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 successor, the North American Baseball League, as Na Koa beat the Edmonton Capitals 4-1 on Tuesday at Maehara Stadium.
Yoshida came in 0-4 with a 12.04 ERA in nine previous starts, all for the Chico Outlaws.
Na Koa Ikaika - Eri Yoshida
"I am really happy, just one word: happy," the 5-foot-1 Yoshida said through interpreter Masayo Sutton as many of the 934 fans in attendance waited for an autograph.
Maui traded for Yoshida on July 28. Her first appearance - in front of the third-largest crowd of the season at Maehara - was delayed after a foot injury.
Na Koa broke a four-game losing streak and won for just the third time in 17 games.
Na Koa Ikaika’s Eri Yoshida pitches in the first inning of Maui’s 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Captials on Tuesday at Maehara Stadium.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
Na Koa’s Gered Mochizuki slides safely into third base for a first-inning triple as the Capitals’ Carlos Duncan awaits a throw.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
"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 in the Northern League in 1998, according to Na Koa.
Na Koa's Gered Mochizuki, a Baldwin High School graduate, had two triples, a double, two runs and an RBI.
|Rio Grande Valley||41||29||.586||3|
McAllen 9, Edinburg 5
San Angelo 7, Rio Grande Valley 4
Chico 5, Yuma 4
Maui 4, Edmonton 1
Today's Games (HST)
Rio Grande Valley at San Angelo, 2:05 p.m.
McAllen vs. Edinburg at McAllen, 2:05 p.m.
Yuma at Chico, 4:05 p.m.
Lake County at Maui, 6:35 p.m.
Yoshida threw 81 pitches - 41 for strikes - walked three batters and allowed one run and four hits. Of her strikes, 16 were put in play.
"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 the Valley Isle - first baseman Julie Croteau and pitcher Lee Anne Ketchum played for the Maui Stingrays in 1994.
Yoshida 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 Todd Linden was picked off and Matt Kavanaugh threw out Brent Metheny attempting to steal to end the inning.
In the second, two hits and a walk loaded the bases with one out, but Edmonton pitcher Daryl Arreola lined out to third baseman Richard Bargewell to start a double play.
In the third, Yoshida needed 10 pitches in a perfect inning.
At bat leading off the third, she hit a weak bouncer back to the mound on an 0-1 count.
Maui scored one run in each of the first three innings.
Mochizuki tripled with one out in the first and scored on a groundout by Kavanaugh, and in the third smacked a ground-rule RBI double to deep center field to drive in a run.
In the fourth, Yoshida gave up a sacrifice fly to Enrique Cruz that drove in Metheny, who had led off with a ringing double to right field.
She needed eight pitches in a perfect fifth, and in the bottom of the inning laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved Bargewell to second. After running out the bunt, Yoshida came up with a slight limp. John Holley Jr. started on the mound in the sixth.
"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 inning.
"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 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 eighth, 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 did a great job getting outs and ruining the timing of the hitters on the other team," Mochizuki said.
Na Koa vice president Bob Elder announced during the game that the final four contests 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 game, on Saturday.
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
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-Edmonton, Brent Metheny; Maui, Gered Mochizuki. 3B-Maui, Mochizuki 2.