There are all kinds of reactions when Pearl City senior pitcher Tyanna Kaaialii goes to work on the mound.
The right-hander is a key reason why Pearl City (6-2) has reached a No. 1 ranking — if just for a week — in the Star-Advertiser Softball Top 10 this season. She is featured here in Tuesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“I think she’s one of the top pitchers we have faced so far,” Leilehua coach Stacy Araki said.
Kaaialii is an excellent student-athlete with a 3.8 grade-point average. On the mound, she has a 2.20 ERA, but it’s also her unique activity — energizing herself by leaping like a frog occasionally, grunting with each pitch, hollering after striking out batters, and more — that provides a small window into a world that the one known as “Peanut Butter” lives in.
“Me jumping up and down is pure intensity and excitement,” she said. “I have had umpires approach me about it before, but nothing crazy because they understand that it’s just me being intense.”
“What I see in her is a talented athlete. She is a hard worker and set the bar high for all the up and coming softball pitchers,” Waianae coach Robert Kalaola said. “I am pretty sure every coach would appreciate all their players to come with that high intensity level not only in the game, but practice as well. As far as her grunting, that’s what makes her very unique from other players.”
Chargers coach Chad Obara has wanted Kaaialii to temper and rein in her non-pitching activity on the mound to an extent, but how does anyone control a fire without dousing it?
“She’s a very emotional person. I think that lets her get away from her focus in pitching a lot,” longtime Campbell coach Michael “Shag” Hermosura said. “Sometimes she thinks it should be a called strike and she doesn’t get it, and her body language shows it, then she gives up a hit. Chad goes out to settle her down. When we’re playing against her, we don’t let anything bother us. We focus on her pitching. She’s going to throw a screwball and her change-up is better than it was last year.”
Obara’s staff, which includes Kaaialii’s father, Roland, has been rock-steady, a necessary trait for coaching high school student-athletes.
“We’ve worked on her attitude and competitiveness, keeping emotions under control,” Obara said. “We talk about it, understanding that her actions directly affect the team. In two, three years, she’s made tremendous progress and there’s been bumps in the road.”
Pearl City is more than just one player, of course. Freshman Jaeda McFarland has been a tremendous weapon at the plate, using her speed on the base paths for a .478 average, nine runs, six RBIs and six stolen bases. She has an on-base percentage of .556.
Noel Saunders, a Division I college prospect, has one of the sweetest lefty strokes in the OIA and is hitting .333 with nine RBIs. Taylor Shigeta packs a punch, giving her team power along with her efficiency at getting on base. The Obara sisters are producing key numbers: Darian bats third and has a .348 batting average; Cheyne is also hitting .348.
Pearl City softball
Q & A • Favorites
Athlete: Kalei Kaneshiro
> Kalei is a teammate of mine. She graduated in 2016. She was a transfer on my Mililani Prep team, my catcher. I really look up to her, her intensity and the way she motivated me. She always inspired me and the way I want to play.
Team: San Francisco 49ers and Giants
> A lot of it is my dad. He’s a big fan of the 49ers and the Giants.
Have you been to their games?
> I haven’t, but my parents have a long time before.
What’s your deadline for seeing both teams?
> Hopefully, before I die.
Food at home: Kalua pig and cabbage.
> My dad (Roland) cooks it. There are times when he just does it, but if I ask him if he’s in the mood for it, he might do that. I’m hoping to try one day. I like what he cooks for us.
Food eating out: Red Robbins.
> It’s a restaurant on the mainland, a gourmet burger and fries kind of place.
So we’re talking about a place that turns an expensive steak into hamburger?
> Yes I always try to get the barbecue bacon cheeseburger.
How much is that?
> Uhh, I’m not really sure.
Hobby outside of sports: Dancing.
> I was around 3 or 4 years old when I started doing gymnastics and ballet, and that went to cheerleading and dancing and tumbling and gymnastics all tied into cheerleading. All-year round softball and I fit in dancing and cheerleading when I can.
Movie: Taken, Lilo & Stitch, Fast and the Furious 7.
> Taken: I love that movie because it’s a dad trying to save his daughter who made a mistake.
> Lilo & Stitch. It’s Hawaiian. I like the music and it’s a big childhood memory of mine forever. I’ve seen it too many times to count.
> Fast and the Furious 7. I’ve seen all of them and love all of them. I consider Dom and The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) to be my future husbands.
TV Show: Scorpion, Blue Bloods.
> I like Scorpion because of if the nerdy/comedy action. I like Blue Bloods because I always like action. On top of that, I’m someone who wants to join the military to become a firefighter or join the police force. It’s definitely something that me and my entire family watch.
Video game: EWWWWW.
What game is “EWWWWW.”
> That’s me (writing) ‘ewwwww.’ I don’t like video games.
Music artist: Christina Aguilera.
> I love how strong and vocal her voice is, and the way her music and voice are so powerful.
Teacher: Mrs. Wheeler (third grad). Coronado Elementary School.
> She was very welcoming and open, being I was a new student at the time. She’s very nurturing, she reminds me of my mom a lot.
> I’m definitely one of those students who yells at myself. I always feel like I should have a 4.0 or 4.1 or 4.2.
> My plan is to go to a four-year college, and join the military after college. Get my masters in civil engineering in the military. A lot of it is my dad. He’s retired Navy chief, so I’ve grown up in a military-based family. I have a brother whose 25 currently serving in the Air Force. It’s something I would love serving my country. My dad has instilled that in me, having a passion to serve my country and be a good citizen.
Place to relax:
> At home in my dad’s arms.
Motto: Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
> I hate losing especially coming from my Mililani Prep, we almost always win and when we lose it feels like the world is crumbling. There are different perspectives, but I try to think of every game the same, every game is a like a championship game. It’s not ‘just a regular-season game.’ It’s do or die.
> It’s normal, physical errors will always happen, but as Coach Chad (Obara) likes to say, Mental errors shouldn’t happen. We can control.
The home run that Leilehua pinch-hitter Gwen Maeha hit against you on Saturday, was the location of your pitch right?
> It’s where I wanted to pitch it, but she was looking for it.
How do you deal with a loss?
> I definitely have those nights when I’m staying up trying to figure out what I could’ve done better. I feed off whatever I did right.
Mommy (Taisha): “Get your head out of your butt, but I Love You!”
> She’s very straight, tells me what I should hear, not what I want to want to hear, but it’s out of love.
Daddy (Roland): “Let’s get it, kiiiiiiid!”
Coach Chad Obara: “Ya Tuuuurkeeeeyz!”
> It’s just something he likes to call of us instead of calling us girls and ladies. He’ll call us girls and ladies in certain situation.
How does the sport affect your life?
> Softball becomes my life and in the offseason it’s still my life.
Is this the perfect life?
> Yes, it is because I’ve dedicated more than half of my life to the sport and being the best I can at it. I definitely consider it my life.
Elementary: Coronado (San Diego, Calif.)
Middle school: Coronado.
> I played for Imperial Beach, Fun 4 All, and Mililani Prep. I’ve traveled to California, Colorado, Las Vegas, Arizona and Utah.
Where else would you want to travel?
> California because it’s so competitive there. If we could go anywhere else, probably Canada. I know they have a pretty decent softball program and that would be really cool to play there.
Dancing: Tahitian, hula, cheerleading.
> I’ve only been cheerleading in high school. Tahitian and hula I haven’t been able to continue, but I plan to pick it up as I get older.
* To be 6 feet tall.
* Be a princess for a day.
> I definitely would like to be in a Disney-based wear a pretty ball gown, a tiara, walk around and have fun in a big castle, do whatever I want, get spoiled for a day.
> I future husband would definitely be getting married in the castle at Disneyland.
* Travel the world
> 1. Bora Bora, 2. Europe. Taste all the kinds of food, mostly in Italy.
* Meet the 49ers and Giants, work out with them.
* Go skydiving.
* Go bungee jumping.
You like the rush
> Yes, I’m big on action.
*Dance with Niki Minaj
> Her ability to constantly dance, creativity on the fly.
Background of your name:
> Nickname: I played for a team in California, Fun for All. My really good friend was Chocolate. My other friend was Shark Bait. Another one was Hello Kitty because she did a funny dance and it reminded everyone of Hello Kitty. Her hands looked like whiskers and it reminded everyone of Helly Kitty. I later found out later from the girl who gave it to me it was because of my skin color and the way I dance a lot. I dance very smoothly and can do anything. It was just a coincidence that I have an obsession with peanut butter.
So how do you eat your peanut butter?
> Out of the jar with a spoon.
How much can you eat?
> The biggest jar that they sell is how much I can eat in one sitting.
> With no jelly. The jelly doesn’t have the PB flavor, it masks it too much. You have to take it off.
What’s the best thing to drink with PB?
> Either coffee or milk. I’m a big coffee drinker in the morning and at night.
> To my family — my dad, my mom, my brothers (Koni and Kino) and my sister (Yaya) — without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Also a shoutout to my coach, Chad Jicha (Mililani Prep). Without him, I wouldn’t be the player I am today.
What happens for Pearl City softball (6-2) now?
> In my opinion, I feel like everyone thinks or likes to say that PC has a target on our back because we’re coming out strong and everyone wants to beat us because we’re winning, but I find that as motivation to keep the target on our bats. They’re going to play to the best of their abilities every time they play us.
If you don’t win titles, will that be a failure?
> I don’t think it’ll be a failure. It’ll better our future and the program.