It took five innings, but Kapolei found its timing just in time to put together a rally that propelled the Hurricanes into Friday’s title game of the DataHouse/HHSAA Division I Softball Championship.
Outside of Sadie Kapaku-You’s swing on the first pitch of the bottom of the fourth inning in Thursday’s semifinal game, Kapolei was kept off balance by Pearl City junior Tyanna Kaaialii’s offspeed offerings while the Chargers executed at the plate to take a 5-1 lead.
Kapaku-You’s home run represented Kapolei’s lone hit off of Kaaialii through five innings before Makana Meyers ignited a comeback with a double to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Two home runs later, the Hurricanes were within a run. They manufactured the tying run in the seventh with a hit batter and three consecutive bunts and pulled out a 6-5 win in the eighth to advance to the state final for the first time since 2005.
“(Kaaialii) did a good job. They did a good job adjusting to her,” Pearl City coach Chad Obara said. “That’s how the game goes.”
In a matchup of the top two teams in this week’s Star-Advertiser rankings, No. 1. Kapolei will face No. 2 and defending state champion Campbell at 7 p.m. at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
Kapolei is responsible for Campbell’s lone loss of the season, a 5-4 win in the semifinals of the OIA playoffs on April 29. A rematch appeared tenuous at best for much of Thursday night before the Hurricanes stormed back.
Kaaialii mixed in a changeup more often than in her regular season meetings with Kapolei, Hurricanes coach Tony Saffery said. The offspeed pitch frequently got the Hurricanes swinging off their front foot and Kaaialii recorded four strikeouts and five infield popups in the first five innings.
“That kind of messed us up,” Saffery said. “We were kind of banking on looking for fastballs and once one batter chased the changeup, then another and it was contagious. That’s her job, to disrupt our timing.”
After Meyers’ doubled to lead off the sixth, Kapolei right fielder Ciena Kauhi, a 5-foot-4 sophomore, fell behind two strikes, fouled off two pitches, then lifted a flyball to center field that carried over the fence to cut Pearl City’s lead to 5-3.
“I think that’s her first ever,” Saffery said of Kauhi’s homer. “Did you see her home run trot? It was a sprint.”
One out later, shortstop Laugatausala Pedebone — a more frequent power threat — went deep again to bring Kapolei to within a run. The solo homer was Pedebone’s third in two days and sixth in Kapolei’s last six state tournament games.
After Kapaku-You retired Pearl City in order in the top of the seventh, Holiday Ribac was hit by pitch to open the bottom of the inning. Raina Mckean reached base when her bunt was bobbled and Shaycelynn Hoohuli excecuted another bunt to advance the runners.
Meyers then placed a third bunt into the dirt and Ribac scored the tying run.
“I should have done that earlier when we had opportunities,” Saffery said, “but I just thought we were hitting well so I wanted the kids to swing the bat. But (Pearl City) defended and Tyanna did a great job keeping us at bay.”
Kapaku-You led off the bottom of the eighth with a line drive down the left field line. Adrenaline carried her around first and she was called safe on a close play at second.
“I just wanted to get on base,” Kapaku-You said. “The batters behind me, I knew they would bring me in if I got on.”
After Pedebone was intentionally walked, yet another bunt moved the runners into scoring position. Pearl City shifted an outfielder into the infield to leave less room for a groundball to get through. But Dallas Pollard-Brownell’s grounder up the middle indeed found a hole and Kapaku-You scored the winning run.
Given the opportunity to end the game, Pollard-Brownell, who grounded out in her three previous at-bats, said her mind-set was to “just relax.”
“(Kaaialii had) been getting me all game and I just had to relax and see the ball,” Pollard-Brownell said.