It was somewhat fitting that the final out of Saturday’s OIA Division I softball championship ended up in the glove of Kapolei left fielder Dallas Pollard-Brownell.
The inning prior, a ball that popped out of her grip helped position Mililani for a third straight OIA crown.
But the Hurricanes rallied in the top of the seventh inning with the go-ahead run scoring on Pollard-Brownell’s grounder. Mililani threatened again in the bottom of the inning with a two-out double, but Pollard-Brownell tracked down a solid shot off Markie Okamoto’s bat to cap Kapolei’s 6-5 win on a rainy night at McKinley and secure the school’s first OIA title since 2005.
“When you make a mistake you have to bounce back,” Pollard-Brownell said after receiving her championship medal. “I’m proud of my team. They kept me up to keep it going.”
Both of Saturday’s OIA championship games were decided with seventh-inning comebacks with Nanakuli rallying past Aiea for the Division II title and Kapolei overcoming a rough sixth to end Mililani’s two-year Division I reign.
No. 4 Kapolei earned the OIA’s seeded berth in the Division I state tournament with one-run victories over top-ranked Campbell in the semifinals on Friday and No. 3 Mililani in the title game on Saturday behind gritty pitching performances by junior Sadie Kapaku-You.
Kapaku-You gave up back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the first inning and Mililani jumped out to a 2-0 lead. She stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the third and launched a grand slam to give herself a lead that would last into the sixth inning.
“Instead of chipping away looking for something short I said, ‘if you want it all, go get it. But you gotta be committed to the pitch,’” Kapolei coach Tony Saffery said. “What a great swing on a good pitch.”
Mililani’s rally in the sixth inning coincided with rain that intensified from a sporadic light drizzle earlier in the evening. Tarrah Aniya reached on an error, moved to second on Okamoto’s bunt and went to third on a wild pitch. She scored on Brooke Yasuda’s groundout to first and Tracie Okumura, pinch-running for Jerae Keliikoa, went to third on the play. Keri Togami then hit a grounder between short and third for an infield single that scored Okumura with the tying run.
Kristen Ishii followed with a fly to left that Pollard-Brownell appeared to settle under near the foul line as she looked up into the rain. But the ball tailed back into fair territory and bounced out of her glove and fell to the grass. With two out, Togami was racing around the bases on contact and made it home to give Mililani a 6-5 lead.
When the Hurricanes returned to the first-base dugout going into the top of the seventh, Kapaku-You said the message was, “we’re not done yet.”
Makana Meyers reached on an error and Ciena Kauhi followed with a single just beyond the infield. Kapaku-You walked to load the bases and Sala Pedebone also drew a walk to force in the tying run. With one out, Pollard-Brownell hit a grounder that Mililani pitcher Aubree Kim bobbled and Kauhi crossed the plate with the go-ahead run.
Mililani slugger Merilas Rivera barreled up Kapaku-You’s first pitch in the bottom of the seventh, but her line drive went straight to center fielder Holiday Ribac. After a popup for the second out, Aniya doubled to left field to put the tying run in scoring position. Okamoto made solid contact again, but Pollard-Brownell was there to secure the win and the championship.
“That kid has grown tremendously mentally, physically. Just a wonderful kid,” Saffery said.
“To catch that last out that was big for her. I was happy for her.”
The Division I state tournament is scheduled for May 10-13 with championship bracket games at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium and consolation games at McKinley. The Division II tournament is set for May 11-14 and will be held at Patsy Mink Softball Stadium on Maui.