After all the wins over Goliath programs of the ILH, the team in baby blue was facing extinction.
Termination. Elimination. Saint Nation was concerned. Very, very concerned. St. Francis beat seven Top 10 teams this season, a second-best .700 winning percentage in that elite company. And Konawaena cared not a whit.
It took all the willpower, composure and clutch-ability the St. Francis had to rally with five runs in the final two innings for an 8-7 semifinal win over Konawaena. Now the Saints are in the final and will battle Kamehameha-Hawaii, the BIIF champion, on Saturday, 4:30 p.m. at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
“It’s just the hearts that came out. We just needed a little kick in the dugout,” said senior Sammie Ofoia, who homered. “That was the kick. My team came out with heart and pushed through.”
The 10-player Wildcats squad arrived from the serene hills of Kona Mauka and promptly knocked out OIA runner-up Aiea, then top-seeded Kapaa. On paper, St. Francis would be top-seeded, so this was a real opportunity to prove just what they were about.
They took a 5-0 lead thanks to two home runs by freshman Jayla Medeiros and a two-run shot by sophomore ace Shaylann Grace. When the game got close — Ofoia’s solo homer got the Saints on the comeback trail — Konawaena clutched up again with a two-run double by Kaimana Manzano.
“Konawaena is a good team. Their 3, 4 and 5 batters, I mean, they can hit the ball. They’re very strong,” Saints coach Randy Langsi said. “It was one of them things you have to fight through. Any time we have a last at-bat, we have a shot. The standards that these kids hold, they have a culture within themselves and they live within that. That’s our sanctuary, so to speak.”
Pitcher Sierrah Kupihea gritted through as the Saints rallied for the win. One of the state’s premier power-hitting teams had her back, so to speak. Even Ofoia, who struck out to start the seventh inning, couldn’t lose faith with her team trailing.
“They picked me up really well and I’m very proud of them for that,” Ofoia said. “It just showed me that, yeah, we are a team. Even if I go down, they’ll always be there to pick me up.”
It was depth that proved vital. Backup outfielder Kamaile Perreira socked a key home run in the sixth before her teammates rallied with four more runs in the seventh.
“I was looking for my pitch,” Perreira said. “I just wanted to get a base hit, not do anything too big. Just get on base so my teammates could bring me in. The pitch was right down the middle. We talked about not giving up, to keep going because the game was not done yet. We had to focus on our game.”
Grace, pitching her third game in as many days, lost control of a 1-2 pitch and hit Ka‘ena Keiiinoi was the bases loaded, and St. Francis escaped with the win.
— Paul Honda (@PupulePaul) May 11, 2018