‘Iolani softball thriving on late-inning drama

Maryknoll runner Kamalei Labasan beat the throw hauled in by 'Iolani's Aleia Agbayani at first base during the sixth inning on Wednesday. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.
Maryknoll runner Kamalei Labasan beat the throw hauled in by ‘Iolani’s Aleia Agbayani at first base during the sixth inning on Wednesday. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

Two late-inning rallies over the last two days left ‘Iolani tied atop the ILH Division I softball standings.

The seventh-ranked Raiders forced extra innings before pulling out an 8-7 win over Punahou in the eighth on Tuesday. They followed that up by erasing a two-run deficit in the sixth in a 4-2 home victory over No. 4 Maryknoll on Wednesday.

“The first thing one of the coaches said in our huddle was, ‘stop giving me gray hairs,’” said Iolani’s Kenedi Lopes, who drove in the go-ahead runs with a two-out single in the win over Maryknoll.

‘Iolani’s dramatic finishes combined with Kamehameha’s win over Mid-Pacific on Wednesday left the Raiders and Warriors even in the ILH race at 4-1-1. Their 1-1 tie on March 10 kept both teams half a step ahead of Maryknoll, which fell to 4-2.

“We know this ILH is going to be tough. There’s a lot of parity,” ‘Iolani coach Dean Yonamine said. “No team really has, like maybe in past years, a really dominating pitcher. So every game is going to be like this. It’s going to be a matter of gotta clutch up and make plays when you have the opportunities. We’ve been preparing for the fact that it’s going to be like this all the time.”

The outcome of Wednesday’s game is pending protests filed by both teams in the fifth inning after ‘Iolani’s Aleia Agbayani walked with two outs.

Agbayani started in the circle for ‘Iolani but was relieved in the fourth inning and moved to first base. When she walked with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Yonamine initially called for a courtesy runner — a rule limited to pitchers and catchers — and sent Kalena Markham in to run. After realizing he’d misspoken, Yonamine re-entered Agbayani back into the game to run at first.

Maryknoll coach John Uekawa contended Agbayani should have been called out due to an illegal substitution when she went to the dugout and Markham took her place on first base. Initially the home plate umpire agreed, signaling an out to end the inning. But after a conference, Agbayani’s re-entry was allowed, and Uekawa filed a protest. Yonamine countered with another protest, that the umpires had called time and allowed the re-entry.

After the technical wrangling, the on-field action picked up.

With Agbayani on first, Lopes also walked and Kai Barrett threatened to break up the shutout with a drive to right-center. But Maryknoll’s Kiana Arcayena made a running catch in the gap to keep the game scoreless.

With one out in the top of the sixth, Maryknoll’s Maia McNicoll and Kamalei Labasan reached on infield singles and advanced on Sidney Kamakaiwi’s bunt. Baylie Kahele’s looper then fell on the right-field line for a two-run double to give Maryknoll the lead.

‘Iolani’s Ashlyn Okamoto walked to lead off the bottom of the sixth and Marcee Nakamura sacrificed her to second. Maddie Ikeda then dropped a bunt that spun to a stop just inside the first-base line for a single. Kawai Scanlan, the Raiders’ No. 9 hitter, cut the deficit in half with a line-drive single to left-center to drive in Okamoto.

After Leila Anoina was hit by a pitch to load the bases, McNicoll fielded a comebacker and threw home for a force out. Agbayani then reached base on a high throw on her grounder to shortstop, allowing Scanlan to score the tying run.

Lopes then took a ball, fell behind two strikes, fouled off two pitches, then lined a single to center to drive in Anoina and Macy Uyehara with the go-ahead runs.

“Just trying to battle,” Lopes said. “Knowing I have two strikes the idea there is anything that comes close to the plate I’m going to at least foul it off if I don’t like it. It was a changeup and luckily I sat back on it. I had a good idea of where I wanted to hit the ball and I saw this big gap. It was just fundamentals at the last moment.”

The drama wasn’t over quite yet. Kayla Santos led off the seventh with a ground-rule double but stayed at second on consecutive ground outs. Ikeda, ‘Iolani’s third baseman, ended the game with a diving snag of a line drive in foul territory and Nakamura earned the victory with four innings of relief.

“I think our pitcher, she held her own, ‘Iolani’s just a really, really disciplined team,” Uekawa said. “They’re good at what they do. It’s not lucky, they’re good. Well coached, disciplined.”

‘Iolani next faces Pac-Five on Saturday. Maryknoll closes the first half of its schedule with games against Saint Francis on Friday and Punahou on Saturday.


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