Punahou senior D’Asha Saiki started it off homering in her first two at-bats.
Junior Maya Matsubara provided the necessary scoring late with back-to-back two-run homers in the fourth and fifth innings.
And to top it off, junior pitcher Ashanti Martinez, who has carried the load on the mound all season, worked five innings and then re-entered the game in the seventh inning to get the final two crucial outs to record both a win and a save.
She also blasted a three-run homer.
Put it all together and it was the recipe to end the Buffanblu’s 14-year drought in ILH softball as Punahou won its first league championship since 2005 with a 12-9 victory over visiting ‘Iolani on Tuesday.
Punahou coach David “Boy” Eldredge, who had reservations about taking the job in the summer of 2017, said the challenge to end that streak was one of the deciding factors in him accepting the position.
He gave up the opportunity to watch his son, Koa, play baseball in the spring, and it paid off Tuesday for the Buffanblu (16-3), who have won 16 of their last 17 games since beginning the ILH regular season 0-2.
“We had to replace six starters from last year’s team,” Eldredge said. “We thought we would have Bri (Alejo) but Bri had some medical problems early so that was another one. We thought we’d have our third baseman back but she tore her knee in a skiing accident so we ultimately had to replace six and so we didn’t know what we were going to get out of this crew.”
Now that they’ve got that elusive league trophy, Punahou can focus on returning to the state final after losing to Campbell last year after winning three straight in the tournament.
The two teams combined to hit nine homers on Tuesday but it was Saiki starting two double plays in the final two innings that made the difference between winning a title and a potential playoff on Thursday.
With runners on first and second and nobody out in the sixth, Saiki took a bad hop on a grounder off her chest and still managed to start a 6-4-3 double play.
With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, Saiki snared a line drive off the bat of Ailana Agbayani and doubled off the runner with a quick throw to third to end it.
“Our defense is pretty solid. Definitely something we work on in practice, just making the fundamental plays and being focused with every pitch,” Saiki said.
Punahou trailed 5-1 in the top of the third but tied it in the bottom of the frame on Asia Lee‘s RBI single.
Matsubara, the leadoff hitter, added a two-run homer in the fourth and another two-run shot in the fifth for a 12-9 lead after ‘Iolani had pulled within a run.
“I have not hit home runs like this ever,” Matsubara said. “I don’t know who I am. I don’t know. Something felt right today. Seeing the ball a little better. Got a dinky little shot to begin with so I knew I had to find my pitch and get a good one.”
Martinez, whose three-run homer put Punahou ahead 10-6 in the fourth inning, threw 102 pitches before she was lifted for a reliever in the sixth inning. She came back in the seventh and gave up two singles before the double play ended it.
“Ashanti has been a huge surprise too,” Eldredge said. “Ashanti has had to carry the load and she has done an unbelievable job and is really one of the main reasons why we are where we are at.”
‘Iolani will play in the state tournament for just the second time since 2009 and Maryknoll earned the league’s third berth with a 16-10 win over Kamehameha in the third-place game on Tuesday.