By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Starting pitching is much like marathon running — the objective is to outlast the other guy or field of competitors — but in baseball teammates and their fine play are often necessary, an experience that washed over Hawaii Stars pitcher John Holley.
Holley pitched well, but Tyler Pearson threw better and had fine help, and the San Rafael Pacifics pulled the plug on the Hawaii Stars 3-2 in a North American Baseball League game on Friday night at Wong Stadium.
The Stars (20-20) and Pacifics (26-14) play the fifth game of a six-game series at 5:35 p.m. today at Wong. Steve Raburn (2-1, 4.76 ERA) is scheduled to start for Hawaii.
“I try to go out and make pitches and once they leave my hand I have no control,” said Holley, philosophical and still winless. “I thought everyone played well. We had a few errors, but it was a good baseball game, regardless of the outcome.
“I made the pitches I needed to make. I wish I could take a few back. But that’s the story of a starting pitcher. The wins are going to come.”
Like fellow starter Dallas Mahan (0-6, 3.46 ERA), Holley seems to run into a brick wall every time a victory is within smelling distance.
“Holley did a great job. He’s similar to Dallas and has a string of bad luck,” Stars manager Garry “G2” Templeton II said. “He can’t get that monkey off his back to get that first win.”
Holley (0-2, 5.26 ERA) and consistency — a performance that does not vary greatly in quality over time, such as throwing pitches for strikes — aren’t always the best of friends. The 2005 Pahoa graduate has 28 strikeouts against 28 walks in 37 2/3 innings; a 3-to-1 ratio is considered ideal.
However, Holley, 25, swimming against convention, was in fine form against the first-place Pacifics, keeping tabs on his free passes. In nine innings, he allowed three runs (one unearned) on 11 hits and just three walks, and whiffed five.
“I felt good with my control. I wasn’t trying to throw it through a brick wall,” Holley said. “My slider was working and for the most part most of my pitches.
“I told myself to make pitches and it worked. I have a tendency to overthrow. I’ll feel good and try to make the perfect pitch. Tonight I trusted myself and stuck to my plan.”
Pearson (2-0, 4.38 ERA) pitched one-run ball over seven innings. He was on the lower end of the velocity scale, but surrendered just four hits and one walk, and struck out four. Julian Arballo cleaned up with two innings of one-run relief for the save.
For the most part, Holley matched Pearson and even exceeded him in pitching excitement (stranding 10 runners to the Pacifics’ eight), but the San Rafael right-hander’s defense was flawless; Hawaii’s defense was, well, not so good.
Hawaii right fielder Steve Tedesco with his .311 batting average, also known as Mr. Hitting Streak, missed only his second game of the season, maintaining his 17-game hot run.
Pacifics right fielder Maikel Jova, who had his 37-game hitting streak snapped with an 0 for 4 collar Thursday, jumped back on the bandwagon with a hard-hit single in the fourth, showing what makes him such a high-average hitter.
Jova, who went 2 for 4 and has a .374 batting average, got into a nice hitter’s count at 2-0. He sat fastball, got it but missed, swinging late on a low and outside heater — a perfect pitch in a tough-to-hit spot.
So, the count moved to 2-1, still in Jova’s favor, allowing him to be selective again, not only in location but speed as well. Holley, following pitching’s strategy of changing speeds, threw a changeup — hoping Jova’s brain impulses were still thinking hard cheese.
But the mark of a good hitter is making on-the-fly, pitch-to-pitch adjustments, and Jova, with a compact, line-drive swing that would fit in a shoebox, is well stocked in that department.
Holley’s arm action on the delivery of his changeup, nearly the same speed as his fastball, was good, but the pitch itself lacked in quality; it was high, inside and inviting to Jova, who kept his hands back and used his strong wrists to whip a single through the shortstop’s hole.
“If I threw that changeup a foot lower, he would have swung and missed,” Holley said. “That’s one of the pitches I wish I could take back. He was missing my changeups all night. The whole game I just wanted to get the team within reach to get a win. That’s all I can do.”
Steve Boggs collected three hits, and Darrick Hale and Johnny Woodard each added two hits.
After Hawaii took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Anthony Lopez’ single to score Arnoldo Ponce, who earlier doubled, Holley ran into a spat of trouble in the sixth inning, some of it his fault and some of it not.
Ponce and Lopez each went 2 for 4 to lead the Stars, who stranded two in the eighth and the tying run on first in the ninth, when Matt Hibbert struck out.
San Rafael’s three-run spot (one unearned) featured two costly errors, a throwing miscue by catcher Adam Jacobs and a fielding one by second baseman Dion Pouncil, and a pair of hit batters that also threw logs on the fire.
Holley eventually escaped doing what he does best: rearing back and throwing gas. The former UH-Hilo pitcher struck out leadoff man Darrick Hale with the bases packed to put that rolling snowball to bed.
He also wiggled out of another bases-loaded situation in the seventh, walking a pair of Pacifics to inconvenience himself. But Holley finished the inning showing fire in his belly, getting a lineout to extend his night’s fine work.
“We gave them a game,” said G2, after Dion Pouncil’s RBI single in the ninth trimmed the deficit to 3-2. “In that one inning, we gave them runs and it ended up hurting us.”
Then the first-time manager explained the working order of pitching, defense and timely hitting — the old-fashioned winning formula that goes back decades.
“As a team, pitching and defense have to be there every night. The hitting comes and goes,” he said. “But to be a winning team, you’ve got to play winning defense every night.”
Pacifics 000 003 000 — 3 11 0
Stars 000 100 001 — 2 8 2