The history of ball games under the doom of darkness at Ala Wai Field has belonged to baseball teams from the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.
Few, if any, ever resulted in 35 runs, 29 hits and an eight-run rally to take the lead before sundown. In 4.5 innings over a span of 2 hours, 32 minutes. On Monday, softball powerhouses ‘Iolani and Maryknoll went blow for blow on the Raiders’ adopted softball field — known as “Ala Wai 2” on the league schedule.
‘Iolani’s 18-17 win means the Raiders, Kamehameha and Maryknoll are co-leaders at 6-2 in the ILH standings. Ailana Agbayani moved from shortstop to the pitcher’s circle for the last two innings and secured the win. ‘Iolani was down 7-0 in the first inning, but never surrendered.
“I knew we had six more innings. This is a long game and I knew we had time to come back. We’re a competitive team. I know we won’t let down. We’re going to battle back. The girls on our team are competitive and feisty, and we’re going to battle,” Agbayani said.
Maryknoll was ahead, 17-10, entering the bottom of the fourth inning. It was already 6:04 p.m. when the Raiders sent Ailana Agbayani to the plate. Eleven batters later, after Agbayani and Allie Capello had batted twice in the bottom of the fourth, the Raiders had plated eight runs to take an 18-17 lead.
By the time Maryknoll went up to bat in the top of the fifth, it was 6:25 p.m. Sunset was coming, forecast to arrive by 6:51 p.m. Agbayani, the last of five pitching changes by her coach and father, Benny, retired Liliana Thomas, Ua Nakoa-Chung and Logan Gaspar to notch the first 0 on the outfield scoreboard.
With ‘Iolani due to bat in the bottom of the fifth, and shadows covering a portion of the field, the home plate umpire called the game at 6:32 p.m. to the chagrin of the Spartans. The visitors had led the game for more than two hours — a longer span of time than some entire games — but one bad inning did them in.
Close baseball games at Ala Wai Field that crept near the 6:45 p.m. curfew often involved new twists like prolonged at-bats, shoe-tying, extended mound huddles by infielders — anything to stretch out an inning. In the case of ‘Iolani and Maryknoll, with the Raiders ahead by a run, they could have entered the bottom of the fifth and milked that clock until sunset. Or try to.
Or Maryknoll could have retired the Raiders in order, turning the short work into another comeback opportunity in the top of the sixth. If the Spartans would have tied or regained the lead, ‘Iolani would have probably, diabolically stalled out their half of the sixth inning until darkness prevailed. That would have forced the score to revert back to the previous inning, when ‘Iolani still led 18-17.
No way around it without field lights. Even with that, curfews would likely be enforced on school nights. In recent years, it was enforced at ILH baseball games on the diamond at Ala Wai because a soccer league had a permit to begin playing at 6:45 p.m.
Two errors by Maryknoll in that fateful fourth inning didn’t help. The dimensions of ‘Iolani’s home turf played a role, too. Kaylee Matsuda’s line-drive gapper to right field bounced and kept going, and going, and going. Doggies at the adjacent dog park on the other side of the fence had a good view as the ball finally stopped and Matsuda rounded the bases for an inside-the-park home run. That accounted for three of ‘Iolani’s four runs in the second inning, cutting Maryknoll’s lead from to 10-9.
The City & County-owned space has a shorter distance to center field — and Manoa-Palolo Stream behind it — than it does down the lines. That didn’t play into the actual strategy for either team, but it certainly can be nightmarish for any right fielder who is used to a basic 200-foot fence behind her.
The wild swings of momentum didn’t detract from the composure of both teams. A fiery Maryknoll squad with young talent and the ability to wear pitchers out by fouling off tough pitches by the dozens. A resilient ‘Iolani squad that had managed just one run and four hits against the same Maryknoll ace, Nakoa-Chung, just 12 days earlier. That game was later forfeited by Maryknoll because of a violation of the new five-day quarantine rule for ILH student-athletes returning from out of state.
‘Iolani missed three starters that day, including Capello, who homered on Monday. Her three-run shot to center in the bottom of the first inning was a perfect response to Maryknoll’s quick start.
“At the time, I just thought I had to put the ball in play. Runs is what we need to get back on track, to stay through the ball and hit line drives. It turned out to be a home run,” the junior outfielder-pitcher said.
Both Capello and Agbayani get their field reps in, but also run miles to prepare for pitching.
“We have to work harder to help out with pitching, hitting, running. We don’t have any people who swap out with us, so we have to work a little harder,” Capello said.
“But we have fun doing it,” Agbayani added. “With the group of girls that we have on this team, it makes is real fun for us. They all do their job. That’s what we really needed today, to get stuff down. Our mentality was to win every inning. If we don’t win the first one, we’ll win the next one. I had 100 percent faith in my team.”
With that, the Raiders went home. Agbayani had a Spanish III test to study for. Homework is a part of life at ‘Iolani.
“It’s not that bad,” Capello said.
“I have a lot,” Agbayani said.
Meanwhile, Maryknoll coach John Uekawa weighed the pros and cons of his team’s once-unbeaten season. Since the forfeit loss, they now have lost on the field for a first time.
“Our team needed a game like this. They almost felt invincible,” Uekawa said. “No doubt, they’ll bounce. We want to give them tomorrow off, but they want to practice because it’s a team loss.”
At Ala Wai Park “2”
Maryknoll (6-2) 732 50 — 17 16 3
‘Iolani (6-2) 541 8x — 18 13 0
Ua Nakoa-Chung, Jenna Sniffen (4) and Liliana Thomas. Carly Izuo, Allie Capello (1), Izuo (2), Kealohi Markham (3), Mia Carbonell (3), Ailana Agbayani (3) and Keely Kai. W—Agbayani. L—Sniffen.
Leading hitters—Maryknoll: Carys Murakami 1-3, 2 runs, 2 walks; Mahalo Akaka 1-1, 2 walks, 2 HBP, run, RBI. Nellie McEnroe-Marinas 1-3, 2 RBI, HBP, walk; Sniffen 1-4, 2 runs, walk; Thomas 3-3, 4 runs, RBI, walk; Nakoa-Chung 2-4, double, 2 runs, RBI; Gaspar 3-4, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 runs, HBP, SB; Daylee Williams 2-3, double, 2 RBI, run, HBP; Aloha Akaka 1-2, triple, RBI. ‘Iolani: Lexie Tilton 2-2, 2 RBI, 2 runs, sac; Agbayani 2-2, 3 runs, RBI, 2 doubles, SB; Capello 2-3, HR, double, 4 RBI, 2 runs; Harley Acosta 2-2, 2 RBI, 3 runs, triple, walk; Kaylee Matsuda 3-3, HR, 3 RBI, 3 runs; Kai 1-2, RBI, run, walk; Milla Fukuda 1-2, 2 runs, RBI.