BIIF Division II softball semifinals: Kaluna’s blast lifts Wildcats past Honokaa
KAILUA-KONA — Konawaena is heading to the BIIF Championship Series for the first time since 2014.
The Wildcats completed their dismantling of Honokaa in a Division II semifinal series on Saturday with a 9-2 victory at Gabby Inaba Field. During the two-game series, Konawaena outscored the Dragons a combined 23-4.
“I am really proud of the girls and am happy for them,” Wildcats interim head coach Kellye Krug said. “They played well and continued to execute.”
The game was much closer than the final score indicated in the series finale, with Honokaa hanging with Konawaena through the first four innings, taking a 2-1 lead in the third before the Wildcats pushed two runs across the plate in the fourth.
Konawaena broke the game open in the top of the fifth inning with five runs, which included a Teizha Kaluna three-run home run, which cleared the fence in left field.
“Our strategy was for us to get base hits and put runners on. But for the home run, it just comes naturally for me,” Kaluna said. “I look to square things up and it just happens.”
The fifth inning opened with Tianny Tagavilla reaching on an error by the Honokaa shortstop. After she took second on a wild pitch, Sierra Amor knocked Tagavilla in with a single to center, taking second base on the throw home. Amor advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored when Rachel Sato hit a rocket to left. Shaylann Marie Grace singled to center, setting the stage for Kaluna’s home run, which gave Konawaena a 8-2 advantage.
“Teizha is a great kid and works so hard,” Krug said. “She is a senior and has a career coming after Konawaena. For her to have moments like that, it is just amazing.”
The Wildcats struggled to find their footing with several aggressive base running mistakes cutting short what could have been potential big scoring innings early in the game. In the top of the first, Grace tried to steal third on the throw back to the pitcher, but she was easily thrown out to end the inning.
In the top of the second, Konawaena managed to push one run across the plate when Kaluna scored on a sacrifice fly to left, but Erin Kaimuloa Bates, who reached base on a single earlier in the inning, was caught in a rundown between second and third on the same play, and tagged out for the second out of the inning. A groundout to third ended the frame.
Base running gaffs became an issue again in the top of the sixth inning. After Amor and Andi Uemura both walked, Sato singled to left. Amor was thrown out at home and Sato managed to beat the throw to second. However, Uemura was also sent home on the play and was also thrown out by the Dragons’ defense. The Wildcats did manage to get one run when Grace reached on an error by the second baseman, allowing Sato to score.
Despite having two runners thrown out at the plate in one play, the Wildcats were firmly in control of the game by this point with Grace inside the circle.
Grace pitched another strong game after also earning the victory in the series opener. She threw all seven innings in Game 2, allowing two runs, one earned, off five hits. She struck out five and walked one.
“Shaylann is consistent,” Krug said. “The fact that they all go out and have fun with their friends and get it done the way they do, they are all super amazing kids.”
Grace seemed to get stronger inside the circle as the game went on, allowing only one hit over the last three innings. The lone base runner was extinguished in the seventh inning on a game ending double play.
Destynee Carvalho started the game for the Dragons. She took the loss, exiting with two outs in the top of the fourth inning. She allowed eight runs, six earned, off seven hits, while striking out and walking one. Alexis Martinez threw the final 2 1/3 innings. She allowed only one run off two hits, while striking out two and walking three.
Konawaena’s Kaluna and Grace finished the day with a game high three hits apiece. Sato followed with a pair. The three players were responsible for seven of the team’s nine runs. No player on Honokaa had multiple hits.
The top-seeded Wildcats will look to claim their first BIIF title since 2011 later this week. They will host No. 2 seed Kamehameha in Game 1 on Friday. The second game will be held on Saturday and a third game, if necessary, will be played on Monday.
Honokaa also received a state berth with the Big Island getting four spots in the DII tournament on Oahu. Kohala, which was swept by the Warriors, earns the No. 3 seed for states, while the Dragons will go in as the fourth seed. It will be the first trip to the HHSAA tournament for Honokaa since 2012.
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