confidence.”

Yoshida became the third female to play professionally on Maui — first baseman Julie Croteau and pitcher Lee Anne Ketchum played for the Maui Stingrays in 1994.

She got through the first three innings without allowing a run despite throwing just 29 strikes in 57 pitches.

In the first, she walked two and allowed a hit, but got out of trouble with a pickoff of Todd Linden and a caught stealing when catcher Matt Kavanaugh threw out Brent Metheny for the final out. She threw just eight strikes in 21 pitches in the first.

In the second, two hits and a walk loaded the bases with one out, but she got pitcher Daryl Arreola to line out to third baseman Richard Bargewell to start an inning-ending double play. She threw 15 strikes in 26 pitches in the frame.

In the third, she needed only 10 pitches in a 1-2-3 inning and threw six strikes. She struck out Matt Rogelstad looking on six pitches for the second out.

At bat leading off the third, she hit a weak bouncer back to the mound on an 0-1 count.

Meanwhile, Maui took a 3-0 lead with single runs in the first three innings with Mochizuki sparking the rally. He tripled with one out in the first and scored on a groundout by Kavanaugh.

In the third, Mochizuki smacked a ground-rule RBI double to deep center to make it 3-0.

In the fourth, Yoshida gave up a run on a sacrifice fly by Enrique Cruz, who drove in Metheny after Metheny led off with a ringing double to right field. She cruised through the fifth to qualify for the win — the perfect frame featured five strikes in eight pitches.

She batted again in the bottom of the fifth with one out and Bargewell on first. She laid down a pretty sacrifice bunt that moved Bargewell to second.

After running out the bunt, she came up with a slight limp and was lifted for John Holley Jr.

“Today my knuckleball was working better than ordinary,” Yoshida said. “It really worked well. Once the game started, I forgot about my foot. It is the Japanese way. I am a little bit sore now.”

Yoshida said the Maui fans lifted her all night long.

“Every time I got a strike everybody was clapping,” she said. “It really boosted me up.”

When Holley walked two of the first three batters in the sixth, he got an animated visit from Maui manager Garry Templeton and then got two flyouts to end the frame.

“A little bit of history tonight, Eri went out and pitched and got her first win in professional baseball,” Templeton said. “She was throwing so good, I said, ‘Well, I’ll give her one more inning’ and then when she hit the fourth, I said, ‘Well, I might as well give her a shot at it and we will see what happens.’ “

Templeton was impressed that she pitched on the sore foot.

“That tells you a lot about her,” he said. “Her foot is still sore. After she ran you could tell it was still hurting her real bad. She went out there and gutted it out.”

Holley pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and David Dinelli walked the first batter he faced in the eight, but then struck out the side and pitched a perfect ninth for the save.

After Yoshida batted for the final time, she was greeted near the dugout by Mochizuki with a Japanese-style bow.

“She is a good pitcher, she is a girl,” Mochizuki said. “I think this is her first win, she did a great job getting outs and ruining the timing of the hitters on the other team.”

Na Koa vice president Bob Elder announced during the game that the final four games of the home season will be played as scheduled between Na Koa and the Lake County Fielders. There had been some question about the Fielders’ future when the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday that the team was days away from disbanding over a stadium dispute between the team and city of Zion, Ill.

Elder said during the game that Yoshida is tentatively scheduled to start the final home of the season, on Saturday.

Edmonton 000 100 000—1 4 3

Maui 111 000 01x—4 8 0

Daryl Arreola, Jorge Vasquez (7), Tom Boleska (8) and J.D. Closser; Eri Yoshida, John Holley Jr. (6), David Dinelli (8) and Matt Kavanaugh. W—Yoshida, 1-0. L—Arreola, 5-5. Sv—Dinelli, 3. 2B—E, Brent Metheny; M, Gered Mochizuki. 3B—M, Mochizuki 2.

Leading hitters—M, Mochizuki 3-4, RBI, 2 runs; Justin Jacobs 2-3, run.

 
 

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