Punahou’s HR festival creates logjam in ILH

Punahou's Kawailana Mielke (10) was greeted by teammates after scoring a run in a win over Maryknoll on Wednesday. Photo by Kat Wade/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

The universe of ILH softball is about many things, including circles.

On Thursday, Punahou rallied for an 8-7 win over Maryknoll, which means there are three teams at or near the top of the ILH standings that have three losses each: Kamehameha (6-3), Punahou (5-3) and Maryknoll (5-3).

On Tuesday, St. Francis rallied past Punahou 11-10. The poise under pressure demonstrated by the Buffanblu was steely. Steely blue.

“(Tuesday), that was a tough loss,” Punahou coach Boy Eldredge said. “I was so worried getting off the bus. Today, they looked more prepared. You don’t want to depend on home runs, but D’Asha (Saiki), Janell (Sato) and Kawai (Mielke) came through.”

The Saints are Division II in name only, having won six in a row against the best the ILH has to offer. But even they lost more than three weeks ago … to Maryknoll.

St. Francis’ other loss in league play? Kamehameha, in the regular-season opener. Kamehameha, once ranked No. 1 in the Star-Advertiser Softball Top 10, is 5-3 in league play after losing at Mid-Pacific on Thursday, 5-4. That makes it a three-game losing streak for the power-hitting Warriors.

Nobody escapes the gauntlet of the ILH unscathed. The Warriors’ other losses: Maryknoll and Punahou. The one team that clearly has the talent to beat anyone at the state tournament would be ‘Iolani (3-4), which has beaten Maryknoll and MPI among its ledger of victories.

But this, even with St. Francis designated as D-II (for all sports), is the harshest of ecosystems. There is little margin for error. Literally.

With 12 state-tourney berths in the HHSAA D-I Championships, the ratio breakdowns are crucial. The OIA, with 14 teams in D-I, gets half of the state berths in just about every sport. (The remaining nine OIA teams are in D-II.) The largest league in the state, and quite possibly the union, has six state entries.

Let’s break down the ratio.

D-I teams
OIA: 14
ILH: 5
MIL: 5
KIF: 0 (D-II only)

The total: 28 teams. The ratio is 28/12 (HHSAA D-I berths), or 2.333.

So, the OIA ratio is 14/2.333, which equals 6.00086. Pretty perfect.

The ILH ratio is 5/2.333 = 2.143. Two berths. Just two berths for a league that has three teams in the Top 10, and in years past has fielded as many as five Top 10 teams.

The BIIF ratio? 4/2.333 = 1.715. That’s scraping a bit, but that rounds out to two teams from the BIIF in the D-I state tourney. The BIIF has not had a team ranked in the Top 10 all season. Does it matter? No. But somehow, a lot of fans seem to care. Maybe it does matter.

The MIL: 5/2.333 = 2.143, same as the ILH.

So we have this.

OIA: 6
ILH: 2
MIL: 2

That’s 12 entries. No problemo.

There’s also this. If St. Francis had declared for D-I in the ILH as some (or most) of its supporters had clamored for, the Saints would still be an astounding 6-2 in league play since the ILH uses a combined or integrated schedule in the regular season. The Saints are 4-2 against Top 10 teams, and only a few programs statewide can match or surpass that. But the Saints opted to stay in D-II.

Had St. Francis moved its Terrific 12, a.k.a. Baby Blue Bombers (my description, not theirs), to D-I, this would have been the new ratio breakdown.

29 teams instead of 28 statewide in D-I. The new ratio: 29/12 = 2.417

Revised total D-I teams per league divided by the updated ratio:

OIA: 14/2.417 = 5.719, or 6 teams
ILH: 6/2.417 = 2.482, or 2 teams
BIIF: 4/2.417 = 1.655, or 2 teams
MIL: 5/2.417 = 2.069, or 2 teams

Same, same, right? No. There is enough of a difference — the ILH’s ratio number is roughly 50 percent greater than the BIIF’s that it would be warranted to at least have a play-in game between the ILH’s third-place team and the BIIF’s second-place team. Rounding off is not a pure representation.

But none of it matters, of course, since St. Francis understandably chose D-II way back, long before the season began. And with the Saints in sole possession of first place among all ILH teams — the league will not recognize an “overall” regular-season champion from D-II because it does not apply to postseason needs — it would be beyond amazing if the tiny school in Manoa Valley held on to place first in the regular season.

The Saints are taking the giant leap forward that other ILH programs have made. Teams like Maryknoll, which built a field of dreams out of a dusty, overgrown stretch of weeds and dirt at Sand Island some years back. The Spartans returned from a mainland trip poised and ready to take a first step toward a possible title run — the regular-season winner gets the ILH’s first and only automatic state berth.

Kamehameha’s loss on Thursday levels out the field, though. Maryknoll could have taken the lead in the ILH D-I race with a win, but Punahou answered the call just one day after losing to the Saints. Now Punahou (6-3), Kamehameha (5-3) and Maryknoll (4-3) are inches away from each other.

The Lady Spartans were 4-1 in their Las Vegas trip, beating Chavez 19-0, San Diego 18-0, Carson 11-9 (quarterfinal) and Banning 7-1 (semifinal). The Spartans lost to West Torrance 6-5 in the final.

Maryknoll’s Kiana Arcayena connected for a home run against Punahou. Photo by Kat Wade/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

They won’t have much time to dwell on the loss to Punahou. Games at ‘Iolani (Friday) and Mid-Pacific (Saturday) are around the corner.

“We fought back. We came back from adversity and fell a little short,” Maryknoll coach John Uekawa said. “We need to get off to better starts from this day forward. We have not peaked and we need to understand that we need to secure all facets of our game.”

So one of the top teams in Hawaii and ILH takes second in a Las Vegas tourney featuring some of the best teams from California and elsewhere, comes home and loses to a league rival.

“We know (Punahou). They know us. It was a matter of who was going to step up at the right time. They hit a few bombs that cost us dearly,” Uekawa said.

The Spartans don’t want to make excuses, but five games in a span of a few days, plus jet lag, can cause some substantial fatigue. It seemed to be apparent for ace Kahilu McNicoll, who walked an uncharacteristic nine batters in 3 1/3 innings.

The most crucial week of the season thus far will leave Maryknoll little time to rest. It is ILH competition at its most epic. No surrender, no prisoners taken.


  1. Coach Bobby Makahilahila April 6, 2018 2:41 pm

    First off, great article and insights on how teams are determined for States. What’s sad is the competition in the State Tournament should be based on the “the best of the best”, not a league formula by number of teams. The competition on Oahu is fierce and you historically have more of the top teams located here. However, neighbor islands teams occasionally have top notch talent (i.e., Kapolei pitcher transferred from Maui HS) as well, and should be provided the opportunity to compete against the best of the best “in the state, not on their islands.”

    I totally agree with your idea of playoffs against the OIA 6th and ILH 3rd place teams versus the neighbor island 2nd place finishers. The top seeds on neighbor islands deserve automatic entry into the State Tournament by virtue of winning their league title, but second place teams should have a “home playoff” game against OIA and ILH teams to confirm their participation in States. Playing these games on their home island would bring a “taste of the state tournament” to their home field, and if they prevail are deserving of being in States based on competition on the field, not by number of teams participating in their leagues.

    With regards to St. Francis in DII versus DI? If you ask any of the top teams out there all of would concur that they are a “wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing.” Their talent is top notch and they are one of the best teams in the state! Take a look at all of their key returnees and were they finished last year in DII states, they are legit and deserve respect despite being designated as a DII team.

    The parity in the OIA and ILH this year is phenomenal when you look at who is beating who in both leagues. There are still a number of upsets (if that is what you want to call them) that will take place before the end of this season. This is the beauty of sports and the competition it provides to it’s participants (coaches/players). “On any given day, anyone can beat you” as witnessed by Mid-Pac versus Kamehameha so you need to be ready to compete. This is what makes this game so great for those who enjoy the spirit of competition and sportsmanship.

  2. ILH April 10, 2018 7:34 pm

    What a complete turnaround from last season!!
    Punahou is competing this year. Great to see them winning.

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