She sat patiently, never knowing exactly when her number — 7 — would be called.
By the bottom of the sixth inning, Leilehua’s Gwen Maeha delivered. Pinch-hitting with a runner on base and her team down 3-2, the right-hander blasted a two-run home run off Pearl City ace Tyanna “Peanut Butter” Kaaialii and No. 8 Leilehua hung on for a rousing 4-3 victory over the second-ranked Chargers on Saturday night at Patsy Mink Central Oahu Regional Park.
“I just wanted to push my runners,” Maeha said just a moment before her team let out a victorious cheer for their clutch-hitting teammate.
Maeha went all in for a 1-1 pitch that missed Kaaialii’s mark, launching off the sweet spot of Maeha’s bat over the fence in left-center.
“It was inside low. I knew it was out of here,” she said. “I wasn’t nervous.”
Maeha has won the last two state bowling titles.
It was a disappointing close for Pearl City, which was ranked No. 1 in the Star-Advertiser Softball Top 10 last week. Kaaialii struggled through some stretches, but still had her team in front entering the bottom of the sixth.
“There are good losses, but I wouldn’t say this is one of them,” Pearl City coach Chad Obara said. “We didn’t do the things we needed to do. We wanted to keep the ball in the yard, and we didn’t do that. Other than that, we played a pretty good game.”
True enough, the Chargers committed only one error. Kaaialii, one of the state’s top pitchers this season, struck out five, but also walked five, hit one batter, and permitted seven hits.
Alyssa Abe, a sophomore, stepped in for ace pitcher Kaena Nistal after Nistal suffered a leg injury on a bang-bang play near home plate in the sixth inning. Nistal was superb, allowing three unearned runs (and none earned) over 5 2/3 innings. She struck out two, walked one and hit three batters.
Abe got the win, using pinpoint control to close the sixth frame and strand two Pearl City runners in scoring position in the top of the seventh. Pearl City had Cheyne Obara (single) and Taylor Au (walk) on base with one out, and after Taylor Shigeta laid down a sacrifice bunt, the runners advanced to third and second with two outs. Kylie Tasaki battled Abe to a full count before grounding out to first, ending the game.
The Mules were emotional and exuberant in victory, now 6-3, right in the thick of the battle for one of the OIA West’s top two seeds — which would also mean a first-round bye in the playoffs. The two teams trail Campbell (7-1) and Mililani (7-2) in the standings.
“As coaches, we haven’t beaten them in a long time,” Mules coach Stacy Araki said. “Coach Trent (Kubo) said, ‘You’ve got to believe in yourselves.’ “
The see-saw battle was typical in some ways. Leilehua’s clutch plays were offset by four errors — hence the three unearned runs attributed to Nistal. In the top of the first, an overthrow by left fielder Ashley Salausa allowed Noel Saunders to score from third base, giving Pearl City a 1-0 lead.
An error by Pearl City in the bottom of the second allowed the Mules to tie the game. Nistal led off and reached base on an error by the third baseman, Tasaki. After Nistal advanced to third base on a single by Gianna Abe, Staise Micky’s squeeze bunt brought Nistal home to tie the score.
In the bottom of the third, Brandi Leong socked a 2-1 pitch over the center-field fence to give Leilehua a 2-1 lead. Nistal clung to that lead until the fifth.
The Chargers tied the game when with the help of two Leilehua errors in the fifth inning. Cheyne Obara, who was hit by pitch to start the inning, later scored on a throwing error, making it 2-2.
In the top of the sixth, Nistal hit leadoff hitter Jaeda McFarland, who stole second base and moved to third on a sac bunt by Darian Obara. Sanders then sent a fly ball to left, into foul territory. Sales made the catch and a one-hop throw to home plate, with McFarland stopping long before the ball arrived. But the ball got out of the glove of the catcher, Micky, and as McFarland sprinted home with a head-first slide, Nistal collided with first baseman Mahea Calizo and left the game with an injury.
Trailing 3-2, the Mules got a leadoff walk on four pitches by Araki to start the bottom of the sixth. After Kaaialii fanned Kamren Kamakaiwi, Maeha stepped into the batter’s box and delivered the biggest hit of Leilehua’s season thus far.
Pearl City (6-2) 010 011 0 — 3 4 1
Leilehua (6-3) 011 002 x — 4 7 4
Tyanna Kaaialii and Hailey-Alexis-Yamaguchi. Kaena Nistal, Alyssa Abe (6) and Kayla Hale. W—Abe. L—Kaaialii.
Leading hitters—PC: Noel Saunders 2-3, 2 SB; Cheyne Obara 1-2, run, HBP. Leilehua: Brandi Leong 2-4, HR, RBI, run; Pomai Nahulu 1-3, double, BB; Ashley Salausa 1-2, 2 BB; Gianna Araki 1-2, BB, run; Gwen Maeha 1-1, HR, 2 RBIs.