By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
HONOLULU — Waiakea left-hander Kodi Medeiros had better velocity with his 94-mph fastball and movement on his pitches, especially his sweeping slider and cutter, which impressed scouts, but St. Louis right-hander Jordan Yamamoto had better command, and that made a world of difference.
It was the one pitching component that mattered most as the Crusaders blanked the Warriors 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I baseball state tournament Wednesday at Les Murakami Stadium.
“It was an excellent game between two dominant pitchers,” Waiakea coach Jensen Sato said.
“Yamamoto is a good pitcher and kept us off-balanced. We don’t face guys like that and it was hard.”
No. 3 seed and Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Waiakea (13-2) plays Kaiser (12-6) in a consolation game at 7 p.m. today at Hans L’ Orange Field in Waipahu.
In a 13-0 first-round victory against Roosevelt, the Crusaders threw No. 2 pitcher Pono Anderson, saving Yamamoto for Waiakea, which won the state title in 2012 when Medeiros was a sophomore.
In the long 56-year history of the state tournament, it’s a blue-moon rarity and entertainment bonanza when two pitching aces and top prospects in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft match up against each other.
Medeiros is projected to be a first-round pick in the draft, which runs June 5-7. As signing leverage, he has a full-ride scholarship to Pepperdine, where Konawaena graduate Kolten Yamaguchi is the catcher. The two were teammates on Hilo’s 2011 Senior League World Series championship ballclub.
Yamamoto is a University of Arizona signee, and is 6-feet-1, the same height as Medeiros, who was ranked as the No. 7 overall prospect in the 2014 high school class by Perfect Game, the largest scouting baseball service.
The Crusaders manufactured a 1-0 lead on old-fashioned small-ball in the fifth inning, when Jacob White walked, was sacrificed to second, and scored on leadoff hitter Rayson Romero’s RBI single to right-center field.
The Interscholastic League of Honolulu runner-up added an insurance run an inning later, when Ryder Kuhns doubled, and Devan Stubblefield, a UH-Manoa football wide receiver signee, beat out a high chopper to third for a run-scoring infield single and 2-0 lead, proving the old theory that speed kills.
Medeiros finished with 119 pitches, and allowed two runs on five hits and three walks, and whiffed eight. Though scouts agreed his arm was livelier of the two, Medeiros, who has a low three-quarter arm slot, didn’t have pinpoint control. He had one wild pitch and hit two batters.
“I couldn’t command my fastball right from the start, and worked to figure it out,” Medeiros said. “My cutter and slider were good pitchers, and I was locating them in and low. My fastball ran high, and I tried to go inside, but they had some good hits when I left it down the middle. But I thought we fought hard all the way.”
Yamamoto, who topped out at 92 mph, used 100 pitches in his shutout. He fired a two-hitter, walked two and struck out nine. He pitched cleaner and had no wild pitches or hit batters. Yamamoto, who has a true three-quarter delivery, finished the game with back-to-back strikeouts, including a game-ending 76-mph curveball.
The Crusader ace also had much better offensive support, another difference between the two pitchers.
Medeiros and Caleb Freitas-Fields had the only hits for Waiakea.
No one paired hits for the Crusaders, but they capitalized on their scoring opportunities.
In the third, St. Louis had the game’s first good scoring opportunity, but gambled and had a runner thrown out at home.
Through three frames, Yamamoto ran into little resistance and carried a no-hitter. Medeiros broke up the no-hit bid with a one-out single in the fourth, and Freitas-Fields followed with a single to right field, and courtesy runner Grant Nonaka raced to third.
But Nonaka wandered too far off third, and was thrown out after Nate Minami missed a bunt. One pitch later, he struck out to end the inning.
Little did the Warriors know that was the one and only scoring opportunity. They stranded only two runners on base, both in that fourth inning.
Like his coach, Medeiros thought level of competition was a difference, too.
“We didn’t hit much, but it was a good experience for the underclassmen,” he said. “We’ve never faced a guy like that.”
That’s not exactly true. When the Warriors practiced during the season, and Medeiros took the mound, his teammates never faced anyone like him either.
Hilo 11, Aiea 3: Joey Jarneski pitched six strong innings for the victory, and Micah Kaaukai batted 2 for 3 and Jodd Carter 2 for 4 to lead the Vikings (10-5-1).
The BIIF runner-up Vikings play for the consolation title against the Maui-Roosevelt winner at 9 a.m. Friday at Hans L’Orange Field.
St. Louis 000 011 0 — 2 5 0
Waiakea 000 000 0 — 0 2 1