She spends much her free time on the bench, pressing 175 pounds per rep.
When Keila Kamoku gets a pitch she likes, the ball turns into a missile. The Kamehameha senior walloped a three-run home run and a grand slam as the Warriors rallied for a 15-6 win over Punahou on Wednesday afternoon.
It was the season opener for Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division I teams, and Kamehameha was on the ropes, down 5-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Warriors then pummeled the Buffanblu for 12 runs in the ensuing two innings.
“I feel really good about this win,” Kamehameha Coach Leo Sing Chow said. “I like where this team is at. They’ve been working, so it’s nice to see this result. They were very self-motivated. There’s a different drive and energy in them because they’re just happy to be out there, working hard and buying in. You can tell they’re just happy to be around each other. You play a great opponent like Punahou, they’re definitely fired up.”
Kamehameha junior Madison Rabe went the distance and picked up the win. She also helped her own cause with a go-ahead solo home run in the bottom fo the fifth.
“At the first inning, I was kind of nervous, but I knew I have a good pitcher (Momi Lyman) to back me up. It made my nerves go away since I knew if I did struggle, she would be there for me,” Rabe said. “My screwball was working really well in the third and fourth innings, and I was also relying on my (inside) spin to do the job.”
The Warriors came up big fifth and sixth innings, when Kamoku brought the power surge. Both of her swats came on 1-2 counts.
“I just gripped and ripped,” Kamoku said. “In my at-bats, I’m looking for a good pitch. I was watching a couple before that, but after that I was, OK, it’s time to get my stuff together. Anything close, in the zone, I’m going to grip and rip, and I did that. Anything close, I’m going to drive.”
The Ole Miss signee has prospered against Punahou pitching. Even in last year’s shortened, cancelled season, she smacked a homer against the Buffanblu that cleared the outfield fence and another fence bordering the baseball field and a ravine.
Punahou a game teetering on the edge of possible extra innings turn into a potential 10-run knockout.
“Yeah, it was good game for five innings,” Punahou Coach Dave Eldredge said. “It’s a young team and I don’t think we made adjustments quick enough. Their pitcher, she was dominating the inside and she had a good riser going on. She did good.”
Punahou had a number of nifty infield plays that otherwise would’ve added to Kamehameha’s 17-hit onslaught.
“I was actually happy with our defense considering it’s day one. I thought we made some pretty good plays,” Eldredge said. “Too many walks. We fell behind the count a lot of the day. We were close, but definitely got to to fix some things.”
The visiting Buffanblu jumped to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Mia Hashimoto led of with a walk and Shonty Passi belted a home run to straightaway center.
Kamehameha’s leadoff hitter, Hailey Agena, drew a walk, stole second base and advanced to third on a single by Nevaeh Telles. After Kamoku was hit by a pitch, Kenna Higa singled to right, scoring Agena. Kamoku was thrown out trying advance to third base. Punahou starter Justice Tiberi then got Nikki Donahue to ground out to end the frame.
In the top of the second, Rabe dropped a pop-up off the bat of Tiberi near home plate, giving the Buffanblu a break. After Makanalei Lapera walked and Hashimoto popped out on a bunt attempt, Shonty Tassi singled to left, loading the bases.
Liana Heshiki then doubled to left, scoring two runs. Tassi tried to score from first base, but was thrown out at home plate in a collision with the catcher, Donahue, for the third out. Punahou questioned Donahue’s position, kneeling on the dirt in the pathway four feet from home plate, but Tassi was called out because did not attempt a slide. Donahue was dazed for a moment, but stayed in the game.
Punahou had a 4-1 lead before Kamehameha’s bats came alive. Telles led off the bottom of the third with a walk and Kamoku singled. After Higa grounded into a double play, Tiberi was nearly out of the jam. Donahue then stepped in a blasted a two-run homer, cutting Punahou’s lead to 4-3.
“Honestly, I kind of wasn’t thinking in the batter’s box. I had just come off getting hit at the plate (on defense). I really just wanted to hit the ball so I could help advance the team,” Donahue said.
Despite the early struggle, Rabe settled in and began to paint the corners in the top of the fourth. She whiffed Asia Lee and Tiani Wayton, starting a string of eight batters retired consecutively.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Warriors took their first lead. Agena and Telles singled, and after Kamoku lined out to center, pinch hitter Autumn Sulusi reached base with an infield single to load the sacks. Donahue then looped a double behind first base, scoring Agena and Telles for a 5-4 Kamehameha lead.
With runners at third and second, Tiberi retired Rylee Gaudia on a groundout and Destiny Lum on a liner to left to stop the damage.
Rabe’s string of success came to a temporary halt in the top of the fifth. With two outs, Heshiki hammered an opposite-field homer to left, tying the game at 5.
Tiberi caught Mieya Andres looking at a third strike to begin the bottom of the fifth, but Rabe sent an inside pitch down the left-field line and over the fence to give the Warriors the lead.
“I was tense at first, just swinging to get the home run,” Rabe said. “Then I was thinking, what would my dad (Jensen Rabe) tell me to do? He’d say to relax, so I relaxed and hit it as hard as I could. I think he would be proud of me.”
Agena doubled to left and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. After Telles walked, Kamoku came through with her first homer, a line drive over the center-field fence. Kamehameha led 9-5 after five innings.
Punahou’s potent bats didn’t go silent. Megan Yanagi, a left-handed hitter, socks a two-run solo homer to right, cutting the margin to three runs.
Kamehameha responded with seven runs in the bottom of the sixth. Gaudia led off with an infield single and Lum walked.
Tiberi’s day came to a close after issuing nine walks with one strikeout. Shayla Yamashita replaced Tiberi on the mound and retired Andres on fly ball to right.
With one out, Rabe singled to load the bases. Agena singled to right, scoring Gaudia. Telles followed with a single to left, plating Lum from third for a 11-6 lead. Kamoku then delivered her grand slam to left, clearing the bases for a nine-run lead.
After Lapera led off the seventh with a double, Rabe then retired the next three Buffanblu to end the battle.
Kamehameha will entertain Sacred Hearts on Saturday, then travel to Punahou next Wednesday in a rematch.
“I think this sets the tone for a good amount of our season,” Kamoku said. “I wouldn’t say the rest of our season because we have a long way to go. We have all the tools and the talent that we need. It’s just the communication and teamwork part of it that I feel like we need to work a little more on. We didn’t have that much (preseason) game time to mesh with each other and have that kind of chemistry I think we need more of.”
Punahou will host Maryknoll, another powerhouse squad, on Saturday afternoon. Though the ILH’s schedule includes a playoff tournament, the season is jammed into a five-week time frame. That makes practice reps and cuts a premium.
“That’s the other thing. In the past, season’s a little longer, so you can’t get behind too,” Eldredge said.
The game was the first in ILH play for both teams since the previous season was cancelled in March of 2020. No spectators were allowed and players wore masks. Temperature checks and wellness check-in procedures were among the protocols.
Punahou (0-1) 220 011 0 — 6 6 0
Kamehameha (1-0) 102 247 x — 15 17 1
Justice Tiberi, Shayla Yamashita (6) and Liana Heshiki. Madison Rabe and Nikki Donahue. W—Rabe. L—Tiberi.
Leading hitters—Punahou: Shonty Tassi 2-4, HR, 2 RBI, run; Heshiki 2-3, HR, double, walk, 3 RBI, run; Megan Yanagi 1-3, HR, RBI, run; Makanalei Lapera 1-2, double, walk, run. Kamehameha: Hailey Agena 3-4, double, walk, 4 runs, RBI; Nevaeh Telles 3-3, 2 walks, 3 runs; Keila Kamoku 3-4, 2 HRs, HBP, 7 RBI, 3 runs; Donahue 3-5, HR, 4 RBI; Rabe 2-3, HR, walk, 2 runs, RBI.