By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
WAIPAHU — There were few highlights in Kohala’s 11-0 loss, but one stood taller than everything else: Chyler Imai and her teammates cheering each other until the very end.
Waipahu scored 11 runs in the first two innings, and Tristan-Marie Souza-Aikala fired a no-hitter to blank the Cowgirls in the first round of the Division II state softball tournament on Wednesday at Central Oahu Regional Park.
It’s Kohala’s third straight trip to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament, and the second consecutive time running into a Waipahu buzzsaw.
Last year, Waipahu beat Kohala 15-0 in a similar five-inning TKO rout. The Marauders (12-1), the Oahu Interscholastic Association’s No. 3 team, looked no different than a year ago.
“They’re good. Waipahu is just a good team,” Kohala coach Terrence Alcoran said. “They outclassed us. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the championship. They’re in a different category.
“We never hit and had plenty of errors. But after that, we settled down and did OK. We’re still very young. Hopefully next year we can contend.”
The Cowgirls start three freshmen: shortstop Denae Rivera, second baseman Ashlyn Van Zandt and catcher Cadence Coito. But they also lose three valuable seniors in Imai, outfielder Jordelle Antonio and third baseman Casey Utemei.
Souza-Aikala threw pretty hard, hit her spots and stayed away from the middle of the plate, rarely running into trouble. She allowed one walk — to Imai in the second — and struck out four.
The Cowgirls (10-5), the Big Island Interscholastic Federation runner-up, had only one really good shot at snapping the no-hitter. In the fifth, pinch hitter Delani McAuley hit a sinking line drive but right fielder Kylie Nishino made a shoestring catch.
The Marauders hammered a lot of nails in Kohala’s coffin in the first inning, scoring seven runs on four hits and helped by three errors. They also stole five bases, and finished 7 of 7 on steals.
Nishino did the most damage. She was 2 for 3 with three RBIs.
Imai, who also lost last year against Waipahu, went the distance. She allowed 11 runs — three unearned — on nine hits and two walks, and struck out one.
But after her two tough innings, the senior right-hander pitched shutout ball the rest of the way, getting help from her defense to throw cold water on Waipahu’s hot bats.
“In the beginning we were a little nervous,” Imai said. “It took us a little bit to calm down. Then we played our game. Our defense started to work.
“When it was 11-0 (after two innings), I thought to have fun and play the rest of the game and not give up. It was about having fun and playing in our last games of the season, and trying to savor every moment of it.”
The Cowgirls had two defensive gems. They turned a double play in the third, and center fielder Antonio made a sliding catch on her knees the next inning.
For a freshman like Van Zandt, she gained something, despite a lopsided defeat.
“It’s a good learning experience,” she said. “When we work together and stay up our team stays up, too. We held our heads high and stayed positive the whole game.”
Waipahu 740 00 — 11 9 1
Kohala 000 00 — 0 0 6
Mamane Namahoe smacked 12 kills and Ian Witten and Donovan Hoohuli each posted five as Waiakea swept Waipahu 25-21, 25-22, 25-20 at McKinley High School on Oahu in the first round of the HHSAA tournament.
Dillon Rellez added four kills and Manny Malasaga and Mano Thomson each contributed three for the BIIF runner-up Warriors (14-3), who advanced to face top-seeded Punahou (15-0) of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu in a 7 p.m. quarterfinal today.
Lauren Hill returned from a eye injury to spark Waiakea with a hat trick and Jillian Hughes added a goal in a 4-3 victory over Roosevelt in the first round of the HHSAA tournament in Honolulu.
The BIIF runner-up Warriors (10-3) will face top-seeded Punahou at 6 p.m. today in the quarterfinals.