Maryknoll softball had never won a state championship nor an Interscholastic League of Honolulu title.
After a thrilling seven-inning slugfest on Kamehameha’s damp field on Friday, that resume needs updating.
The Spartans claimed their first league crown with a 12-10 win over the Warriors, earning them the ILH’s seeded berth into states next week. Queen’s “We Are The Champions” blared from the visitors’ section on the Kapalama lower campus softball field.
UPDATE: The HHSAA softball bracket was released. Maryknoll is the No. 2 seed and gets the winner of Kealakehe and Campbell on Thursday at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium. Kamehameha faces Roosevelt in the first round Wednesday.
Maryknoll proved itself ready and able to play anywhere; it expected to host the final playoff game on its home field at Sand Island after beating Mid-Pacific on Wednesday. But by Wednesday night, after a discussion between the schools’ athletic directors, it was determined Kamehameha would host because of the Warriors’ first-place regular-season record. (Maryknoll’s case was apparently that it was 2-1 vs. Kamehameha to that point in the season head-to-head series, including the ILH playoffs.)
But the Spartans came out like gangbusters, launching three home runs for a 5-0 lead before spectators had a chance to settle in. They had seven for the game, including two by Kanoe Tanigawa for the shortstop’s first career multi-homer game.
“You know, we were really relaxed,” coach John Uekawa said. “The emotions, they looked so comfortable.”
It helped, too, that Kamehameha had one of its backup starters throwing in Alyssa Mahoe. She was lifted in the first and another reserve, Reese Mokuau, went the rest of the way. Ace Rayla Jacobs-Kea is resting up for states, Warriors coach James Millwood said.
It was still no gimme game for Maryknoll, which had come up short in title situations in the past. Kamehameha struck back in the bottom of the first, chewing into the lead with Alana Cobb-Adams’ two-run shot off Kahilu McNicoll. McNicoll was lights out against MPI for the ILH tournament title and a state berth two days prior, but the lights were clearly on this time.
Still, she endured when the Warriors drew within 6-5 in the third on a three-run blast by Laa Bertulfo. Tanigawa responded with a three-run dinger in the fourth.
Kamehameha kept coming. It shaved the Spartans’ lead in half with a two-run fifth, only to see Maryknoll go up five runs on homers by Kaylah Santos and Sydney Kamakaiwi in the top of the seventh.
The Warriors showed great patience in their last-gasp inning, working the count several times on McNicoll. They scored on a sacrifice fly then loaded the bases. Another run came in on a bases-loaded walk. Monique Hasegawa-Ilae knocked in one more with a single — the bases remained jammed and the margin was just two.
But Maryknoll was used to being in that situation.
“I think our bonding as a team has got us so close that we trust each other so much that, even if we have bases loaded, one out or even zero outs and we’re up by only two or one (runs), we have that bond that we know we have each other’s backs no matter what,” McNicoll said.
McNicoll got Keelie Pak to ground back to the circle and the pitcher’s throw home to Baylie Kahele was on the mark and in time for the forceout.
With Kamehameha down to its final out (and the tying run still on second), leadoff hitter Tausani Tavale chopped a 2-1 pitch over McNicoll’s head but into the glove of the shortstop, Tanigawa, who stepped on second to seal the victory.
“I just had to see the ball,” Tanigawa said. “I’ve been working, I’ve been having errors lately. But I was taught to see the ball, and I just did that.”
The expressive Uekawa could laugh afterward about the tense moments with runners on base and his ace running on fumes. He knew he was going to “live or die” with McNicoll all the way to the end.
For the program — historically an afterthought in the ILH — it was a breakthrough at last.
“It’s something that we can build on,” Uekawa said. “I really believe that we’ve always had the potential to become the ILH champ. Just never felt that, it was one or two outs here or there that made the difference. We’re just so happy that we can get one under our belt.”
His Kamehameha counterpart didn’t come off as overly disappointed in the loss.
“Hopefully both of us make a good showing in the states and representing the ILH,” Millwood said.
The last time the ILH won the D-I state title was 2013 (Punahou). Kamehameha last took it in 2008.