Big leads don’t always mean much in high school softball on Oahu this year.
St. Francis went up by six runs and appeared to be cruising on Wednesday at Punahou. In the early going, the home team Buffanblu were struggling big-time at the plate.
As soon as the second inning ended and after his girls had popped or flied out for five of the first six outs, Punahou coach Boy Eldredge exclaimed, “No more fly balls.”
The Buffanblu took his words to heart, but it took a while to get going. In the fifth, they sent 13 batters to the plate and scored seven runs to take a 7-6 lead. Over the final two innings, they held on to win by that slim, one-run, 7-6 margin.
“Every victory in this league is huge,” Eldredge said. “Everybody is beating everybody, so for us to win against a really good team is huge. It would have put us back if we lost this one, and now we’re right in there.”
It’s an amazingly tight ILH Division I race. Defending state runner-up Punahou is tied for second place with Maryknoll and ‘Iolani at 5-2, a game behind Mid-Pacific (6-1).
St. Francis (4-3), the defending D-II state champion, consistently shows it belongs in competition with the top D-I teams, even though the Saints will once again be going for the D-II state title.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser softball Top 10 voters put five ILH teams in the most recent statewide poll Monday: No. 2 Maryknoll, No. 4 Mid-Pacific, No. 6 ‘Iolani, No. 7 Punahou and No. 9 St. Francis.
Wednesday’s game mirrored an OIA game from Saturday, when No. 1 Campbell came back from a 6-1 deficit to beat No. 10 Leilehua 7-6.
St. Francis gets another shot at Punahou on April 12 at Ala Wai Community Park.
“We’re going to come back even harder next time,” Saints coach Randy Langsi said. “We’re going to do our homework.”
Punahou center fielder Tiani Wayton made the final difference with a two-run double down the left-field line in the Buffanblu’s seven-run fifth.
“When we were down by so much, I was thinking, ‘We’re a better team than this. We’re not out of this yet. We can keep battling because that’s what we do. We always battle back.’ I was like, ‘Come on girls, we’ve got this.’ “