Mililani’s Joie Baker strikes out 11, smacks HR in New City Nissan Classic finals win

Team LEAF, sparked by pitcher Joie Baker’s 11-strikeout, complete-game performance, won the title at the 15th Annual New City Nissan Softball Classic. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser.

Off the field, Joie Baker sometimes fidgets.

The lens of a camera can do that to a lot of high school students. On the mound, it’s a different Joie Baker. The senior struck out 11 and walked just one as Team LEAF rallied past Team Rogue, 10-5, to win the 15th Annual New City Nissan Softball Classic on Sunday night.

The all-senior, two-day tournament featured 60 players representing all 30 softball programs on Oahu on the pristine diamond of Tiger Softball Stadium. The final and third-place games were televised.

“I’ve never pitched a good TV game in my life. It’s so bad. It was pretty nerve-wracking, this game,” Baker said.

The roar of an on-campus crowd in the bleachers was absent. Present, however, were cheers from fans at the adjacent, three-level parking garage at Blaisdell Center. It was as close to normal times as it could be in an abbreviated, pandemic-impacted 2021 softball season on Oahu.

Baker (Mililani) was resilient, even as Team Rogue got two home runs by leadoff batter Darian Kanno (Mid-Pacific) in the first two innings. In that second frame, Baker struck out the side. By the end of the fourth, she already had eight K’s.

“My rise. I think I got a lot of them on my rise. It was definitely more controlled today,” she said.

Playing with a different catcher in a senior all-star game worked out well.

“I love Tui (Larchelle Tuifao). Tui is great. She’s from Kapolei. It’s so crazy playing with her this time. Usually, she hits it over the fence when I play against her,” Baker said. “Our team right off the bat, we wanted to get to know each other. The chemistry was great on the field. We all had inside jokes, laughing on and off the field, hanging out in between games, so it was great.”

Mililani’s Joie Baker struck out 11 and did not walk a batter until the final inning as Team LEAF won the tournament title. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser.

Baker will play for Western Washington and plans to major in Biology.

“I’m pretty exited. I’m going up there with my friend Kanilehua (Pitoy of Roosevelt). I’m thinking about going into the medical field after,” she said.

First, Baker will play in two summer tournaments. A visit to Western Washington is part of the itinerary.

On Sunday night, with light trade winds and a clear sky, the title game of the Classic began with a cluster of offensive fireworks. Kanno homered to center to lead off the game. In the second, after Brianne McCabe (Castle) singled, Kanno ripped a two-out dinger to center, and Rogue led 3-0.

Team LEAF responded with six runs in the bottom of the second, chasing Kanno, Rogue’s starting pitcher. Tuifao led off with a walk and Marissa Nakamura (Waipahu) reached base on an error. Hayley Lyman (Kamehameha)’s single to center brought Tuifao home.

Nakamura was thrown out at third base attempting to advance to Lyman’s base hit. Back-to-back wild pitches allowed Lyman to score.

Samantha Taga (Mid-Pacific), who had walked and advanced on the wild pitches, scored on Tiani Wayton (Punahou)’s opposite-field single to right. Alohi Napalapalai (Waianae)replaced Kanno and walked Taryn Fujioka (Pearl City) before Logan Gaspar (Maryknoll) launched a high fly ball that stayed fair down the left-field line for a three-run home run.

By the top of the fourth inning, Baker was on a roll. She retired 10 of 11 batters in one stretch. Baker also blasted a solo homer in the bottom of the third to extend LEAF’s lead to 7-3.

In the bottom of the fourth, Fujioka singled to center and Gaspar reached on an infield error before Kennedy Kila (Mililani) drove a shot to deep right-center, where the ball was nearly caught on a dead run. Fujioka and Gaspar scored on the double, and Kila later scored on a single to center by Tuifao for a 10-3 lead.

Rogue scored single runs in the fifth and seventh. Lovey Kepa‘a (Leilehua) tripled to right and came home on Kiliohu Hanawahine (Kamehameha)’s single to left in the fifth. In the seventh, Hanawahine reached on an infield single, Napalapalai walked and McCabe doubled to right, scoring Hanawahine with two outs.

McCabe finished the game 3-for-4 with two doubles.

Napalapalai struck out four in three innings of relief.

At Tiger Softball Stadium
Team Rogue 120 010 1 — 5 11 2
Team LEAF 061 300 x — 10 8 1
Darian Kanno, Alohi Napalapalai (2), Kennedy Kila (5). Joie Baker and Larchelle Tuifao. W—Baker. L—Napalapalai.
Leading hitters—Rogue: Darian Kanno 2-4, 2 HRs, 3 RBI, 2 runs; Lovey Kepaa 2-4, triple, run, SB; Brianne McCabe 3-4, two doubles, RBI, run. LEAF: Taryn Fujioka 2-3, 2 runs, walk, 2 SB; Logan Gaspar, 1-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 runs; Kennedy Kila 1-3, double, 2 RBI, run; Baker 1-3, HR, RBI, run.

Team Armada 13, Team Titan 9

In the third-place game, Ashaiya Lopes (Castle) socked a home run and went the distance on the mound for Armada.

Down 5-3 in the bottom of the third, Armada scored five runs to take the lead for good.

Lopes’ three-run shot came in the sixth inning with two outs.

Titan leadoff hitter Jayda Favela (Campbell) used her slap-hitting technique to go 3-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.

Liliana Thomas (Maryknoll), the 2021 Hawaii Gatorade player of the year, went 3-for-3 with a home run and a walk.

Liana Heshiki (Punahou) also socked a home run, a two-run blast in the third inning. She nearly had one in the first inning, but was robbed by Armada center fielder Kealoha Machado (Kailua), who made a superb catch above the center field fence. Machado went 2-for-4 at the plate with an RBI and run scored.

Ole Miss signee Keila Kamoku (Kamehameha) went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored for Team Titan.

At Tiger Softball Stadium
Team Titan 302 031 0 — 9 9 2
Team Armada 305 230 x — 13 14 0
Shaylin Lopes, Ivane Aholelei (3), Nohealani Akana (6) and Liliana Thomas. Ashaiya Lopes. W—A. Lopes. L—Aholelei.
Leading hitters—Titan: Thomas 3-3, HR, double, 4 runs, RBI; Liana Heshiki 1-2, HR, 2 RBI, run, 2 walks; Keila Kamoku 2-4, double, 2 RBI, 2 runs. Armada: Jayda Favela 3-4, run, walk; Kanilehua Pitoy 2-3, double, 3 runs, 2 walks; Zoe Oshiro 1-3, double, 3 runs, HBP; Alyssa Nakagawa 1-3, 2 runs, HBP; Jordan Okumura 1-3, double, 3 RBI, run; A. Lopes 2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 runs; Kealoha Machado 2-4, RBI, run; Jennie Padasdao 2-2, RBI, walk.


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