Senior Gayla Ha-Cabebe is the only player who can recall the pre-Gary Ahu days of Kamehameha softball.
Ha-Cabebe remembers a divided team her freshman season. Then Ahu took over three years ago, stressing family first.
With the way the youthful Warriors have produced ever since, there’s no telling if the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II championship is going to leave the family anytime soon.
Freshman Kiarra Lincoln bashed four hits and drove in six runs Saturday, and Kamehameha outslugged Konawaena 21-10 to sweep the championship series at Waiakea’s field for a BIIF threepeat.
Ahu may appear to be gruff at times, but Ha-Cabebe said he’s just the influence the program needs.
“Coach is the one who brought us together and every year he gives a speech and talks about family,” Ha-Cabebe said. “He makes sure when you do something you’re doing it to help the family. Playing like the eye of the tiger. We kind of grew off that. It meshed together.”
And this ultra-successful family could still be in its infancy stages — a scary thought for the rest of the BIIF.
Ha-Cabebe is the only senior, and the Warriors (12-2) trotted out just two other upperclassmen against the Wildcats (8-5-1). Kamehameha gained a seeded berth at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament — which runs May 6-9 on Oahu, and it will be joined by Konawaena and Kohala (5-8).
Sophomore ace Mykala Tokunaga wasn’t as sharp as she was in Friday’s Game 1, allowing a grand slam to Jayssa Grace. But she struck out five in a six-inning complete game and finished with two hits and a double and three RBIs, feeling more relief than exhilaration at the end.
“It was stressful all the way to the end,” Tokunaga said. “We’re rolling as a program, so I hope it continues.
“We’re all a family on and off the field, and it’s really important.”
Thanks to three hit batters and two walks, Kamehameha needed just two hits to score seven runs in the fourth inning to jump out to a 13-0 lead.
Grace touched Tokunaga for a slam in the bottom of the fourth, but the Warriors tacked on eight runs in the sixth to put it away.
Junior Samantha Simmons and sophomore Kekai Wong Yuen each compiled two hits and two RBIs, but the star of the slugfest was the diminutive Lincoln, who sprays the ball around the field as if she was a player twice her size. She ripped a two-run triple in the second, brought home two more in the fourth with a single, and then she added a two-run double in the sixth.
“I’m surprised at how good I did my freshman year,” she said. “When I first started playing softball, my dad asked me if I wanted to be a power hitter. I told him I did. We use technique and drills in practice, and I just started getting stronger.”
The game featured two brief rain delays and a few quirks. Tokunaga and Konawaena’s Syleesia Jose each reached on singles, and then romped all the way around the bases after their hits were misplayed in the outfield. Kamehameha’s Elexis Emmsley was hit three more times after being beaned twice in Game 1.
“Today was kind of odd,” Wildcats coach Shellie Grace said. “I was happy we rallied back.”
Kaila Kaupe Deleon connected for three of her team’s 12 hits, including a single in the sixth to score Jose, who had just a brought in a run in with a triple.
Starter Dorian Anu Binney struggled with her command. In 3 2/3 innings, she allowed 13 runs and seven hits with three walks, a strikeout and four hit batters.
Content with the knowledge the program is in good hands, Ha-Cabebe drove in two runs in her final high school game on the Big Island.
“I think that next year they’re going to be a solid team,” she said. “They should do pretty good.”
At Waiakea High field
Kamehameha 141 708 — 21 14 5
Konawaena 000 532 — 10 12 1