Maryknoll seniors bask in championship glow after 11-1 win over ‘Iolani

Defending ILH softball champion Maryknoll opens the 2022 season atop the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Softball Top 10. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser.

It took awhile, maybe 30 minutes after the final out, but the Maryknoll Spartans finally gave coach John Uekawa a Gatorade shower.

Maryknoll’s 11-1, five-inning win over ‘Iolani on Wednesday night made it three softball crowns in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. Long after the media interviews and post-game team meeting, the Spartans were to themselves in Tiger Softball Stadium, preparing to leave. Then, two of them got ahold of the Gatorade jug.

Uekawa never had a chance. The warm air and refreshing, ice-cold bath jolted him. He raised his arms up in triumph and laughed.

The road to this ILH title, as always, required adaptation and evolution. Get better or fall behind. Maryknoll, ‘Iolani, Kamehameha, Punahou and Mid-Pacific played at a state-tournament level from the start, even though preseason was extremely limited. Bats were on fire from the start, leaving ace pitchers searching for ways to combat the constant misery. It took grit, which is what junior Ua Nakoa-Chung had.

She was the complete-game, losing pitcher when Maryknoll fell at ‘Iolani, 18-17, two weeks earlier. On Wednesday, she allowed just three hits and allowed baserunners in scoring position only in the second and fifth innings.

“I would consider Ua one of the top three pitchers in the state. Every pitcher, including those in the major leagues, has their bad days and good days, and this was a great day for her,” Uekawa said.

“My curves and my inside (pitches) were definitely working today,” Nakoa-Chung said. “I actually play with a handful of them (in mainland tournaments) so I know what their weaknesses are, but today’s game was more of a redemption game to come back and win it all. That’s exactly what we did.”

The seniors, including Mahalo Akaka, were in full ferocity mode. Akaka blasted a three-run home run in the six-run fifth inning. Akaka’s speed and defense as a center fielder have always been there. The added pop in her swing as a senior was another boost for Maryknoll, which hit 41 homers as a team this season.

“I was actually looking for an outside (pitch), but I heard my sister (Aloha) say my number and I knew what it was going to be, so I went after it,” Mahalo Akaka said.

First baseman Aloha Akaka had a sacrifice fly in the fifth. Senior shortstop Logan Gaspar went 2-for-2 with an RBI, a run scored and a walk.

Junior pitcher Ua Nakoa-Chung, at right, joins soon-to-be graduates Mahalo Akaka, Liliana Thomas, Logan Gaspar, Alize Pagaoa and Aloha Akaka. Thomas, who will play at Arizona State, predicts more titles in 2022 for the Spartans. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser.

“I’ll miss the chemistry,” Gaspar said.

“The jokes,” senior first baseman/outfielder Alize Pagaoa said. “The dumb jokes.”

Senior catcher Liliana Thomas will be on her way to play for Arizona State soon.

“I won’t be back,” she said.

Neither will Mahalo Akaka.

“I’m done with sports,” she said. “Yeah, I’m retiring.”

Her twin sister, Aloha, will play basketball at Shoreline Community College (Wash.). Gaspar intends to play at Abilene Christian (Texas). Pagaoa will study medicine at Arizona. Dr. Pagaoa?

“That’s the plan,” she said.

“I just want to thank them all because it’s everybody, everybody who put this effort in,” Uekawa said. “I told the seniors, as well as the underclassmen, that sometimes being disciplined is a gift. Cherish it.”

The seniors have a prediction for next year’s Spartans.

“The exact same thing,” Thomas said. “They’re going to win it all next year.”

(See the game story in Thursday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.)

At McKinley
‘Iolani (8-3) 010 00 — 1 3 1
Maryknoll (10-2) 302 06 — 11 11 0
Allie Capello, Ailana Agbayani (1) and Keely Kai. Ua Nakoa-Chung and Liliana Thomas. W—Nakoa-Chung. L—Capello.
Leading hitters—‘Iolani: Agbayani 1-2, walk; Kaylee Matsuda 1-2, run, SB; Milla Fukuda 1-1, double, RBI, walk. Maryknoll: Carys Murakami 2-4, double, 2 runs; Mahalo Akaka 2-3, HR, 3 RBIs, 2 runs, walk; Nakoa-Chung 2-4, double, 3 RBIs, run; Logan Gaspar 2-2, walk, RBI, run.


  1. ILoveHawaii May 13, 2021 3:09 pm

    Dare we say that Maryknoll’s softball team is just as recruited as St. Lulu’s football team??

    Yassssss! The best that money can buy.

    Respect to the recruiters.
    Recruiting = Championships
    It also doesnt hurt when your HC has the “Means” to help.

  2. Opinion May 13, 2021 3:24 pm

    And when Iolani was winning consecutive State titles in basketball all those players Doc had just so happened to be on campus? LOL. He never went or had assistant coaches at NJB games? I love it when the crying comes out. People here complain about Mililani football cause kids enjoy playing for Rod and know it helps them get to the next level. It happens on every state title team to some degree. Think Campbells softball title team was made up of all in district students? Please. We can go on and on.

  3. ILoveHawaii May 13, 2021 4:07 pm


    Who said any of those people or teams you mentioned wasnt recruiting?
    Add Maryknoll Softball to that list.

    They were not the underdogs this year. They have the best team that $$ could buy.
    In order to compete at this level you have to be able to play the game and that’s recruiting.
    I can honestly say, barring any injuries, there is no OIA team that would have even come close to Maryknoll this year. NO ONE.

    This isnt crying. This is sharing for those not in the know.

  4. Opinion May 13, 2021 4:20 pm

    My question is, in all the big sport State championships,football, boys and girls basketball, softball and baseball, soccer, do u know of any team that won a championship that didn’t have a kid on the roster that went to that school to play that specific sport?

  5. Rebel May 13, 2021 10:15 pm

    All successful programs recruit nowadays. Long gone are the days of playing for your community.
    ILH has always recruited going back to the 1950’s or longer. OIA has been doing it too. OIA football in 1979, one guy played for OIA state champs, then went back grad from ILH Alma Mater.
    Just enjoy the kids having fun playing sports.

  6. Opinion May 14, 2021 5:50 am

    Well said. Couldn’t agree more. Btw, what an incredible running back he was!

  7. Falcon Future May 14, 2021 12:58 pm

    Some good points on both sides of the recruiting debate here. I will say that it is a bit odd that a so-called small school like Maryknoll can dominate softball at the highest level but then the next day have their volleyball team playing in D2.

    The bottom line is that recruiting is a part of all high school sports now whether you like it or not. The players still have to go out there and win the games. Congrats to Maryknoll for getting it done.

  8. ??? May 14, 2021 2:08 pm

    Same reason Nick Saban Dominates. He has the Top 1-2 Recruiting class Every year. As long as the Lee’s are at STL no OIA team will win a State title (period).
    OIA teams have a couple kids from outer district but you can’t compare that to an ILH team. Until the OIA admin makes recruiting legal, wins will always favor the ILH (common sense). Why is everyone afraid to say “Boyd Yap“ won it for Ron Lee & Kaiser?

  9. really May 14, 2021 6:30 pm

    Who cares if you are recruited. More power to them. If you have talent, doors open. That’s how it should be.

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