Gritty Spartans relish their resourcefulness

Maryknoll’s Liliana Thomas hits an RBI single in the second inning of the Maryknoll vs Iolani girls softball game at Iolani. Photo by Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser

From the pristine field they built from scratch on Sand Island, to the scrappy, patient approach to every at-bat, the Maryknoll Spartans are very resourceful.

That’s what makes any long, grind of a game something the Lady Spartans relish. They went back and forth with ‘Iolani on a sunny, breezy Friday afternoon, winning 9-5 in a game that took nearly 150 minutes to complete.

Victory tastes just the same whether it’s a quick game or a slow one for Maryknoll, which improved to 5-3 and is now in a second-place tie with Kamehameha. The two teams trail Punahou, which is 7-3 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.

It was another test of endurance for yet another ILH pitcher. The mantra for success isn’t about perfection. It’s about rolling with the punches and continuing to counter inning after inning. It’s true of Punahou’s ace, Kennedy Ishii, and it’s the same with Maryknoll ace Kahilu McNicoll.

The right-hander mixed in a change-up that left some Raider batters frozen. McNicoll walked seven batters, but struck out nine. The five runs she surrendered, all earned, seem relatively paltry in an ILH softball season that has been marked by big offense.

“The first half of the season, we didn’t hit much. We need to keep our hitting up all the time,” said McNicoll, who drove in a run while batting eighth in the lineup.

The game featured a combined 15 walks, two hit batters and four wild pitches by the two pitching staffs. McNicoll simply overcame her downs by keeping composure.

“It felt like a normal game, nothing special,” she said. “We just need to catch up to Punahou and Kamehameha.”

The Spartans’ crafty approach at the plate is a lot about staying alive. Forcing pitchers to groove fastballs while behind in the count. Being opportunistic on hanging breaking balls. Up and down the lineup, every player contributed quality at-bats. The hits. The walks. The runs. The RBIs. The want to be tough outs every single time.

“We only had two pop flies,” Spartans coach John Uekawa said.

The math favors Maryknoll’s approach.

“Their top five batters are awesome,” Uekawa said of the Raiders. “We just try to keep them off base. This kind of game prepares us for the postseason.”

It was long, slow rhythm from the start with eight walks and two hit batters by ‘Iolani pitchers. The teams combined to walk 15 batters, hit two batters and toss four wild pitches. The Raiders aren’t far off, of course. They finished with eight hits and had 15 baserunners in all. The biggest difference between the teams was clutch hitting. ‘Iolani left nine runners on base.

Eight of them were in scoring position. That’s basically two or three base hits that make up the gap in a four-run game.

With Mid-Pacific in the mix and Division II St. Francis in position to top the regular-season standings, the second go-round of ILH softball could somehow be more entertaining — for fans — than the first half of the slate.

Maryknoll’s Liliana Thomas is hit by a pitch and takes first base to load the bases. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser

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