KEAAU — Ayanna Silva never gets tired of catching or providing encouragement for her Keaau softball team, which expects ironman production from her and ace pitcher Lohi Kamakea-Wong.
The senior catcher and sophomore right-hander rarely come out of the lineup, and their durability will be needed in the Cougars’ quest for their first Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I championship.
They helped Keaau topple Waiakea 6-2 in a showdown between title contenders Thursday that didn’t count in the standings but held significance anyway, at least for the Cougars, who are rolling along during the first half of the regular season.
Only second-round games between East Hawaii teams count in the standings. Same thing for the West Hawaii schools. When the sides play each other, those games count in the standings.
That said, Keaau, which beat West Hawaii foe Kohala last week, is 1-0 in the BIIF and 3-0 overall. Waiakea is still spotless in the league, sitting at 0-0 and 1-1 in the tune-up games.
The BIIF Division I and Division II regular-season champions earn automatic berths in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournaments. Last year, Hilo had the league’s lone Division I guaranteed state spot. Keaau lost to Moanalua 13-0 at home in a state tournament play-in game. The BIIF has had three representatives in the Division II state tourney the past six years.
The new “1.5” schedule is not the only change. The league has discarded the East/West seeding system — that offered Division I Kealakehe free entry into the semifinals and a right to host — in favor of a top seed vs. lowest seed format. For Division II, it’s a six-team tourney with the top two seeds drawing first-round byes.
Silva didn’t give all the counting and noncounting games a second thought. She just liked the way the Cougars prevailed, especially the work of her pitcher. Kamakea-Wong fired a three-hitter but walked eight (cleanup hitter Ariana Mareko twice intentionally), threw four wild pitches and struck out three. She gave up two unearned runs and stranded the bases loaded in the third and sixth innings.
“It doesn’t matter if that first-round game doesn’t count,” said Silva, who’s caught every single game since her sophomore year. “We were going to try our best. I’m very proud of our team and the defense. We held each other up. No matter what, we got to balls and stopped innings. No matter if we win, we want to be humble. But knowing we beat Waiakea takes us a step up in our game.
“I give props to Lohi for being our No. 1 pitcher and only pitcher. She pitched in the two games prior to this and in all of the junior varsity games. She always gives her best and never gives up. Before the game, we talked about believing in ourselves. We believed from the get-go and got the win.”
Rylan Hakoba went 2-for-4 with an RBI, Shaniya Kamakea-Wong was 2-for-4, and Silva went 1-for-3 with an RBI for the Cougars, who managed just seven hits but were aggressive on the bases, scoring on a wild pitch, a double steal of home and a forceout at first base that was fun to watch.
That was in the sixth when Lohi Kamakea-Wong walked with one out. Her cousin, Shaniya Kamakea-Wong, singled, and Leshey Makuakane hit a foul ball flyout to first. After the catch, Lohi broke for third and was safe. Shaniya started late and went to second. Safe again.
Sensing another opportunity, Lohi dashed for home and beat the throw. Shaniya swiped third and stayed there, giving the cheering fans a chance to catch their breath. The steal of home came in the fourth. Keaau finished 4-for-4 on stolen base attempts.
Alexis Anzai took the loss. She allowed six runs (one unearned) on seven hits. She walked four and struck out six. She had five wild pitches and kept putting out fires, retiring the side only once in the fifth inning; Kamakea-Wong retired the side in the seventh and spent the rest of her time pitching out of trouble.
Even when Kamakea-Wong doesn’t have her best stuff and Silva is squatting and roasting under a relentless sun for well over two hours, the Keaau catcher is having a good time.
“All I try to do is motivate my pitcher. If she’s down, I try to pick her up,” said Silva, a walking disabled list with a pulled quad muscle and bruised fingers. “In my junior and sophomore years, I caught all the games. I never get tired of it. I used to play outfield, but one day I caught, and there was so much action. I loved it.”
Meanwhile, Waiakea couldn’t capitalize despite eight free passes. Runners even moved into scoring position with four wild pitches. Keaau made three errors, which led to two unearned runs, but when the bases were packed, the Cougars made clutch plays.
In the third, Taylor Ogawa drilled a line shot but second baseman Shaniya Kamakea-Wong caught the ball and eliminated the bases-loaded threat. In the sixth, the Warriors filled the sacks again, and No. 3 hitter Brandi Maximo ripped a bullet to center, but Kanoe Maka turned it into an out — and another bases-loaded lost opportunity for the visitors.
“We couldn’t do anything,” Waiakea coach Bo Saiki said. “Hopefully, we’ll improve.”
That’s what Keaau coach William “Boy” Wong likes about Silva.
“She’s my leader and catcher,” he said. “I needed a catcher when she was a sophomore, and she volunteered. She’s grown as a player. She’s made a big improvement in her hitting and catching.”
Like Silva, Wong figures a win is a win — even if it doesn’t count in the standings.
“For us, it’s a big win,” he said. “We know we can play with anybody and we can compete. I told the girls to stay humble and learn from this win.”
Waiakea 010 010 0— 2 3 2
Keaau 012 102 x — 6 7 3
c Honokaa 12, Konawaena 2: Sophomores Jasmine Castro and Kayla Requelman each had two RBIs in Kealakekua for the Dragons, who took advantage of six walks to score nine runs in the top of the first.
Castro finished 4-for-4 with a double, and Requelman was 2-for-3 with two doubles.
Junior Kayla Kalauli pitched four innings to get the win for Honokaa (0-1 BIIF, 2-1 overall). She gave up two runs on five hits and four walks.
Junior Anu Binney took the loss for the Wildcats (1-0 BIIF, 1-1). In an inning, she surrendered six hits.
At the plate, junior Pualani Ubando went 2-for-2 with an RBI single in the third inning, and senior Hero Wooching had a run-scoring single in the fourth. Senior Chrysa Dacalio added a triple.
Honokaa 900 03 — 12 8 2
Konawaena 001 10 — 2 5 2
c Kealakehe 16, Hawaii Prep 10: Trailing 9-0 after three innings in Waimea, the Waveriders erupted for 10 runs in the top of fourth and five in the fifth for a come-from-behind victory.
Kealakehe (0-0 in the BIIF, 3-0 overall) had just two hits in the fourth, but took advantage of seven walks. In the fifth, three Waveriders scored from third base on wild pitches.
Junior Lina Palmer-Kahananui, who pitched the final three innings, earned the win. She gave up just one hit, walking none and striking out two.
At the plate, senior Ashley Isisaki and freshman Arlene Musrasrik each had two hits and two RBIs.
HPA’s Kawena Lim-Samura, who started the contest with three scoreless innings, took the loss. She yielded 13 runs on five hits, striking out nine and walking 12.
Offensively, Camille Kiyota went 2-for-5 with two RBIs for Ka Makani (0-1, 0-3).
Kealakehe 000 (10)51 0 — 16 5 3
Hawaii Prep 333 100 0 — 10 5 3
c Hilo 16, Ka’u 3: At Walter Victor Stadium, Shalyn Guthier had two hits and three RBIs, and Reisha Hoopii-Haslam added two hits and two RBIs to lead the unbeaten Vikings (1-0 BIIF, 3-0 overall) over the Trojans (0-1, 0-3).
Aliesa Kaneshiro added a triple.
Kaneshiro also started and went the distance in the circle. She pitched a two-hitter with eight strikeouts and five walks to earn the win. Trojans starter Jallahen Willy took the loss, with relief help from Shaylin Navarro.
Cierra Kaopua had an RBI triple, and Shylee Tamura added a single for Ka’u.
Ka’u 003 00 — 3 2 5
Hilo 640 6x — 16 9 2
West Hawaii Today’s Joe Ferraro contributed to this report.