Ground rules and the occasionally strange bounce of a softball can affect every team.
It’s just that Maryknoll has seen two recent games take a big pivot on big hits by opposing teams. It happened last week against ‘Iolani when a ball that rolled into deep left-center turned into a home run. On Monday afternoon, Spartans coach John Uekawa was convinced that a deep ball hit by Punahou’s Tiani Wayton bounced under the fence in right center, not over, and should not have been ruled a home run.
That third-inning tater gave No. 7 Punahou a 1-0 lead proved crucial in a 7-6 win over No. 4 Maryknoll. Four teams tied for first place in the ILH softball standings are looking for any edge possible, and now Punahou is 7-2, with Maryknoll 6-3 and chasing. In both games, Uekawa believes the plays may have been ruled ground-rule doubles instead of home runs if his outfielders had raised their hands and signaled to umpires.
Wayton’s fly ball kept carrying at the normally breezy Sand Island Recreation Area field. Maryknoll center fielder Mahalo Akaka and right fielder Breli-Rylin Agbayani-Shibao gave chase, and neither appeared to raise their gloves for the ball. Instead, they both stopped short of the fence, and the ball was then rolling beyond the fence.
“The fence curls at the bottom when you push it, and that creates a gap,” Uekawa said. “Mahalo said she didn’t know where the ball was, but the (base) umpire was adamant that the ball went over.”
Wayton, the No. 2 hitter in Punahou’s lineup, wasn’t certain at first.
“I was just thinking, I have to get on to help my team. It wasn’t a change-up and it wasn’t her fastest pitch,” Wayton said of the offering from Maryknoll ace Aloha Akaka. “It was down the middle. I’d been fouling off her pitches, so I waited. I was sprinting around first base and the ball landed outside of the fence.”
Punahou coach Dave “Boy” Eldredge saw the same thing.
“For that ball to go under the fence, it would’ve had to dip,” he said. “That would’ve been ridiculous.”
Uekawa wasn’t surprised by Eldredge’s observation.
“Of course he says it went over,” he said.
At closer inspection, the lower area of the fence in right center does curl in to a minor extent. Much of the fencing is held down by wire to a lower, horizontal pole nearly at ground level. For a softball to land and squeeze through those gaps, it appears to be a long shot, pardon the pun. But it is possible.
Just for comparison, the fencing in right field is open at the bottom with no wires to prevent rolling base hits from squirting underneath. The field at Sand Island is the adopted home of Maryknoll’s softball program. Uekawa wasn’t vehement about his disagreement with the umpires.
If anything, it was Punahou’s persistence at the plate that proved key. D’Asha Saiki went 4-for-4, even on what she considers a bad day at the plate.
“Today wasn’t too good, but they’re still hits in the book,” said Saiki, who entered the game hitting .813.
The Cal signee is now batting .850.
“Her average goes down if she goes 3-for-4,” Eldredge said. “Those weren’t normal connections for her today.”
But it was enough. Saiki scored twice out of the three hole. Cleanup hitter Liana Hashiki went 1-for-3 with a run-scoring single in the seventh inning, providing Punahou with one of two key insurance runs. No .5 hitter Asia Lee, the freshman third baseman, was also key with a two-run double in the sixth and an RBI single in the seventh.
Aloha Akaka struck out four and walked just one. Aside from Saiki, Punahou’s often potent lineup batted .269 against her.
At Sand Island
Punahou (7-2 ILH) 001 004 2 — 7 11 2
Maryknoll (6-3 ILH) 000 013 2 — 6 10 0
Ashanti Martinez and Liana Hashiki. Aloha Akaka and Liliana Thomas. W—Martinez. L—Akaka.
Leading hitters—Punahou: D’Asha Saiki 4-4, 2 runs; Tiani Wayton 1-3, HR, RBI, 2 runs, HBP; Asia Lee 2-4, 3 RBIs, run, double; Jadey Hagiwara 1-2, 2 RBIs, double, BB. Maryknoll: Liliana Thomas 2-4, run; Mahalo Akaka 2-3, run, double, BB; Sydney Kamakaiwi 2-4, RBI; Lexi Carlos 1-2, 2 RBIs, double, sac.