Motivated by the absence of head coach Ricky Gusman, Nanakuli continued its quest for a third straight Division II state softball title with a 3-1 win over top-seeded Pac-Five at McKinley on Wednesday.
Freshman Cheyenne Lute threw a one-hitter and sophomore Mahina Piilani backed her up with a home run, an RBI single and solid play at shortstop to help the Golden Hawks advance to a semifinal matchup with fourth-seeded Kamehameha-Hawaii at 1 p.m. Thursday at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
Waimea, the second seed, faces third-seeded Aiea at 3 p.m. in the second semifinal.
Gusman was hospitalized at the Queen’s Medical Center prior to the state tournament and his assistants took on his on-field duties for the Golden Hawks.
“We just found out on Monday that he had taken ill,” assistant coach Johnnie McCoy said. “We don’t really know what’s going on but all I know is he is in the hospital.”
McCoy said the coaches are encouraging Gusman to focus on his health “and just take care of what he needs to take care of. The rest of the coaches will take care of what we need to.”
Said Lute: “We play for him, we do what we taught us and make him proud.”
After losing to Aiea in the OIA Division II final, Nanakuli opened the state tournament with a 16-6 win over Konawaena on Tuesday and put together enough offense on Wednesday to support Lute in Wednesday’s win over Pac-Five.
“We had to shake off the Aiea game and and just move forward, stay grounded and keep pounding,” Piilani said.
Lute struck out five, walked three and threw 6 1/3 no-hit innings before Brazzlyn Tovio-Asato chopped a single into left field for the Wolfpack’s lone hit. Pac-Five put the tying runs on base with one out in the seventh, but Lute got a strikeout and a force out at second to end the game.
Lute said she wasn’t aware she had a no hitter going with two outs left.
“I don’t pay attention to stats, I just do what I do for my team,” Lute said.
“I just depend on my team because I know they got me and they won’t let me down.”
Piilani threw a Pac-Five runner out at the plate in the first inning and the Nanakuli infield scooped up the grounders Lute forced.
Pac-Five sophomore Megan Yoshioka contained a powerful Nanakuli offense for much of the night, but Kanalei McCoy sparked the Golden Hawks with leadoff doubles in the third and sixth innings to set up scores and Piilani lined a home run to left center in the bottom of the fourth.
Pac-Five broke up the shutout without a hit in the top of the sixth. Karley Ann Yoshioka reached on an error, advanced on a bunt and took third on a flyout to left field. Yoshioka then scored on a wild pitch.
Nanakuli got the run back in the bottom of the inning when McCoy doubled to right field and pinch-runner Kama Kaeo scored on Piilani’s looping single to left. Lute held off Pac-Five’s threat in the seventh and Nanakuli won its eighth straight state tournament game.
While the Golden Hawks play without their head coach this week, he continues to help keep them focused.
“All I know is we just have to do it for him do it for our families just play hard beginning to end,” Piilani said.