The Kamehameha Warriors finally reached the top of the Star-Advertiser Softball Top 10 this week.
After outscoring five ILH opponents by a total of 47 runs in five games, it appeared that there wasn’t much the league could do to stop the talented, young juggernauts.
Leave it to an experienced, cagey Maryknoll squad to change momentum. The Lady Spartans rallied from a 4-0 deficit to stun No. 1 Kamehameha 7-6 on a cool, overcast afternoon at Sand Island.
Nohea Hee, Maryknoll’s sterling center fielder, came through with runners in scoring position in the bottom of the fifth, sending a line drive to the left-field corner — the slicing softball did a number on outfielder Isha Knight, to give her team a 7-5 lead.
Kamehameha had its opportunity with runners in scoring position and no outs in the top of the seventh against Maryknoll’s second pitcher, freshman Aloha Akaka. She had replaced Kahilu McNicoll on the mound in the fifth inning. Coach John Uekawa approached the mound after singles by Dallas Millwood and Kyler Stephens — they wound up at third and second bases after beating two throws, one to the infield and another from third base to second.
Uekawa looked out to right field and called McNicoll back to the mound. It was the Spartan ace’s first experience as a reliever.
“In the outfield, in my head I had confidence in Aloha,” she said.
McNicoll had big moments earlier. After giving up a grand slam to Maiah Motta in the first inning, McNicoll later whiffed the powerful slugger with an inside off-speed pitch.
“I don’t really know her weaknesses. She just went after my drops,” McNicoll said.
Despite standing in right field on a cool day, she didn’t lose any dexterity on her return to the mound. She induced Motta and Shaylee Alani into groundouts — Millwood had no chance to score from third base — before pinch hitter Kiliohu Hanawahine’s infield single brought Millwood home.
McNicoll then struck out Alyssa Mahoe on a tailing fastball outside.
With that, instead of falling behind Kamehameha by three games, the seventh-ranked Lady Spartans are now 4-2 in ILH play while the Warriors are 5-1. Huge.
“We always know we’re a good team, and now we’re putting it together,” McNicoll said. “This helps us for our trip to Las Vegas next week, and we’ll be ready for the second half of the season when we come home.”
It came at the right time in the best possible way, Uekawa said.
“For Aloha, it was a great experience. We already had planned for her to pitch, but not put all the pressure on her in the last inning,” he said. “Lu is our No. 1 pitcher and she wanted that ball in her hands.”
Hee prepared in the past week to attack pitches on the outside edge of the plate. Her approach mirrors that of her favorite hitter, Bryce Harper.
“I like his mind-set in the box, the way he takes pitches and takes away halves,” she said.
Like just about every title contender in every sport of the ILH, teams lose and learn or simply fade away. There’s no middle ground.
“We know what it feels like to lose,” Dallas Millwood said of their first league loss. “Nobody likes that feeling, so we’re going to work even harder.”
Kamehameha left eight runners on base. Maryknoll stranded nine.
At Sand Island
Kamehameha (5-1) 400 100 1 — 6 7 2
Maryknoll (4-2) 010 420 x — 7 7 0
Momi Lyman, Reese Mokuau (4) and Kyler Stephens. Kahilu McNicoll, Aloha Akaka (5), McNicoll (7) and Baylie Kahele. W—Akaka. L—Mokuau. Sv—McNicoll.
Leading hitters—KS: Tausani Tavale 2-3, run, walk, SB; Dallas Millwood 2-2, two runs, two walks; Stephens 1-2, run, two walks; Maiah Motta 2-4, HR, 4 RBIs, run; Alyssa Mahoe 1-3, run, walk; Gabby Tyrell 1-3, triple, RBI. MS: Nohea Hee 1-3, double, 3 RBIs; Logan Carlos 1-2, RBI, 2 HBP; Liliana Thomas 2-4, two runs; McNicoll 1-1, HR, RBI, three runs, two walks.