Good things come to those who work hard.
Saturday, Toru Sugiura’s hard work paid off in grand style.
With one swing, Cathedral Catholic High’s junior catcher helped the host Dons to a 4-3 baseball win over St. Augustine in the City Conference Tournament title game, belting a dramatic one-out, walk-off grand slam.
“Toru stayed late after practice Friday and took extra batting practice,” said Dons coach Gary Remiker. “He got here early Saturday and took some more swings. He has put in a lot of extra work.”
Handcuffed for six innings by Saints sophomore left-hander Jack Dashwood, No. 1-ranked Cathedral Catholic (10-1) went walk-walk to open the bottom of the seventh after coach Craig da Luz of the No. 5 Saints (10-2) went to the bullpen.
After another pitching change, Brady Aiken — hitting in the fifth spot for Cathedral — fouled out, but Michael Kaai beat out an infield roller to load the bases.
That brought up Sugiura, who entered the game with one home run in 87 career varsity at-bats. He had tapped back to the pitcher and struck out in two previous at-bats Saturday.
The left-handed hitter ran the count to 1-0, then drove a fastball deep over the right-field fence.
“With the count in my favor, I was looking for a fastball and got it,” Sugiura said. “I wanted to stay short with my swing and shoot a gap. With one out, trailing by three, a flyball wasn’t going to do a lot for us.
“I hadn’t done anything in my first two at-bats, so I wanted to contribute. I knew the ball was out as soon as I hit it.”
Remiker said the way his lineup stacked up, “after Aiken, I figured a home run was out of the question.”
Sugiura said he had never had a walk-off hit, let alone a walk-off grand slam.
“So this means a lot,” he said. “Saints is our archrival, so to do it against them in a tournament championship game is even better.”
Cathedral had just two hits over the first six innings against Dashwood, who struck out three and didn’t walk a batter.
“Our problem was their pitching was too good,” Remiker said. “Saints outplayed us.
“Honestly, we stole one today.”