In a parallel universe, Damien enters year one of varsity softball after two years of intermediate play, after at least one year of JV experience.
And in that faraway world, the Monarchs play in a pure Division II schedule. Like OIA D-II.
Damien’s debut in the brutal world of ILH softball was a rough one. The 38-0 loss to ‘Iolani was stocked with gap hits by the Raiders that rolled and rolled for stand-up home runs — six in all, including three by Kai Barrett. It could’ve been a bigger total for ‘Iolani, which opened the season ranked No. 10 in the Star-Advertiser Softball Top 10 today. Aleia Agbayani, the Raiders’ signee with Cal, belted a pair of two-run homers, plating herself and freshman leadoff hitter Ailana Agbayani in the first two innings. After a sac fly by Aleia Agbayani in the third inning, both sisters were done for the day.
Four starters left the game after the second inning with ‘Iolani ahead 18-0. Barrett, their third baseman, stayed in and had a monster game: 4-for-6, three homers, nine RBIs. Pitcher Allie Capello, who had a perfect game with nine strikeouts, was also pristine at the plate: 3-for-3, a home run, six RBIs, two walks and two hit by pitch. She reached base in all seven of her plate appearances.
It was a memorable ILH debut as head coach for former MLB and Japanese pro Benny Agbayani. For Damien, it’s step one toward a long road to becoming a competitive softball program. The lineup is stocked almost entirely by sophomores. If Damien seems out of its element, playing softball in one of the top two leagues in the state, there might be a long-term strategy.
Assistant coach Gordon Fernandez mentioned that the program is going to generate interest among students and families. Some of that interest might come after the season from club players and, possibly, the roster of St. Francis, which closes its campus at the end of this semester.
For now, starting pitcher Gloriana Sua and her teammates, a roster of 17, are keeping their chins up.
“We know ‘Iolani is a good team. We just have to stick through it,” she said.
The Monarchs didn’t field a team on any level last year. Not junior varsity. Not intermediate. But they dove into the treacherous waters of ILH softball, a vast land chock full of future Division I college sluggers and pitchers.
Damien is one of two teams in ILH Division II. St. Francis is the defending state champion in D-II, and with recent additions, has a case for a No. 1 ranking soon.
By the book, Damien would have stepped into the waters conservatively with an intermediate or JV program first.
Fernandez filled in for head coach Eddie Kealoha, who is on the mainland watching one of his children play college softball this week.
“We’ll keep our heads up, stay the course and keep the attitudes we have,” Fernandez said.