Ua Nakoa-Chung likes to stay hungry.
The Maryknoll ace skipped breakfast, as usual for a morning game, and fireballed her way to a four-hitter in a six-inning, 11-1 rout of Kamehameha on Saturday morning in a showdown at Sand Island State Recreation Area.
Maryknoll is now the sole leader with a 5-0 record in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. Kamehameha dropped to 4-1.
“The key for us is that we play the game we’re supposed to be playing. This is one of the most complete games we’ve had against one of the best teams in the ILH,” Maryknoll coach John Uekawa said. “Ua is coming around. In the last couple of games, she’s been settling down and coming into her own.”
Nakoa-Chung had some bumps along the way, but with a one-hit, five-inning shutout of ‘Iolani on Wednesday and this gem against the talented Warriors, she is the best pitcher in the ILH halfway through the regular season. She struck out six, walked three and hit one batter using her deep arsenal of pitches.
“She kept us off balance. She pitched a great game,” said Kamehameha coach Leo Sing Chow, a former All-State pitcher for the Warriors. “We didn’t make our adjustments.”
Confidence makes all the difference.
“I was just feeling it. The last game, I was very confident and I felt if I kept it rolling, I would have the same result,” Nakoa-Chung said. “I’m not a morning person, but when it comes to game time, I’m up and ready.”
The Spartans scored in bunches with four runs in the second inning, four more in the fifth and three in the sixth to put an end to the contest via 10-run (mercy) rule. It was a stunning finish to a matchup of powerhouses.
Nakoa-Chung was a menace to Kamehameha’s power hitters. At the plate, Maryknoll launched three home runs, including one by leadoff batter Carys Murakami. Aloha Akaka also homered, her second in as many starts.
Senior catcher Liliana Thomas smacked another homer. The Arizona State signee has four long balls this season.
Neither team committed an error.
“It’s back to the drawing board. We will need a lot of hard work, and we’ll refocus,” Sing Chow said. “We’ll get another chance.”
Kamehameha won’t dwell on its first loss for very long. The Warriors play ‘Iolani on Monday afternoon at the Raiders’ field.
Maryknoll will host Punahou on Wednesday.
The visiting Warriors broke the ice with a run in the top of the first. Leadoff hitter Haley Agena walked and advanced to second base on a ground ball by Kenna Higa. Nikki Donahue singled to center with two outs, scoring Agena for a 1-0 Kamehameha lead.
Madison Rabe started in the pitcher’s circle for the Warriors. After a quiet first inning for Maryknoll, the Spartans rose up in the second. Logan Gaspar’s triple to right scored two runs. Akaka followed with a home run to left, and the Spartans had a 4-1 advantage.
Akaka’s power is a bit of a surprise. The all-state basketball player saw her senior year — and that of her twin sister, Mahalo — cancelled because of the pandemic.
“I haven’t been lifting. I’ve just been working out a lot,” she said. “I don’t know. I was just very nervous. I was really nervous about not making a hit. I was looking for an inside-low. But (batting) coach Henson (Thomas) helps me to relax myself when I go up to hit. I take deep breaths and I relax my hands.”
Uekawa noted that Akaka hadn’t played softball for more than a year.
“How many teams in a highly competitive league have a ninth batter who can hit home runs? Against one of the best pitchers? It’s all about athleticism and coordination and timing. She’s so coordinated. She had a bad ankle and rested the first month, but you can’t keep a tiger caged up all the time,” Uekawa said. “She plays basketball all year round.”
Nakoa-Chung stifled the Warriors at the plate and still had a three-run lead entering the bottom of the fifth.
Murakami, a junior second baseman, led off with a home run to left.
“I was looking inside and I was ready. The pitcher was throwing a lot of strikes. It was a fastball inside,” she said. “I like inside. Off the bat, I knew it could be gone.”
Uekawa is getting extra muscle from his leadoff hitter.
“That’s our hidden secret, how an impact player can be big or small. She is unnoticed, but is one of our best players on our team,” he said.
Nelly McEnroe-Marinas followed with a walk and Donahue powered a home run to center, opening Maryknoll’s lead to 7-1. Momi Lyman replaced Rabe, who pitched 4 1-3 innings.
After Jenna Sniffen singled and advanced to second base on a will pitch, Daylee Williams singled to center, bringing Sniffen home. Gaspar walked, but Akaka’s groundout to third ended the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth McEnroe-Marinas again led off with a walk, and Thomas also walked. Sniffen’s grounder to third was misplayed, allowing McEnroe-Marinas and Thomas to score. Maryknoll led 10-1.
With baserunners at third and second, Nakoa-Chung singled to right, plating Thomas from third to end the game.
“It feels so good,” Murakami said. “I’m excited for the rest of the season. This group is something special so we want to go far.”
Nakoa-Chung also doesn’t drink anything before a start, but will hydrate and snack during a game.
“If I eat before a game, I feel like my composure is all down,” she said. “(During a game) I eat Starburst or fruits. I like the pink and red (Starburst).”
At Sand Island
Kamehameha (4-1) 100 000 — 1 4 0
Maryknoll (5-0) 040 043 — 11 12 0
No outs in the sixth inning, 10-run rule.
Madison Rabe, Momi Lyman (5) and Nikki Donahue. Ua Nakoa-Chung and Liliana Thomas. W—Nakoa-Chung. L—Rabe.
Leading hitters—Kamehameha: Haley Agena 1-1, 2 walks, run; Donahue 1-3, RBI. Maryknoll: Nelly McEnroe-Marinas 1-2, double, 2 walks, 2 runs; Thomas 1-3, HR, walk, 3 RBI, 2 runs; Jenna Sniffen 2-3, 2 runs, walk; Nakoa-Chung 1-3, 2 RBI, walk; Daylee Williams 2-3, run; Logan Gaspar 1-2, triple, run, walk; Aloha Akaka 1-3, HR, 2 RBI, run.