St. Francis wanted to prove it could compete with the best in ILH softball, regardless of division designation.
Consider that box checked with a big blue Sharpie.
The seventh-ranked Saints pulled out a 6-5 walk-off win over No. 5 Maryknoll on Tuesday to clinch at least a tie for the best record in the ILH’s first round. St. Francis, one of just two ILH Division II teams, closed the combined schedule at 9-3 and won both of its meetings with Division I leader Punahou (8-3), which closes the first round on Wednesday against ‘Iolani.
With only two teams in Division II — St. Francis and Pac-Five — the league doesn’t officially crown a division champion and the Saints had long wrapped up the league’s berth in the Division II state tournament. But they didn’t lack for motivation throughout the season.
“That was definitely one of our goals to get to the top of the ILH,” said St. Francis senior Sammie Ofoia, who ignited the Saints with a two-run homer on Tuesday. “Just to know that we had the talent and the hard work to get there was amazing.”
Ofoia’s homer gave St. Francis the lead against Division I Maryknoll and the Saints opened up a 5-0 lead on Kaitlyn Kalani’s bases-loaded walk in the third and Joelle Perreira’s two-run single in the fourth.
Maryknoll battled back with Nohea Hee’s two-run single in the fifth and scratched out three more in the sixth, tying the game when Kahilu McNicoll’s looper into shallow left field drove in Raynna Mekaru.
St. Francis junior Sierrah Kupihea — who struck out five and walked one in a complete-game win — stranded Maryknoll runners at second to close the sixth and seventh innings and the Saints drew three consecutive walks in the bottom of the seventh. After Maryknoll third baseman Sydney Kamakaiwi snared a line drive for the first out, St. Francis senior Skye Ah Yat fell behind two strikes before drilling the game-winning single through the left side of the infield.
“I was just telling myself get it done, gotta get it done,” Ah Yat said.
The conclusion added to the Saints’ senior day festivities and sent them into a three-week break before the state tournament.
“The ILH has been kind of crazy this year and you have to fight every inning and if you make mistakes you have to be composed and overcome that,” St. Francis coach Randy Langsi said. “They showed me a lot on that. Maryknoll was making a great comeback and we kept our composure, that was important for us.”
The next challenge for the Langsi and the St. Francis coaching staff will be keeping the Saints sharp over the break. He said they’ve scheduled a scrimmage with No. 2 Leilehua this weekend and may add more to keep the Saints in game shape prior to the tournament, which opens May 8.
“It’s going to take a lot of planning on our part to stay competitive,” Langsi said. “We’re going to do everything we can to get us more preparation and we’ll be looking at the other Division II teams out there. It’s not going to get any easier. It’s a whole other season now.”
While St. Francis can look ahead to the state tournament, Maryknoll still has a hectic week to complete.
The Spartans are in the midst of a run of three games in three days. They began the week with a walk-off win over Pac-Five on Monday and face Kamehameha to close the regular season on Wednesday in Kapalama Heights.
A Maryknoll win and a Punahou loss on Wednesday would force a playoff for the first-round title and a state tournament berth. Second place could also hold considerable value in the event of a playoff for the second state berth following the upcoming Division I tournament.