HILO — Hilo’s Aliesa Kaneshiro knew she faced a major test against Keaau on Saturday and she’d have to rely on her teammates for support.
Kaneshiro then went out and pitched a five-hitter with 11 strikeouts as the Vikings defeated the Cougars 8-4 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I softball championship game at Walter Victor Complex.
The Vikings (15-2 overall, 11-1 BIIF) and runner-up Cougars (11-6, 8-4) will represent the league in the state Division I tournament, scheduled May 7-10 on Oahu.
A year ago, Kaneshiro’s older sister, Ashlyn, was the Vikings’ ace and led Hilo to the Division I title, beating defending champion Waiakea in the semifinals and then Keaau in the final. But with Ashlyn graduating, the workhorse pitching chores fell on the sturdy shoulders of Aliesa this season and she delivered, helping the Vikings capture their second straight league crown.
“The big thing for me is that I never pitched in a BIIF tournament or in a season before, so I think I did good,” Kaneshiro said after beating the Cougars.
“I want to thank my teammates for their support,” she said, her eyes glistening as the emotions of winning the league championship began to sink in.
Kaneshiro had been terrific through the first four innings — not allowing a hit and striking out six as she befuddled the Keaau hitters. Cougar Cynthia Nakaima finally broke up the no-hitter in the top of the fifth inning with a single, and Shaniya Kamakea-Wong had a single in the sixth. But with Hilo on top 6-0, the Viking right-handed hurler seemed almost unbeatable.
In the bottom of the sixth, Hilo scored two runs on Jordyn Breitbarth’s two-run double to stretch the lead to 8-0.
But Viking head coach Leo Sing Chow and her young squad know that you can never count out Keaau until the final out is made. In the seventh, the Cougars underlined that fact again, scoring four times to pull to within 8-4 before Kaneshiro and her teammates recorded the third out in the frame.
Aliyah Coltes started the Keaau seventh with a walk, and after two Kaneshiro wild pitches allowed pinch-runner Nakaima to motor to third base, Rylann Hakoba drilled an RBI single to make it 8-1. Leshey Makuakane had a bunt single to load the bases, and Lohi Kamakea-Wong walked to plate a run as the Cougars pulled to 8-2.
Shaniya Kamakea-Wong followed with an infield single to make it 8-3. Keaau then closed to within 8-4 on a wild pitch. But Kaneshiro settled down and struck out a Cougar and got a short fly ball to right field to end the game.
In that long inning, Kaneshiro struggled and during a timeout the Viking infielders met with her on the pitching mound.
“They just told me they had my back,” Kaneshiro said. “They said we only need two outs, so let’s get it done. Their support helped a lot.”
When she watched Hilo’s right fielder catch the final out, Kaneshiro clenched her fist and let out a yell.
“I was relieved it was finally over and we won the championship again,” she said. “I’m happy.”
Keaau 000 000 4 — 4 5 3
Hilo 300 302 x — 8 12 3