By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — Kamehameha’s six starting seniors saved the day, and the softball team’s winning streak, which is now rolling along at 12 games.
Lehua McGuire, Jaylen Shiroma, Elizabeth Kia, Codi Kualii, Janell Cameros and Namele Naipo-Arsiga all did something, and the Warriors outlasted Keaau 11-8 in an error-filled but exciting Big Island Interscholastic Federation game on Tuesday on Kamehameha’s Senior Day.
McGuire went 1 for 4, Shiroma drew a walk and scored, Kia was 1 for 3 and scored twice, Kualii batted 2 for 3, scored three times and had an RBI, and Naipo-Arsiga was 2 for 2, scored three runs and had two RBIs.
Kamehameha (9-0 BIIF Division II, 13-1 overall) has already clinched the BIIF regular-season title and the league’s automatic berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament.
(There are no tiebreakers for the BIIF regular-season title and only second-round games between same side opponents count; the rules also apply for baseball.)
The three other starters — freshman catcher Kekai Wong Yuen (1 for 2, two RBIs), freshman pitcher/hitter Mykala Tokunaga (1 for 2, seven-hitter) and junior Gayla Ha-Cabebe (0 for 4) — will have a tough task living up to the bar Kamehameha’s Senior Six has set.
Last year, the Warriors won the BIIF championship, finished runner-up in 2010 and have qualified for states three times. Of course, there’s still the possibility of a second BIIF crown.
The Cougars (6-3 BIIF Division I, 9-5 overall) were hurt by six errors, including four in the sixth inning that led to three unearned runs — the difference in the game.
Keaau’s loss is a double whammy, handing Hilo the top seed for the four-team BIIF tournament. If the Vikings beat Pahoa today, they clinch the outright BIIF regular-season title and the league’s first state berth to the Division I state tournament.
Keaau’s best-case scenario is the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and the right to host Waiakea in the semifinals. Hopefully by then, two key Cougars — shortstop Rylann Hacoba (ankle) and first baseman Iyana Clarke (knee) — will be back and catcher Ayanna Silva, who was beaned once and walked with a malady of aches and pains, returns to full health.
The neighborhood game between the two schools separated by less than two miles resembled a tennis match with a heavy dose of errors thrown in to make things interesting.
Keaau led by two runs after the third inning. Kamehameha led by two runs after the fourth. The Cougars put up their second four-run outburst in the fifth. The Warriors countered with their second four-run rally in the sixth — the inning with the most errors and entertainment.
Kia led off with a single, went to second on a wild pitch and scored when Kualii reached on an error. It was 8-8 and the wild times were just getting started. Kualii didn’t stop at first base. Two other throwing errors ushered her around the bases for a 9-8 lead.
“What I love about our team is we pick each other up,” Kualii, the right fielder, said. “If we’re down, we keep going and push hard. We’ve got each other’s backs. The game was pretty much nerve-racking, but it was exciting. Knowing it was our senior game, we pushed harder.”
The strange thing is both pitchers finished with a seven-hitter.
Lohi Kamakea-Wong, a sophomore right-hander, pitched six innings, allowed 11 runs (six unearned) and three walks and struck out five in the loss.
In seven innings, Tokunaga surrendered eight runs (three unearned) and two walks, and whiffed eight, stranding five on base; Kamakea-Wong left only one one, hard evidence that all those errors were untimely.
The Kamehameha right-hander, who will duel with Kamakea-Wong in many future dates, didn’t always shut down Keaau after her team scored — sort of Golden Rule No. 1 for pitchers. But Tokunaga did the next best thing, blanking the Cougars after they scored their four-spots.
Under every error-filled afternoon, there are always a few silver linings. Keaau’s bright spots were Shaniya Kamakea-Wong, who batted 4 for 4 with an RBI in support of her cousin, and Cynthia Nakaima, who went 1 for 3 with three RBIs, drilling a two-run single in a four-run fifth inning, when Kamehameha’s defense committed three errors.
The Warriors’ nosebleed came in that one inning — three errors for three unearned runs. The Cougars doubled them in both departments. Keaau had six errors, including a pair in the fourth inning that contributed to two unearned runs, and six unearned runs overall.
“Those were costly,” Keaau coach William “Boy” Wong said. “You look at the score with all our errors. It’s supposed to be only five runs. But we had players in different positions.
“We should be all right. We’re hitting the ball.”
The Keaau coach can take comfort that his Cougars, who went to states in 2004 as the BIIF runner-up in their only appearance, are young. Silva is the only senior starter. Shaniya Kamakea-Wong and Sally Hanabaga are juniors while Lohi Kamakea-Wong, Hacoba, Kanoe Maka, Clarke, and Kiana Akana are just sophomores.
Meanwhile, the day belonged to Kamehameha’s seniors, a tight-knit group that keeps winning.
“We’re a family. We connect together and we always take care of each other,” said Kualii, enjoying the sight of her fellow seniors taking their traditional run around the bases.
Keaau 004 040 0 — 8 7 6
Kamehameha 002 414 x — 11 7 3
Waiakea 14, Ka’u 4: Jayla Costa hit a grand slam as part of a 10-run fourth inning in Pahala as the Warriors ended a two-game losing streak.
Alexis Anzai pitched four inning to pick up the victory, Brandi Maximo followed with a scoreless fifth, and Ariana Mareko and Elizabeth Sakamoto each added two hits for Waiakea (6-3 Division I, 9-5) in a game that ended after five innings because of the league’s 10-run rule.
The Warriors are locked into a BIIF semifinal game with Keaau on April 25, and Waiakea will be forced to hit the road in that contest with either a loss in its regular-season finale at Hilo on Saturday or a Cougars victory at home against Pahoa on Saturday.
Cierra Kaopua hit a two-run home run as part of her 2-for-2 day, and Shaylin Navarro took the loss for the Trojans (0-9 Division II, 0-14).
Ka’ u 020 02—4 6
Waiakea 102 (10)1—14 10
Konawaena 14, Hawaii Prep 4: Kaua Mitchell highlighted a six-run first inning with a two-run single, and Hero Wooching also drove in two runs in Kealakekua as the Wildcats won their third straight game.
Mitchell finished 3 for 4 with three RBIs, and Syleesia Jose went 2 for 4 with one RBI.
Anu Binney pitched four innings to get the win for Konawaena (5-4, 7-6), allowing four runs on two hits. She struck out two and walked seven.
Shyla Victor closed it out with a perfect inning, striking out two batters.
Ka Makani’s Tehane Reynolds, who walked the first three batters she faced before exiting, took the loss.
Kawena Lim-Samura followed with four innings, allowing 11 runs on eight hits. She struck out two and walked nine.
At the plate, Ranko Ono had a two-run single in the fourth inning, and Kaui Taylor added a base hit for HPA (1-9, 1-13).
Hawaii Prep 101 20 — 4 2 4
Konawaena 611 15 — 14 8 3