By JOE FERRARO
KEALAKEKUA — Shellie Grace knows one thing that always puts Konawaena’s girls softball team in a good mood: food.
So when the Wildcats coach saw her team fall behind to Pahoa on Saturday, the coaching staff randomly shouted out “pizza” in a ploy to put the team in a positive frame of mind.
Whether or not the strategy worked remains in question, but Konawaena showed the resilience Grace wanted, twice rallying from a six-run deficit to beat Pahoa 25-15 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation opener for both teams.
The contest ended with one out in the bottom of the fifth because of the league’s 10-run mercy rule.
“They were getting their butterflies out and trying to get themselves settled,’’ Grace said of the Wildcats falling behind 6-0 after a half-inning and 9-3 going into the bottom of the second.
After games, the Konawaena coaching staff treats the team to pizza, ice cream, candy or other foods — something the players have come to enjoy.
If there’s anything that carried the Wildcats (1-0) on Saturday, Saxon Nagata said, it was having a good attitude.
“We like to have fun and look at the bright side of things and be optimistic,’’ said the senior, who had an RBI double and scored four runs.
Konawaena also took advantage of 12 wild pitches in the final two innings and nine Daggers errors.
Leading 20-15, the Wildcats scored their final five runs in the bottom of the fifth without the benefit of a hit. Senior catcher Dayanara Tabil’s RBI groundout plated junior Anu Binney and invoked the mercy rule.
Konawaena had just three hits in a 10-run fourth inning, with the Wildcats benefiting from two hit batsmen, two errors, five walks and five wild pitches.
Konawaena totaled eight hits as Tabil went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
Binney, who pitched the final two innings, earned the win. She gave up six runs on four hits, striking out three batters, walking none and hitting two.
After watching Konawaena storm back to take a 10-9 lead in the third, Pahoa (0-1) rallied for three runs in the fourth off Binney, who threw three wild pitches and gave up two hits in the frame as the Daggers regained the lead at 12-10.
But Binney, appearing loose in the circle, laughed off her miscues, even running over to first base to apologize to Pahoa’s Sequoia Marks and Christine Diza — she plunked them with pitches — and give them fist bumps.
“When it’s time to pitch, I can’t let myself get down,’’ Binney said. “My team needs me. It’s no giving up, and my team will follow.’’
Pahoa (0-1) trotted out five pitchers — Marks, Tita Peleihulani, Erleen Oguma, Mackenzie Singleton and Randi Berinobis.
Oguma, who retired just one batter in Konawaena’s 10-run fourth, took the loss. She gave up six runs on two hits, walking three batters.
The Daggers did receive a brilliant defensive performance from Ranchell Berinobis in center field. The sophomore robbed Bethany Batangan of a double by making a diving catch in right-center and turning a double play. Berinobis made two other fine running catches in the game.
“Our center fielder is tough,’’ Pahoa coach Frank Degele said.
At the plate, senior Kayla Silva went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, while Ernell Oguma and Marks both went 2-for-2 for Pahoa.
The Daggers scored six first-inning runs off starting pitcher Batangan, who gave up just one hit but hit two batters with the bases loaded and gave up two bases-loaded walks.
However, Degele said his pitchers may have gotten too frustrated in tough spots.
“We had mistakes and errors, and I have to work on the pitching,’’ Degele said. “They just have to have more heart.’’
Pahoa 6 3 0 3 3 — 15 9 10
Konawaena 2 1 7 (10) 5 — 25 8 2