HQ PACAF two-out rally dooms HIANG

Master Sgt. Josh Kearns waits for the ball before putting the tag on a HIANG hitter.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

Trailing by four runs late in the game, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces ( HQ PACAF ) staged a seven-run fifth inning to overtake and then hang on to beat Hawaii Air National Guard (HIANG), 12-10. The matchup took place on June 21 in a battle of top teams in the White Division at Millican Field, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

In capturing their eighth win against no defeats, HQ PACAF remained on track for their season-ending showdown against the 647th Security Force Squadron Pound Town, who is also undefeated.

The teams are scheduled to meet in about a month on July 19 starting at 6 p.m. at Ward Field.

Meanwhile, despite their tough loss, HIANG still stayed in contention for the White Division pennant with a record of 6-2.

“It’s just one hit at a time,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Jones, whose big three-run blast put HQ PACAF in front for good. “That’s all I was trying to do.”

From the beginning, the game was close, as the teams matched each other run for run for the first couple of innings.

HIANG got out in front first in the top of the opening frame with two runs off a single by Senior Airman Darby Ventura.

HQ PACAF tied the score in the bottom of the inning, when HIANG pitcher Master Sgt. Jared Mina walked Master Sgt. Jason McDowell with the bases loaded and then allowed another run to score on a sacrifice fly.

In the top of the second, HIANG scored on a sacrifice fly to take a 3-2 lead, but back came HQ PACAF. Airman 1st Class Brady Keeezer punched a single with two men on base to tie the game once again.

HIANG, which came ready for a slugfest, proceeded to retake the lead in the top of the third on an RBI single by Airman 1st Class Senio Slawson.

Later, Staff Sgt. Kalani Souza lifted a two-base hit to drive in two more runs and give HIANG some breathing room at 6-3.

Down by three runs, HQ PACAF kept the game within striking range. Mc-Dowell picked up another RBI in the bottom of the frame on a one-out single.

However, the HIANG bats stayed hot, as the team answered with two more runs in the top of the fourth inning.

The first run came on a single by Tech. Sgt. John Arakaki and the second scored on an RBI single by Master Sgt. Lance Takasama.

Trailing by their biggest run difference, HQ PACAF came to bat in the bottom of the fifth and appeared to stall after picking up their second out with only one man on base.

Instead of quietly surrendering, HQ PACAF started a rally on a single by Master Sgt. Patrick Platt that drove in a run.

Maj. Gary Epps followed with another hit to drive in Platt and cut the lead down to two at 8-6.

Then HQ PACAF erased the HIANG lead completely. Tech. Sgt. Justin St. Denis came up with the bases loaded and lined a single to drive in two runners and tie the score at 8-8.

Now faced with a fresh new ball game, HQ PACAF stormed to the lead. Jones blasted a pitch over the head of the HIANG center fielder for an inside-the-park homer that cleared the bases and gave HQ PACAF an 11-8 lead.

“The pitcher was throwing pretty good strikes,” Jones said about his winning blast. “I knew about where he was going to pitch it. So, I waited for my pitch.”

Jones said the win was the biggest of the year for HQ PACAF and he hopes the team can continue its winning ways heading into the playoffs.

“I think we’ll make it at least to the top four,” he said. “We’ve still got a couple of positions that we’re working on. A couple of people have been out, so once they come back in, we’ll fill in those gaps.”

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Category: Sports