Mele Turner was a one-woman annihilator for the Castle Knights on Saturday evening.
With a calm and clear pre-sundown Honolulu skyline in the background at the McKinley field, Turner pitched and hit her team to an 11-1, mercy-rule shortened, six-inning OIA East softball victory over Moanalua.
Turner set the tone fast and never let up. On the first pitch of the game from Na Menehune’s Jada Young, the senior made a solid connection and sent the flourescent green-yellow ball deep over the fence in center.
Turner then added a three-run shot to left in a five-run third inning that gave the Knights a 9-0 lead.
Overall, the Castle offense gave Turner some extra confidence in the pitcher’s circle with that comfortable lead. And she fired away, finishing with a complete-game three-hitter with six strikeouts and only two walks.
Her biggest mistake? A fourth inning solo home run by Moanalua’s Raven Rosa-Lasco for Na Menehune’s only run. She also allowed two hits in the sixth, but ended up getting out of that potential trouble.
“I felt like we were more motivated, focused and determined this time,” Turner said. “Last time, we didn’t beat them (a 7-4 loss).”
The payback moved the Knights (5-3) ahead of Moanalua (5-4) into third place in the division standings behind Roosevelt (8-0) and Kaiser (6-3).
It’s getting pretty heated, and Castle can make more of a dent next week, when it plays the Rough Riders and Cougars.
“I feel like we’re the underdogs,” Turner added. “Nobody really expects Castle to be the big team and that motivates us.”
As for the solid ball-striking — to steal a term from golf:
“After the last practice, I did extra batting and focused on hitting the first strike instead of taking balls,” she said.
That strategy paid off when she made the first noise, a loud crack to lead off the game.
“We put her in the lead-off spot because she’s been hitting the ball well,” Knights coach Jon Berinobis said. “We want her to use the bat. Back in the day, the bats weren’t like that. They cost money … $300 now … so get your skill down and let the bat do the work. She’s been doing that and coming around for us big-time.
“As far as her pitching, she’s more controlled and more composed. If she falls behind, she finds a way back. Tonight, she had no hit batters. Every game before, she’s had a couple of those.”
Ashaiya Lopes was another offensive stalwart for Castle. She homered and doubled and scored three runs.
Berinobis sees next week as a major challenge.
“(Roosevelt and Kaiser) are going to be tough ones,” he said. “We’ll try to give them a good game if we can. We control our destination. If we keep playing like we’ve been playing, we may have a chance. We want to continue to improve and get over that hump.”