Nawai Kaupe socked a solo home run in the top of the eighth inning as Maui edged Leilehua 6-5 this afternoon in opening-round play at the DataHouse/HHSAA Softball State Championships at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
“I feel awesome. I love the way we came back,” Maui coach Mark Lau Hee said. “Nawai has been clutch for us. Between the kids working hard and the staff working hard with them, we’re lucky. Our boys did well last week and gave the girls inspiration.”
Now, the Sabers have taken a first step that could possibly duplicate the route taken by their baseball team last week. The Maui baseball squad rose from the unseeded to knock off Mililani, among their foes, before reaching the state finals and beating Waiakea for the title.
The Sabers softball team will face top-seeded OIA champion Mililani on Thursday, 4:30 p.m., at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
“We played them at their preseason tournament and lost by only one run,” Lau Hee said. “That was good for our kids. The funny thing is the boys took the same path.”
Kapule, the Sabers’ starting shortstop, finished the day 3-for-3 with three RBIs. Her game-winning blow came against Leilehua’s Kaena Nistal, who had pitched two innings with just one unearned run permitted before the eighth frame began. Nistal had relieved starting pitcher Kamryn Kamakaiwi.
“I honestly didn’t know it was going out. I thought was a pop fly,” said Kaupe, who transferred from Baldwin earlier in her career and has signed to play at Washington next season. “This is an amazing team. This is family.”
The Sabers, runner-up from the Maui Interscholastic League, made the most of their second chance against the OIA’s fifth-place team. They led 5-2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning when the Lady Mules rallied for three runs with the help of a throwing error to tie the game.
After losing a three-run lead, the Sabers got some encouragement from Kaupe’s brother, former Baldwin Bears baseball player Brandon Kaupe. He’s in the New York Mets organization, but is recovering from a wrist injury and has been coaching on the Maui softball staff.
“For a young coach, he has really got good words,” Lau Hee said. “He can also show them at practice what to do.”
“He’s our motivational speaker,” Nawai Kaupe said. “He said, ‘You can’t take anything for granted.”