By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
It’s appropriate to dream big when you’ve got a first name like Hilo senior Fantacie Keahilihau-Kuamoo, an offensive force on the softball field with an elephant’s memory that serves as motivation.
She remembers her freshman year in 2010 when the Vikings fell to Kealakehe 4-1 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation semifinals. The next postseason was worse. The Waveriders pummeled Hilo 16-5.
Keahilihau-Kuamoo, a catcher her first two years, remembers the Viks blew a 5-0 lead in the lopsided semifinal loss. It wasn’t fun at all, losing in a rout. But at least, she and her teammates were getting better.
Last season, Hilo beat Waiakea 2-0 in the BIIF semifinals, ending the Warriors’ five-year reign as league champs. Then Hilo’s revenge was best served with a TKO knockout. The Vikings hammered Kealakehe 17-2 in the semifinals this season en route to capturing their second straight BIIF championship.
Keahilihau-Kuamoo had a dream senior season. The slugging shortstop batted .429 with three homers and 14 RBIs, and struck out only twice in 49 at-bats. She had a .672 on-base percentage and an .878 slugging percentage.
She was pretty much always on base. And when she got a base hit, she was usually in scoring position. Of her 21 hits, 12 were for extra bases. She went 7 of 7 in steals, turning into Hilo’s offensive catalyst every time she stepped to the plate.
Keahilihau-Kuamoo was named the BIIF Division I Player of the Year, in a vote by the league’s coaches, jumping up a level every year. As a freshman, she was honorable mention. She made the second team as a sophomore, and landed on the first team last season.
“That’s what coach Leo (Sing Chow) wanted from the beginning until the end, to go out and progress. Be better than yesterday, last year and the previous game,” Keahilihau-Kuamoo said. “It’s great to be player of the year. It’s an amazing feeling
“All the hard work has paid off and it’s not just about me, but my coaches and teammates, too. They pushed me to the best of my potential. It means a lot to me, but more to my team. It’s a reflection on my family, coaches, team and school and everyone who watched us play. It’s for all of them. I’m very excited.”
Keahilihau-Kuamoo is joined on the first team along with three teammates: sophomore first baseman Caitlyn Price (.213 batting average, 11 RBIs, .528 on-base percentage); senior third baseman Seini Nau (.216, 7 RBIs, .586 on-base); and junior outfielder Jordyn Breitbarth (.367, 11 RBIs, .639 on-base).
Hilo junior Aliesa Kaneshiro received honorable mention. The ace right-hander went 13-2 with a 0.40 ERA in 72 innings. She allowed 73 hits, 69 walks and struck out 111. She batted .349 with 10 RBIs and posted a .590 on-base percentage.
Sing Chow pointed out that while Keahilihau-Kuamoo’s bat was potent, the four-year starter brought more to the ballpark than her offense.
“Fantacie carries a lot of confidence in herself and in her composure,” Sing Chow said. “Her defense was consistent this year and she came through with clutch hitting. One of the moments I will never forget about her was when she first came out to softball her freshman year. She walked on the field like she was a senior with a whole lot of confidence in who she was. Fantacie brought confidence to our team from day one. She has grown over the past four years, but she still has so much more potential that she hasn’t come close to.
“Caitlyn has a very confident presence at first base. She made catches at first that helped her teammates have confidence in her and led them to making better throws. Seini is our wall at third, and has a potentially dangerous bat, but she is best known as our inspiration on our team. She has the biggest heart and is the player that you can feel her (genuineness) and her love for her team. Our girls really connect to her and allow her to pick them up when they are down.
“Jordyn was another double threat. She has solid defense with a cannon of an arm. She was also a powerful and consistent batter. She is a silent leader who challenges her teammates to step up their game. Aliesa stepped up this year. We asked a lot of her on the mound and she battled through the entire season.”
Others on the first team are Keaau junior second baseman Shaniya Kamakea-Wong, Keaau sophomore pitcher Lohi Kamakea-Wong, Waiakea senior catcher Ariana Mareko, Waiakea junior outfielder Cheylee Octavio, Keaau sophomore outfielder Kanoelani Maka, and Kealakehe senior utility Ashley Isisaki.
Hilo and BIIF runner-up Keaau each took a two-game exit at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament. The league is 0-9 in either first-round or quarterfinal games since 2008, when Waiakea defeated Sacred Hearts in the quarters.
Still, the Vikings finished 11-1 in BIIF games and 15-4 overall, experiencing a roller-coaster season that will be best remembered for the team bonding.
“We all had our struggles this year, individually and as a whole,” Sing Chow said. “This team challenged me to find the right puzzle to bring out the best in them. We tried many different avenues with more repetitions, small competitions and team bonding. The more we did team bonding the better we played. The stronger our connection was altogether the better they performed as individuals and as one.”
Keahilihau-Kuamoo has been a major part of Hilo’s puzzle, and as she ponders her college destination she can always fondly remember the big picture.
“The two BIIF championships are the most memorable thing, and how much the team has grown as a whole,” she said. “Playing softball you learn life lessons. It’s all what the coaches have been trying to teach us, all those values like hard work, discipline, being true to yourself and playing from the heart.”
All BIIF softball: Division I
Pos: Player Grade School
1B: Caitlyn Price 10 Hilo
2B: Shaniya Kamakea-Wong 11 Keaau
3B: Seini Nau 12 Hilo
SS: Fantacie Keahilihau-Kuamoo 12 Hilo
P: Lohi Kamakea-Wong 10 Keaau
C: Ariana Mareko 12 Waiakea
OF: Cheylee Octavio 11 Waiakea
OF: Jordyn Breithbarth 11 Hilo
OF: Kanoelani Maka 10 Keaau
Utility: Ashley Isisaki 12 Kealakehe
Hilo: Sharlei Graham-Bernisto (2B, 9); Shyanne Higa-Gonsalves (C, 11); Aliesa Kanshiro (P, 11); Shalyn Guthier (OF, 9); Reisha Hoopii-Haslam (OF, 11)
Keaau: Kiana Akana (OF, 10); Leshey Makuakane (U, 10)
Waiakea: Taylor Nishimura (2B, 9); Taylor Ogawa (1B, 9); Brandi Maximo (SS, 12); Alexis Anzai (P, 12)
Kealakehe: Leisha Nakagawa (3B, 10); Kaleanani Anakalea-Haleamau (C, 11); Kiersen Kahele (OF, 9)