By JOE FERRARO
A strong package of savvy pitching and clutch hitting, Kihani Palmer-Kahananui helped lead Kealakehe to its first two state tournament appearances in 2011 and 2012.
On Tuesday at Kealakehe, Waveriders coach Wesley Takimoto saw the same kind of all-around skills in Palmer-Kahananui’s sister, Lina.
The younger Palmer-Kahananui picked up a win and a save in the circle while going 2-for-3 with two RBIs at the plate as Kealakehe defeated Kohala 8-6 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation softball game.
Palmer-Kahananui gave up four runs on seven hits through five innings before giving way to senior Ashley Isisaki in the sixth inning. But when Isisaki ran into trouble in the seventh inning, giving up a solo homer to Kohala’s Tiani Luga and issuing two straight walks, Palmer-Kahananui came on and retired the next three batters she faced.
“I was relaxed,” said Palmer-Kahananui, a junior who walked two and struck out four. “I just have to make sure I hit my spots.”
She certainly did that, peppering the inside corner and keeping the ball low in the strike zone. Palmer-Kahananui induced nine groundouts and three pop-ups on the infield.
“She’s really consistent for me,” Takimoto said.
Two years ago, the Kealakehe coach saw consistency at the plate from Kihani Palmer-Kahananui with runners in scoring position and two outs. On Tuesday, Lina Palmer-Kahananui delivered a two-out RBI single in a four-run third inning that broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Waveriders (2-0) a 5-1 lead.
Freshman Kiersen Kahele, who went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, blooped a two-run double down the left-field line in the inning.
The Cowgirls (0-2) helped the Waveriders out in the inning by making two errors. Kealakehe leadoff hitter Tavian Taketa started the four-run rally with two outs when Kohala pitcher Ashlyn Van Zandt hit her with a pitch.
“That killed us big time,” Cowgirls coach Terrence Alcoran said. “It’s hard to come back from that. But it’s still early.
“We hit good. The attitude was good. We just have to make the plays.”
Van Zandt went the distance in taking the loss for Kohala, allowing eight runs — six earned — on seven hits. She struck out three and walked two.
“Her changeup was working good, and she was hitting the strike zone,” Alcoran said of Van Zandt.
Kohala outhit Kealakehe 8-7, with Luga going 2-for-3 with three RBIs. But the Waveriders wiggled their way out of trouble thanks in large part to a strong defense.
Taketa displayed a strong arm and a sure glove at shortstop while freshman Arlene Musrasrik stabbed a screaming one-hopper off the bat of Kohala’s Briana Harrison at third base to end a three-run fifth inning that pulled the Cowgirls within 6-4. Musrasrik’s play stranded two Cowgirls in scoring position.
“You know you can rely on them,” Palmer-Kahananui said of her defense. “You know they’re going to make the play.”
Palmer-Kahananui, Isisaki — a senior who missed the Waveriders’ 19-0 win at Ka’u on Saturday because of a stomach illness — and junior Kiana Mattos were the only upperclassmen in the starting lineup against the Cowgirls. The rest of the starting nine included four freshmen and two sophomores.
Before the spring, Takimoto figured he’d be in a rebuilding mode after graduating hard-throwing pitcher Summer McEntee and two productive hitters in infielders Nicole and Brooke Rivera. But he saw plenty of talent in junior varsity play last month, completely changing his outlook of the team.
Takimoto didn’t even have a full roster at his disposal on Tuesday, with starting catcher Nani Anakalea-Haleamau missing the game with what Takimoto called “health issues.” As a result, three starters played out of position, with Musrasrik moving from first base to third base, Nakagawa going from third base to catcher and sophomore Kawailehua Deuz shifting from the outfield to second base.
The Waveriders barely skipped a beat.
“The girls are good enough that they might be able to compete this year,” Takimoto said.
Kohala 010 030 2 — 6 8 3
Kealakehe 104 111 x — 8 7 2