By JOE FERRARO
KEALAKEKUA — Shyla Victor thought she was in for a long day.
Kealakehe started the third inning with four consecutive hits off the Konawaena sophomore pitcher, including a booming three-run homer by Ashley Isisaki. Throughout it all, Victor saw signs of even more Waverider fireworks Friday in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation softball game at Konawaena.
“I thought they were timing my pitches and that they were going to bang balls,’’ Victor said.
So it was hard for Victor to explain exactly how she went from getting knocked around in the third inning to retiring 15 of the last 16 batters she faced in the Wildcats’ 12-4 victory over the Waveriders.
She gave much of the credit for the win to her defense — and for good reason.
Victor displayed good control in her eight-hitter, walking just one batter. But she only had one strikeout, which required her defense to perform well, and the Wildcats (4-4 BIIFDivision II, 6-6 overall) did. After Kealakehe leadoff batter Tavian Taketa began the game by reaching on an infield hit and advancing to third on a throwing error, Konawaena played errorless softball the rest of the way.
“My defense is the best defense I could ask for,’’ Victor said.
The Wildcats offense contributed with some timely hitting as Anu Binney and Kaua Mitchell both went 2 for 4.
Binney blooped an RBI single in a three-run second inning, and her two-run single highlighted a four-run third inning that gave Konawaena the lead for good at 7-4.
Mitchell added two RBIs with a two-run single in the fifth.
But Kealakehe (4-5, 6-7) set up two of Konawaena’s big innings with costly errors.
The Wildcats scored three unearned runs in the second inning and two more in the fourth off Lina Palmer-Kahananui.
The Kealakehe sophomore pitcher also went the distance, allowing seven earned runs on eight hits. She struck out one and walked six.
At the plate, Isisaki went 2 for 3, and Leisha Nakagawa added a double. But Waveriders coach Wesley Takimoto said his team’s offense has struggled to find consistency.
The Waveriders have just one game remaining in the regular season — a road contest at Honokaa on April 20. Entrenched in fourth place in the BIIF Division I standings, Kealakehe will then play the BIIF regular-season champion on the road April 25 in the tournament semifinals. Because the regular-season champion gets an automatic berth in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I tournament —provided the league provides an outright champion — the Waveriders must win that game and the BIIF Division I final on April 27 in order to claim the league’s other state berth.
“Every other game, we’re doing good (offensively),’’ Takimoto said.
But Konawaena’s defense certainly played a role in limiting Kealakehe on Friday.
Two of the Division II Wildcats’ finer plays came in the seventh inning.
Sophomore Lihue Wessel made a fine backhanded stop on Taketa’s hard-hit one-hopper to start the inning, and Mitchell then charged in to make a fine running catch in center field on a blooper by Kiersen Kahele.
Mitchell was filling in for Saxon Nagata, who suffered a hamstring injury while sliding into second base in the Wildcats’ 6-4 win at Honokaa on Wednesday.
Konawaena coach Shellie Grace said her team has averaged between four and five errors per game for much of the season. For the past week, she has stressed improvement defensively.
The Wildcats had just two against Honokaa in a game ended the Dragons’ six-game winning streak. Grace said the victory gave the team a jolt of confidence heading into Friday’s game at Kealakehe.
The Konawaena coach said she considered pulling Victor out of the game after Kealakehe scored three runs in the third inning but left her in because the team was playing well defensively.
After Nakagawa followed Isisaki’s three-run homer to left with a double down the right-field line, Victor retired 11 consecutive batters before Ashlyn Cabatbat grounded a single up the middle with two outs in the sixth.
“We just told (Victor), ‘Shake it off, work on your batters, and the defense will help you out,’” Grace said.
Kealakehe 103 000 0 — 4 8 2
Konawaena 034 230 x — 12 8 1