By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — Aliesa Kaneshiro pitched better as the game grew older, and the Hilo softball team’s offense arrived just in time.
The junior right-hander fired a three-hitter and the Vikings beat Kamehameha 6-4 in a matchup between Big Island Interscholastic Federation division champions on Tuesday that revealed the importance of defense.
Kaneshiro, who is replacing her graduated sister Ashlyn as staff ace, allowed four runs (one unearned) on three hits and five walks, and struck out six. She finished strong, retiring the side in the sixth and seventh innings.
“My stuff was good toward the end of the game,” she said. “In the beginning, I was just nervous. It’s a big relief. We were down the whole time, until the last two innings when we picked it up. My defense had my back.”
The Division I Vikings (2-0) got into a groove late in the game with their bats. They scored two unearned runs in the third off starter Samantha Simmons when Sharlei Graham-Bernisto and Fantacie Keahilihau-Kuamoo both walked and scored on errors. Then they went scoreless for two innings.
Hilo scored four runs in the sixth to take a 6-4 lead, starting its rally with a Kamehameha walk and error. Then reliever Mykala Tokunaga gave up a bunt single to Reisha Hoopii-Haslam to fill the bases. Shyanne Higa-Gonsalves had an RBI single, and Shalyn Guthier followed with a two-run double. One batter later, Jordyn Breitbarth had a sacrifice fly to center. Tokunaga got a strikeout to end the inning.
“We got tested and challenged. Our girls definitely showed character,” Hilo coach Leo Sing Chow said. “We stuck together, pulled together and pulled that one out. Aliesa did well, but in the beginning her emotions got the best of her. She just had to settle down and understand that she had to control her emotions, understand what’s happening and what to do about it, and start pitching her game.
“She’s a fighter, and having fire is good, but the key is to control that emotion and focus.”
Tokunaga, a freshman right-hander, pitched four innings in the loss. She allowed four runs (one unearned) on three hits and three walks, and struck out four. Simmons went three innings, yielded two unearned runs on two hits and two walks, and whiffed three.
Kamehameha’s defense had a tough day, committing three errors, which led to three unearned runs. The pitching walks didn’t help either. Of the five combined free passes, three came around to score.
It was the same for Kaneshiro. Of her five walks, three turned into runs. But the biggest difference was her defense made only one error, which led to an unearned run, and bailed her out twice, gunning down runners at home.
“It was a good game. We made a couple of mistakes,” Kamehameha coach Gary Ahu said. “But like I told the girls last year, offense will win you games, but defense wins championships.”
In the first, after Elizabeth Kia’s RBI single to to right-center field, Tiani Teanio fired to Kaneshiro at cutoff, who wheeled and threw to catcher Higa-Gonsalves for the tagout at home plate. In the fifth, after Jaylen Shiroma stroked a run-scoring single to center, giving the Warriors a 4-2 lead, center fielder Breitbarth fired a bullet to home for another inning-ending, rally-killing tagout at home.
Guthier went 1 for 1 with two RBIs and Hoopii-Haslam was 2 for 4 to lead Hilo.
Shiroma and Kia each went 1 for 3 to lead the Warriors (1-1), the defending BIIF Division II champion.
Hilo 002 004 0 — 6 5 1
Kamehameha 120 010 0 — 4 3 3
Waiakea 18, Pahoa 0: Senior Brandi Maximo homered and senior Alexis Anzai struck out eight in a five-inning complete game as the host Warriors won their opener.
Junior Kaelee Carvalho drove in two runs for Waiakea, which scored 12 times in the first inning. Maximo finished 2 for 4.
Anzai allowed four hits and three walks.
Ranchell Berinobis collected two hits for the Daggers (0-2). Pahoa pitchers handed out nine walks. Mackenzie Singleton started and took the loss, pitching and inning.
Pahoa 000 00 — 0 4 2
Waiakea (12)02 4x—18 9 0
Keaau 18, Ka’u 5: Sophomore Lohi Kamakea-Wong won for the second time in as many starts this season as the Cougars (2-0) won in Pahala.
Senior Shaylin Navarro took the loss for the Trojans (0-2).
Keaau 311 67—18 16
Ka’u 102 20 —5 4
Honokaa 22, Hawaii Prep 6: Leading 10-6 after three innings at Honokaa’s Parks and Recreation complex, the Dragons scored 12 runs to put the game out of reach.
Honokaa (1-1) had just five hits in the contest, taking advantage of 23 walks and four hit batsmen by four Ka Makani pitchers.
Kaitlin Augustin earned the win, allowing six runs on four hits in three innings. She walked six and struck out two.
At the plate, Augustin went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Kawena Lim-Samura took the loss for HPA (0-2). In three innings, she gave up 12 runs on three hits. She struck out four and walked 17.
Kaui Taylor led Ka Makani’s offense, going 2-for-2.
Hawaii Prep 231 00 — 6 5 1
Honokaa 415 (12) x — 22 5 1