The last time Keila Kamoku hit a ball this far, she was a seventh grader playing Little League baseball.
She was a shortstop for the Kapolei All-Stars back then.
“I remember one time, I was at a baseball state tournament in Hilo and I just had that same feeling as I have right now. We were losing by one or two runs. There’s two runners on base and I just swung, and it cleared the fence all the way on top of the building. It was by the ponds,” Kamoku said.
On Wednesday, she powered two homers, including a three-run shot in the bottom of the sixth inning as Kamehameha posted a 9-7 softball win over Punahou. Kamoku’s second homer gave her team a four-run lead. It cleared both the softball and baseball fences, roughly 260 feet in distance. Perhaps much more.
“Sis really clutched up. I was standing at third and I was like, that ball is long gone, said leadoff hitter Alyssa Mahoe, who also homered for Kamehameha. “Every time we approach the plate, we kind of just want to make good contact. Luckily, our balls went over,” Mahoe said.
Kamoku has ultimate confidence in her power. She doesn’t overswing. The compact, powerful cut doesn’t miss often.
“When I went up to the box I was, like, it’s either now or never. I got to do this right now for my team, get it past the outfield, score that runner,” she said.
The Warriors matched the three round-trippers by Punahou. Mahoe also walked twice and was robbed of a second home run by Punahou.
“We all can feel it every game. We feel when it’s a pressure situation, but luckily we have a great team to push us through those nervous times,” Mahoe said.
Kamehameha got at least one hit from every starter in the lineup. Six of their 10 hits were for extra bases.
“I’m hoping to get a little better balance, but we do have more power than speed. We’re working on finding that mix,” Warriors coach Leo Sing Chow said. “Alyssa is aggressive. I like her energy and approach to her at-bat, so she starts the game off with an attack mentality and confidence. It sets the pace for the rest of the team.”
Kamoku’s first home run was a two-run shot to center, opening the Warriors’ lead to 4-0. Punahou had rallied within 6-5 in the sixth when Kamehameha answered. After Mahoe and Colby McClinton walked, Kamoku sent a 1-0 pitch from Punahou reliever Justice Tiberi beyond the softball and baseball fences. The ball landed in the bushes that leads to a construction area.
The Kamehameha baseball team, watching the game from the grass between the fences, jumped up and chased after Kamoku’s launch as it soared over their heads. It was peak performance at its best, a moment out of a movie script. Yet, it was just game one of a 10-game regular season in ILH play. The schedule shrank this season, putting more weight on each contest.
“It’s only 10 games plus a single-elimination tournament. I have no idea why they did that,” Punahou coach Dave “Boy” Eldredge said. “Last year, counting the playoffs, we played 19 games. So every game now is huge. Last year, we lost a couple of games early and came back.”
Eldredge’s team is one of the few that could survive the graduation of a slugger like D’Asha Saiki (Cal).
“We had our chances. I appreciate our girls coming back the way they did. I like Kamehameha, too,” he said. “They’ve got some strong hitters and our pitchers put it up there. They can’t miss their spots like they did.”
It was a showcase of sluggers for both teams. Mahoe, the leadoff-hitting right fielder, led off the bottom of the first with a solo shot over the center-field fence. In her second at-bat, she drilled another shot, but Punahou center fielder Tiani Wayton made a spectacular diving catch to keep the ball in play as she fell on the fence.
The home team scored again in the third inning when Tausani Tavale was hit by a pitch, and Kamoku blasted a two-out homer to center. Nicole Donahue and Destiny Lum followed with back-to-back doubles, and Kamehameha had a 4-0 lead against Punahou starter Ashanti Martinez.
Punahou’s power surge didn’t ignite until the fourth inning against Kamehameha starter Madison Rabe. Aliya Hashimoto singled and left-handed swinging Liana Heshiki powered a homer over the right-field fence. Two batters later, Shonty Passi belted a solo home run to left, and the visitors were within 4-3.
Kamehameha plated two runs in the bottom of the fourth, chasing Martinez. Autumn Sulusi and Haley Agena, the No. 8 and No. 9 batters, singled. Tiberi replaced Martinez and didn’t mess with Mahoe, walking her on four pitches. Tavale followed with a 1-2 fielder’s choice. With one down, McClinton’s fielder’s choice grounder scored Agena from third base.
Kamoku stepped into the box and Tiberi threw a wild pitch, allowing Mahoe to score from third for a 6-3 Warriors lead. Kamoku grounded to short to end the inning.
Rabe, who went 5 1/3 innings for the win, set the Buffanblu down in order in the top of the fifth. In the sixth, Heshiki walloped her second homer of the game, this one to right field. Asia Lee followed with a solo shot to left for back-to-back homers, pulling Punahou within 6-5.
Reese Mokuau took over on the mound and ran into trouble. Passi singled, and Mokuau walked Martinez and Bri Alejo to load the bases. Facing pinch hitter Mia Hashimoto, Mokuau worked the outside corner and fanned the lefty for the third out.
Eldredge wasn’t pleased with that sequence, telling the home plate umpire, ‘They’re extending on you,” several times.
That set up Mahoe’s biggest blast of the game. Mahoe led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, and McClinton walked with one out. The count was 1-0 on Kamoku when she unloaded.
“I was looking for something middle inside,” she said.
Kamoku may miss baseball, but she’s having plenty of fun with softball.
“I didn’t play softball until I came here for middle school,” said Kamoku, who has some striking similarities to former Baldwin shortstop Nawai Kaupe.
Down 9-5, Punahou made one last run in the top of the seventh when Kamoku came up big. Mokuau walked two batters as the Buffanblu loaded the bases with no outs. Lee’s sacrifice fly brought Maya Matsubara home from third base, and after Passi walked, the bases were loaded again.
Wayton then slapped a hard grounder in the hole at short, where Kamoku made a diving stab for a forceout throw to third for the second out. Aliya Hashimoto scored on the play, but Martinez followed with a fly out to left to end the game.
“Punahou is a very good team. They fought hard,” said Sing Chow, a former Kamehameha ace. “You’ve got to mix it up as much as you can with speeds, and hit spots. You’ve got to try and make it move and hope you get it where it needs to go. They’re a very good team. You don’t know until the very last out. It was exciting. It was a deep one (by Martinez).”
Rabe allowed just five hits. She struck out three and walked one. Mokuau allowed one hit in 1 2/3 innings, but walked five and threw a wild pitch before closing the deal.
“Our pitchers battled well,” Sing Chow added. “We still have some room for improvement, but they did the best they could and they didn’t give up. They pushed through it and that’s the biggest thing we tell them, to fight and work through it. To trust yourself and trust your team, and they did a great job with that. It’s exciting to see how much better we can get from here.”
If the construction crew finds a neon green softball on site, maybe the ball winds up back with Sing Chow. Maybe it ends up in a plexiglass box in Kamoku’s living room.
“Should I get it back? Maybe I’ll go hunting tonight,” Kamoku said.
The teams met in the Trojan Classic recently. Punahou won that matchup, 5-3. Kamehameha got much more offensive punch this time.
“I think everybody really contributed today,” Mahoe said. “That’s what we plan on doing for the rest of the season.”
The Warriors play at Maryknoll’s home field, Sand Island State Park, on Saturday.
“They know all of us,” Kamoku added. “We’ve been playing each other for how many years.”
Punahou (4-4, 0-1) 000 302 2 — 7 6 0
Kamehameha (5-2, 1-0) 103 203 x — 9 10 0
Ashanti Martinez, Justice Tiberi (4) and Liana Heshiki. Madison Rabe, Reese Mokuau (6). W—Rabe. L—Martinez. Sv—Mokuau.
Leading hitters—Punahou: Heshiki 2-3, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs, 2 runs, walk; Asia Lee 1-3, HR, 2 RBIs, SF. KS: Keila Kamoku 2-4, 2 HRs, 5 RBIs, 2 runs; Alyssa Mahoe 1-2, HR, 3 runs, RBI, walk; Colby McClinton 1-3, double, RBI, run, walk; Destiny Lum 1-2, double, RBI, 2 walks; Autumn Sulusi 2-3.